John Beckman, a spokesman for NYU, declined to discuss specifics about the episode.
Several of Chen’s supporters allege that NYU staff has controlled and withheld access to the activist. NYU rejects these claims and some figures connected with the university, including Cohen, say that some of Chen’s supporters may be trying to manipulate the self-trained lawyer who speaks little English to serve their own political ends. Chen could not be reached for comment.
However, Mark Corallo, a media consultant who has been working with Chen, said that the gifts from Fu were taken away by NYU before the dissident received them.
“The devices were brand-new when ChinaAid gave them to NYU to give to Chen, so there was no need or reason to perform any check,” he said in an e-mail.
Cohen and the second source maintain that Chen was told within days of his arrival in an unfamiliar country that people he believed to be his supporters were very likely spying on him. Chen was “furious” and “very upset” when told, the second source recalled.
Even so, Cohen said Chen still continued to interact with the Fu family.