A full-scale diplomatic row is brewing between China and the United States over blind dissident Chen Guangcheng, who is reportedly being sheltered in the American embassy in Beijing.
The issue has emerged ahead of a scheduled visit to China by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner this week, the ABC reports.
The US government has admitted its involvement in the dramatic escape from house arrest of Mr Chen, but it has stopped short of confirming that he has been sheltered in the embassy.
Fellow activist and friend Hu Jia says that is exactly where Mr Chen is, but says he is not seeking asylum.
US diplomat Kurt Campbell is thought to be brokering some sort of deal with the Chinese government over Mr Chen's fate.
The matter of what to do with the activist is swamping all other issues that were to be discussed between Washington and Beijing this week.
Mr Chen's family is still in Dongshigu village. Some of his family members have already disappeared into police custody and are being questioned.
According to human rights observers, members of his family have been tortured in the past.