Chinese dissident Chen Guang-cheng (陳光誠), whose escape from house arrest to the US embassy in Beijing sparked a diplomatic crisis last year, will be leaving his position at New York University (NYU) at the end of this month, the university said.
Chen, a self-taught lawyer, has been a special student at the university’s US-Asia Law Institute since May last year. He is working on a book, which is expected to be published later this year.
“We were pleased to offer Chen and his family a place to come and study and support his transition to the US when he first left China, based on a pre-existing relationship he had with scholars here,” NYU spokesman John Beckman said in a statement. “But NYU and Mr Chen had discussions beginning last fall that NYU could not support him indefinitely.”
Beckman rejected reports that Chen’s departure was related to the university’s development of a campus in Shanghai, calling the claims “fanciful and false.”
Professor Jerome Cohen, a family friend and NYU law professor, said in a statement that Chen’s agreement with the university was always to give him and his family a year 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,” Cohen said, adding that Chen was currently choosing between “two attractive opportunities.”
Bob Howe, a spokesman for New York-based Fordham University, confirmed Chen was “in negotiations” with Fordham Law School’s Leitner Center, but did not know what kind of position was being negotiated.
Chen made international headlines in April last year when he escaped from house arrest. He had angered local Chinese officials by documenting complaints about forced abortions. The extrajudicial house arrest followed his release from prison.
His escape to the US embassy triggered a diplomatic standoff over his fate. With then-US secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton in Beijing for annual high-level discussions, officials struck a deal that let Chen walk free, only to see him have second thoughts.
That forced new negotiations that led to an agreement to send him to the US to study law at NYU.
Human Rights First gave its Human Rights Award to Chen in October last year.