Blind Chinese dissident and self-taught lawyer Chen Guangchen, who escaped house arrest and sought refuge in the United States, will reportedly be leaving New York University after serving as a visiting fellow for a year. Various reports have confirmed Chen’s departure from NYU this summer, adding that he is likely to stay in the New York City area.
Chen arrived at NYU last May, after a dramatic escape from captivity, finding protection at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing before heading to New York with the help of Hillary Rodham Clinton and several NYU representatives. Now, after a little more than a year, NYU confirms Chen’s departure but says it will not be coming as a surprise to Chen.
“We were pleased to offer Mr. Chen and his family a place to come and study and support his transition to the U.S. when he first left China,” John Beckman, spokesman for NYU, said in a report to BBC. “But NYU and Mr. Chen had discussions beginning last fall that NYU could not support him indefinitely.”
Yesterday, the New York Post published an exclusive report claiming that the university was booting the prominent protestor over pressures from China’s central government that could potentially affect NYU’s newly established Shanghai global campus location. The report states that “NYU isn’t letting a pesky thing like human rights stand in the way of its expansion in China.”
While NYU spokesman Beckman is confirming Chen’s departure from the university, the circumstances the Post suggested are not true, calling the report “fanciful and false.”
NYU professor and long-time China watcher Jerome Cohen helped negotiate Chen’s fellowship with the university and told BBC that Chen’s stay with the university was always temporary and served the purpose of helping him and his family acclimate to their new life. “No political refugee, even Albert Einstein, has received better treatment by an American academic institution than that received by Chen from NYU,” Cohen said.
Cohen also added that Chen is shopping around his options and is currently deciding between “two attractive opportunities” at other universities.
Bobe Howe, director of communications at Fordham University, which is also in New York, confirmed to the International Business Times that the university was "negotiating a position" for Chen at the university's Leitner Center for International Law and Justice. Details on what kind of position Chen would have with the academic institution were not given.
Chen was placed under house arrest in 2010 in China and remained there for two years until his escape last year. Chen is known for his advocacy against forced abortions as a result of China’s one-child policy.
Chen has yet to address his departure or future plans.