Because he's been blind since childhood Chen Guangcheng wasn't able to get into university.
He became known as a 'barefoot lawyer' because he had no formal qualifications.
He stood up for women forced to have abortions or sterilisation operations under China's one child policies. His campaign angered the authorities.
He was jailed and then he and his family were made prisoners in his own home.
He escaped house arrest almost two weeks ago and was sheltered in the US Embassy.
The Chinese authorities have been furious, calling the ambassador a "troublemaker".
So the announcement by China's foreign ministry offering Chen the chance to study abroad looks like face saving compromise in the row between China and the US over his fate.
See the statement below and note 'relevant procedures with relevant departments through normal channels in accordance to the law'
So he can go abroad if he goes first goes home, where he was being held, where his wife said thugs are waiting to kill them, to apply for a passport for him and his family.
Xinhua news agency has quoted spokesman Liu Weimin as saying:
– Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Liu Weimin
"If he wishes to study overseas, as a Chinese citizen, he can, like any other Chinese citizens, process relevant procedures with relevant departments through normal channels in accordance to the law."
A Chinese official was also seen delivering flowers to Chen this morning. A breakthrough appears to be blossoming....
However, US diplomats have been prevented from seeing Chen, yesterday we saw three US embassy staff standing around outside unable to get into the hospital block where Chen is now under guard.
He's effectively under house arrest again.
Earlier today, just hours before the flowers were delivered, his lawyer was released after being arrested at the hospital while trying to see Chen.
He told us he'd been beaten and interrogated overnight and warned he now cannot leave his home without police permission. I've seen that his house is being watched.
I saw four supporters of Chen wearing black sun glasses in solidarity with the human rights activist standing outside the hospital.
Their hands raised giving victory salutes. Minutes later one of them was bundled away by plain clothes police.
We'll see lots of photos of Hillary Clinton meeting China's leaders today as annual US/China talks end.
All smiles in public but behind the scenes Chinese security forces are also showing their teeth.