BEIJING/WASHINGTON - China on Friday said blind dissident Chen Guangcheng could apply to study abroad, suggesting an end may be near to a diplomatic crisis that has soured relations between Beijing and Washington.

The announcement by the Chinese Foreign Ministry follows a dramatic and very public appeal by Chen, who spoke by phone to a US congressional hearing on his case, asking to be allowed to spend some time in the United States.

"Chen Guangcheng is currently being treated in hospital," ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said in a brief statement.

"If he wants to study abroad, he can apply through normal channels to the relevant departments in accordance with the law, just like any other Chinese citizen."

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