Wang Dan (王丹), an exiled student leader of the Tiananmen democracy protest of 1989, has published an opinion piece in the New York Times supporting the desire of Chen Guangcheng (陳光誠), a blind human rights activist, to leave China.
In the article, titled “Mr. Chen, Welcome to America,” Wang said that based on his own experience, being an exile has only helped him in his fight for greater political freedoms and human rights in China.
Wang, who was arrested and jailed twice by Chinese authorities, said he did not regret his decision to leave for the US in 1998.
Wang said he understands and respects the reasons that might make Chen hesitant to leave, noting that perhaps Chen thinks he will no longer be able to take part in China’s struggle for civil rights, or that his influence will diminish if he lives abroad.
“But if he feels that way, he is too pessimistic,” Wang wrote. “I’ve been in exile for 14 years and have learned that there are many ways to exert influence in China from abroad.”
“I’ve studied at Harvard, I teach at universities in Taiwan and the United States and I continue to publish regularly about current events in China. My work circulates and is read extensively in China via the Internet and social media. I have tens of thousands of followers on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter,” he wrote.
“The Internet and globalization have changed the very concept of exile. They have eliminated the possibility of isolating Los Angeles [where I now live] from Beijing [my hometown] and Shandong Province [where Mr. Chen is from],” Wang wrote.
Chen is currently undergoing medical treatment at a Beijing hospital for a broken ankle after staying at the US embassy in Beijing for six days following his dramatic escape from illegal house arrest.
Under a deal announced between China and the US on Wednesday, Chen originally planned to study in Tianjin, China, but later changed his mind and said he wanted to go to the US with his family for a short while.
New York University has invited him to be a visiting scholar.