Activist and advocate Chen Guangcheng smiles at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York
Blind Chinese legal activist, Chen Guangcheng, whose escape from house arrest sparked a diplomatic crisis between Beijing and Washington, accepted an invitation on Friday to visit Taiwan, underscoring his drive to ensure his influence as a human rights campaigner will continue abroad.
Taiwan legislator Lin Chia-lung from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) visited Chen at New York University, where he is studying law, to invite him to visit Taiwan and to address the island's parliament, reports Reuters.
"He very happily accepted our invitation and said the sooner he can come, the better," Lin said, speaking after the meeting. Chen declined to speak to media but did not cite a reason.
On Tuesday, Chen said he would "most likely" accept an invitation to visit Taiwan.
"I think I will," said Chen earlier this week. "Whoever invites me, I will accept."
Chen would bring his family to Taiwan before next summer to meet human rights workers, lawyers and legislators and possibly speak before Taiwan's legislative body, Lin said.
After a quiet three-month period, a trip to Taiwan will catapult Chen back into the limelight. Being abroad hasn't cooled his campaign for human rights in China, analysts say.
"I think... he's trying to find a way ... to use his prominence currently to make an effective influence in China even when he's not there," said Songlian Wang, a researcher for rights group Chinese Human Rights Defenders.
One of China's most prominent dissidents, Hu Jia, a close friend of Chen's, told Reuters that Chen has expressed concern on how he can maintain his influence while abroad.
"The point of maintaining his influence is for his future work and not because of his personal fame," said Hu, who was released from jail last year after serving 3.5 years for "inciting subversion of state power."
Hu said Chen wants to ensure everything he says puts pressure on the Chinese government, which is one of the reasons Chen is writing a book.
Before Chen left China in June, he had told friends he was determined to stay. Many Chinese dissidents before him who had left play a marginal role in China's current rights movement and had warned Chen could be neutralized once in New York.
Without the Internet, the voices of the old-time dissidents were barely heard. For Chen, who uses Skype and email with his wife's help, that will be different.