Fellow activists told The Washington Post Cheng is not looking for political asylum at the embassy but went there for shelter after escaping from house arrest in Shangdong province earlier this month.
"He believes that China is in a period of intensive changes now and it's not far away from the final fundamental change," Hu Jia, a Beijing activist, told the Post. "He told me he didn't want to ask for political asylum in the U.S. Instead, he wants to 'stay in this land and continue to fight.'"
The Post said Chen's arrival at the embassy set off some delicate negotiations between U.S. and Chinese diplomats. The Chinese want Chen back in their custody; however, Chen's high profile among pro-democracy activists poses a dilemma for the Americans.
"I know that it will be a huge challenge for both countries to handle this case well," Hu said.
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