Chen Guangcheng

Blind activist Chen Guangcheng to leave New York University

NYU dismisses idea Beijing using campus deal in departure of Chen Guangcheng

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 June, 2013, 8:55am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 June, 2013, 2:57am

Blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng, whose dramatic escape from house arrest to the US embassy in Beijing put Sino-US relations to the test last year, will leave New York University this summer after having spent a year there, the university said.

Professor Jerome Cohen, a China law expert at the university and a family friend of Chen's who arranged his fellowship there, said it had long been agreed that the university would host him for a year "in order to get their feet on the ground and transition to a more permanent position".

"No political refugee, even Albert Einstein, has received better treatment by an American academic institution than that received by Chen from NYU, and I am grateful to the university administration for its extraordinary generosity, which could not reasonably be expected to go on indefinitely," he said in an e-mail.

Chen, a high-profile activist who spent years in extra-legal detention and jail for exposing forced abortions in rural Shandong province , sparked a diplomatic crisis last year when he fled house arrest in his village and took refuge in the US embassy in Beijing.

Despite an initial agreement between the United States and Beijing that he would stay in China, he later changed his mind and decided he wanted to go to the US. The option to allow him to study in the US saved both governments from potential embarrassment.

Cohen said: "[NYU] did China and the US a favour by offering to welcome him and thereby end the diplomatic crisis."

Phone calls to Chen went unanswered yesterday. His brother, Chen Guangfu , said he had not discussed his future with him. Chen Guangcheng, who has been a special student at the university's US-Asia Law Institute since May last year, was now choosing between "two attractive opportunities", Cohen said.

A spokesman at New York-based Fordham University said Chen was "in negotiations" with Fordham Law School's Leitner Centre. It is not clear what the other option is.

Cohen dismissed a New York Post report that alleged NYU had "booted" Chen out under pressure from the Chinese government because it was building a campus in Shanghai.

NYU spokesman John Beckman said in an e-mail: "If it were true, why would NYU have taken Mr Chen in at the height of the public fervour, and why would the Chinese authorities have given us permissions to move forward with our Shanghai campus AFTER his arrival here?"

NYU is building a joint-venture campus with East China Normal University in Shanghai.

Additional reporting by Alice Yan