Chen Guangcheng, Blind Chinese Dissident Chooses Washington’s Catholic University after NYU Controversial Departure (UPDATE)


Amid speculations over his next probable assignment in the United States, the blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng has chosen the  Catholic University of America in Washington.

Guangcheng will be spending the next three years in the U.S. capital, starting next summer following his appointment as a visiting fellow of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at the University. During his tenure, he also plans to pen a book on human rights abuse in rural China.

Apart from his responsibilities at the university, the legal rights activist will also serve as a senior distinguished adviser at the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights & Justice in Concord, N.H., and as a distinguished senior fellow in human rights at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, N.J. 

"We will make concerted efforts to defend freedom for all mankind, including the Chinese people," Guangcheng said in an official statement. "I am sure this seed of freedom and democracy will take root in the land of China, germinate and eventually in the future - will bear beautiful fruit." The three organizations "jointly set up a human rights platform from which I am able to speak up about the facts and realities of the Chinese communist authorities' violation of human rights."

Representatives from all the three organizations pledged support for Guangcheng.

"Mr. Chen's valiant advocacy for human rights in China has awakened the world to the barbarity of China's one child policy and to the cruel reality of forced abortions in China," Catholic University President John Garvey said in an official statement. "Mr. Chen's commitment to protecting the rights of the poor and vulnerable resonates with our mission at the Catholic University of America."

"He will dedicate himself to solving the problems of humanity in general and not by aligning himself with one side or the other," Richard Swett, treasurer of the Lantos Foundation, told the Global Post. "This group of organizations that are banding together to support his work represent that broad spectrum."

"We are taking the responsibility for the financial side and a home really where he can do his work," Luis Tellez, Witherspoon's president, told the Guardian. "Witherspoon would be responsible for the financial aspect of the arrangement among the three organisations with the help of two donors ."

Guangcheng's appointment at the Washington University follows his controversial departure this summer from the New York University. He was a visiting scholar in law at the University following a dramatic escape from China to the United States.

Guangcheng claims that the management succumbed to the Chinese government's pressure. He and his family were forced to leave because the university feared that his presence and activism might harm the institute's relationship and academic co-operation with China, and affect the university's Shanghai campus.

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

However, Guangcheng expressed his gratitude towards the university and said that he was looking forward to working with institutions 'that are not intimidated by the powerful.'

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