Blind Chinese social activist Chen Guangcheng began the final leg of his long odyssey to freedom, leaving Beijing Saturday on a flight to the United States.

Early Saturday morning NBC News called Chen at the Beijing hospital where he has been held since leaving the U.S. Embassy on May 2. Chen said he still didn’t know when he was leaving but remained optimistic that it would be soon.

Moments later, NBC News made a second call to Chen, during which a group of Chinese officials were heard entering the room.

One of them was heard telling Chen, “wrap up, you are leaving today.”

During a 10-minute conversation, Chen was told he would undergo some final medical check-ups and then he and his family would be taken to the airport.

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