A self-taught lawyer, Chen, 40, spent most of the last seven years in prison or under house arrest in what was seen as retribution by local Chinese authorities for his activism against forced abortions and other official misdeeds. His wife, daughter and mother were confined at home with him, enduring beatings, searches and other mistreatment.
His escape from house arrest to the fortress-like U.S. Embassy last week put Washington at the center of a sensitive human rights case.
Chen's goal, he told U.S. officials, was to secure the safety of his family and remain in China. Under painstaking arrangements negotiated over days, he was to be reunited with his family and relocated elsewhere in China so he could formally study law.
Chen later said he felt abandoned at the hospital when he realized no U.S. Embassy staff had stayed to ensure his safety.
U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke defended the arrangements Thursday and said "unequivocally" that Chen was never pressured to leave.
The diplomatic dispute over Chen is sensitive for the Obama administration, which risks appearing soft on human rights in an election year or looking as though it rushed to resolve Chen's case before the start of the Clinton-Geithner talks.
Clinton said in a speech that China must protect human rights. She rejected Beijing's criticism of the U.S. for getting involved in Chen's case.