One-Child-Policy Activist Says China Coerced University to Force Him Out
At New York University for the past year, human rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng, a leading opponent of China's brutal enforcement of its one-child policy, had found a safe haven from the Chinese government, which held him under house arrest for years.
But late Sunday evening, Chen confirmed a New York Post report that China pressured the university to end its relationship with the activist, blind from birth.
In a statement, Chen, who arrived in New York in May 2012 with his wife and two children, said, "It is true that New York University has asked us to leave before the end of June. In fact, as early as last August and September, the Chinese Communists had already begun to apply great, unrelenting pressure on New York University, so much so that after we had been in the United States just three to four months, NYU was already starting to discuss our departure with us.
"The work of the Chinese Communists within academic circles in the United States is far greater than what people imagine, and some scholars have no option but to hold themselves back. Academic independence and academic freedom in the United States are being greatly threatened by a totalitarian regime.
"China's Communist rulers hope to use these means to disturb our normal life, and even want to make me so busy trying to earn a living that I don't have time for human rights advocacy, but this is not going to happen. Whether it was the dangers I faced in China or the current momentary difficulties we face, I will never bow my head to evil or to lies. I will always do everything I can for my compatriots back in China who still are not free and who are now being oppressed."
The New York Post last week reported that the university severed its ties to Chen, who exposed forced abortions and sterilizations in Linyi City, Shandong Province, in 2005 because the school is about to open its own campus in Shanghai.
New York University law professor Jerome Cohen, who helped Chen escape house arrest and travel to New York, disputed the Post Report. He told the Washington Post, "No political refugee, even Albert Einstein, has received better treatment by an American academic institution than that received by Chen from NYU."
An NYU spokesperson John Beckman, "We are very discouraged to learn of Mr. Chen's statement, which contains a number of speculations about the role of the Chinese government in NYU's decision-making that are both false and contradicted by the well-established facts."
In the Christian community, Bob Fu, founder of China Aid, an advocacy and assistance organization for China's Christians, spoke out publicly last year to bring Chen's case to the attention of Congress and the public.
Today, Fu said on the China Aid website, "American universities are out chasing the China dollar and are very reluctant to work with dissidents who have a strong voice in China. It does not always have to be direct pressure from Beijing, there is also self- censorship, particularly if a college president believes their China campus or the future enrollment of Chinese students will be sabotaged.
"This is unfortunate because U.S. institutions that welcome dissidents are seen as havens of religious freedom and free speech and will be more attractive to Chinese young people who can't experience these freedoms at home."
A prolife Republican and leading critic of China, Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, told the New York Post that he had "no doubt" that China's government pressured New York University to keep close tabs on Chen, limit his contact with outsiders, and end the relationship after one year.
Chen, a self-taught lawyer, reportedly has two offers from other academic institutions, including one from Fordham University Law School. He has not yet announced which one he might accept.
In 2006, China convicted him for "damaging property and organizing a mob." He was sentenced to four years in prison. Authorities released Chen in 2010, but then security police placed Chen under house arrest almost immediately up until April 2012 when he escaped from his home, fled to Beijing, and then traveled to New York with the help of US diplomats.
This year, opponents of China's one-child policy have kept the issue before the public as well as the presidents of China and the US. Both presidents met in early June. At that time, Women's Rights Without Frontiers, an advocacy group, released a statement that 200,000 people from 70 nations had signed petitions for China to end its one-child policy and the practice of forced abortion.
The group reported (warning: graphic photo) that in March this year a Chinese woman, who twice underwent "forced sterlization procedure," took her own life by hanging herself in family planning office in Henan Province.