WASHINGTON, May 3 (UPI) -- A White House spokesman said Thursday if Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng wants U.S. political asylum, it's up to the State Department.
"Obviously, the situation is evolving, so I don't have any comment on the details of discussions that are ongoing both with Mr. Chen and his wife and with Chinese officials," White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters.
Carney's comments appeared to conflict with a BBC report that Chen says he has been unable to contact U.S. officials.
Carney said U.S. officials in Beijing "are having ongoing conversations with him. He has expressed a change of view on a number of venues. And I think that those conversations with State Department officials are about his view now of what he believes would be best for him and his family."
Asked whether Chen would be given political asylum if he makes it to the United States, Carney said: "I am not in a position ... to characterize or decide who would be able to ask for political asylum. That's … a question for the State Department."
Chen was under house arrest but fled to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. After he said he wanted to stay in China, U.S. officials worked out a deal in which Chinese officials promised to investigate Chen's claims of abuse and stop any persecution.
Chen was taken to a Chinese hospital, but once there changed his mind.
"I want [U.S. officials] to protect human rights through concrete actions," Chen Guangcheng told CNN Thursday from his hospital room. "We are in danger. If you can talk to [Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in China for talks], I hope she can help my whole family leave China."
Carney refused to comment on any suggestion that President Obama approved an operation to get Chen from house arrest to the U.S. Embassy. U.S. officials called the surreptitious move a "Mission Impossible" operation.