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Jun 17, 2013 05:48 AM EDT

Update: ‘Me and My Family Were Forced To Leave NYU’ Says Chen Guangcheng


Chen Guangcheng, the famous blind Chinese civil rights activist who grabbed headlines with his dramatic house arrest escape, has confirmed all speculations surrounding his decision to quit the New York University. On Thursday, Guangcheng announced that he will be leaving the institution by the end of the month.

Guangcheng claims that he and his family are being forced to leave because the University fears that his presence and activism might harm the institute's relationship with China and threaten its academic cooperation. He also claims that the management succumbed to the Chinese government's pressure.

"In fact, as early as last August and September, the Chinese Communists had already begun to apply great, unrelenting pressure on New York University," Guangcheng said. "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 university was 'puzzled and saddened' by the accusations and denied playing any role in Guangcheng's departure from the university.

 "From the beginning, NYU was happy to welcome Mr Chen and his family to the US and to help them embrace the beginning of their new life. 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 N.Y.U.'s decision-making that are both false and contradicted by the well-established facts," John Beckman, a university spokesman, said.

The university explained that Guangcheng's law school fellowship was valid only for a year. The fellowship's end "had nothing to do with the Chinese government - all fellowships come to an end," Beckman said.

 "They have done more than imaginable, but I don't know how anyone could stay here at N.Y.U. on a continual basis. No political refugee, not even Albert Einstein, has received better treatment," said, Jerome A. Cohen, a law professor at NYU who helped arrange his fellowship.

The 41-year-old Guangcheng has been given a deadline till the end of June to vacate the faculty apartment in Greenwich Village where he and his family have been living since May 2012. Guangcheng, who is also a self- taught lawyer, is currently in the process of approaching other universities including Fordham University and the Witherspoon Institute.

Recently, the New York University established a Shanghai campus. A number of professors involved in programs and research projects could be affected if they were denied Chinese visas. Commenting on the issue, Guangcheng added:

"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."

Guangcheng, who heavily criticized China's one-child policy and encouraged young mothers to legally fight against local officials who forced them to abort their children, was jailed for five years and was subjected to an informal house arrest for two years before he escaped to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, April 2012. After several negotiations between the U.S. and Chinese governments, Guangcheng and his family were allowed to leave the country to serve as a visiting scholar at NYU. 

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