China dissident Chen Guangcheng arrives in the US

  • 20 May 2012
  • From the section Asia
  • comments
Media captionChen Guangcheng: "I am very grateful for the assistance of the American embassy"

Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng has arrived in New York to begin a new life in the United States.

The blind human rights lawyer caused a diplomatic crisis when he escaped house arrest to arrive at the US embassy in Beijing last month.

Speaking outside New York University, where he has been offered a fellowship, Mr Chen said China had dealt with the situation with "restraint and calm".

But he raised concerns about ongoing reprisals against his family.

"Acts of retribution in Shandong have not been abated and my rights to practice law have been curbed - we hope to see a thorough investigation into this," he said, referring to the province where he was kept under house arrest.

The activist thanked US officials and his supporters for their help and said he had come to the United States for "recuperation in body and spirit".

'Human rights milestone'

Chen Guangcheng and his family were taken from a Beijing hospital, where he was being treated for a foot injury, to the capital's airport on Saturday.

After weeks of uncertainty, the activist, his wife Yuan Weijing and their two children, aged eight and six, were handed passports and allowed to fly to Newark, New Jersey, where they arrived soon after 18:00 (22:00 GMT) on Saturday.

He spent six days in the US embassy in Beijing last month after escaping house arrest in north-east China, sparking a diplomatic spat between the US and China.

Former House speaker Nancy Pelosi described his arrival in the US as "a milestone in the cause for human rights in China".

"The courage of Chen Guangcheng to risk his life and livelihood to advocate for disadvantaged people in China is an inspiration to freedom-seeking people around the world," she said.

The Congressional Executive Commission on China, set up to monitor human rights there in 2001, said it remained "deeply concerned that Mr Chen's supporters and family members who remain in China face the real threat of retaliation from Chinese officials".

Fighting injustice

The self-taught lawyer has campaigned against forced abortions under China's one-child policy and was jailed for four years in 2006 for disrupting traffic and damaging property. He was placed under house arrest after his release in 2010.

He will now take up a fellowship at the US-Asia Law Institute at the New York University School of Law.

Bob Fu, president of the US activist group China Aid and a key supporter of Mr Chen, told the BBC that the dissident was planning to stay in New York for two to three years.

After his arrival in the United States, Mr Chen said he hoped "everybody works with me to promote justice and fairness in China".

"We should link our arms to continue in the fight for the goodness in the world and to fight against injustice," he told the gathered crowd at New York University.