A Shanghai-based New York University official yesterday denied any knowledge of political pressure by Beijing that led the US institution to end dissident Chen Guangcheng's studies.
"No one here from the government or the [Communist Party] has ever spoken to me about him and his tenure at New York University in New York," NYU Shanghai vice-chancellor Jeffrey Lehman said at a conference in Shanghai.
"The communications were always between him and NYU in New York," he said. "NYU Shanghai was never involved so there was no role in the end of his fellowship."
NYU's school of law accepted Chen as a visiting scholar in May last year, ending the diplomatic crisis set off when he escaped illegal house arrest in Shandong province and sought refuge in the US embassy.
The New York Post reported earlier this month that the school was letting Chen go due to sensitivities as it was working to expand in Shanghai to tap into the Chinese market. Chen subsequently backed up the report, claiming that Beijing applied "unrelenting" pressure on the university to end his stay.
NYU has adamantly denied the charge and a professor instrumental in bringing him to the law school, Jerome Cohen, has also denied political pressure.
Lehman yesterday reiterated the university's earlier contention that it never planned to extend Chen's stay beyond the year he completed in May.
In 2011, NYU unveiled plans to set up a campus in Shanghai, its third degree-granting campus. The programme - a joint venture with NYU's local partner, East China Normal University - is set to welcome its first students this autumn. China has granted NYU Shanghai independent legal status to operate, and Lehman said the campus would preserve academic freedom despite operating on the mainland.
"From the beginning, there was complete commitment on the part of our Shanghai and our Chinese colleagues to respect the value of academic freedom within our university," he said.