China dissident Chen Guangcheng arrives in the US

 

Chen Guangcheng spoke as he arrived at New York University in Manhattan

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.

At the scene

A crowd of activists, supporters and curious New Yorkers greeted Chen at the university apartment block in Greenwich Village where he and his family will stay.

Wearing dark glasses and hobbling on crutches, he may not have looked like a conquering hero, but that is how he was treated. There were cheers and screams of encouragement.

Some had brought flowers, while one woman was led away in tears after failing to secure a hug from her idol.

But while Chen's address to the crowd was emotional, it was also measured. Far from mocking or attacking the Chinese authorities who persecuted his family, he instead praised them for showing restraint. And was thoroughly polite in gently urging change.

This may just be a temporary lull in his fight against repression, or perhaps a deliberate strategy to avoid further problems for his extended family back home.

It might simply be that Chen is too tired to fight. He looked exhausted as he disappeared inside, insisting he needed rest - of body and spirit.

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.

 

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  • rate this
    -7

    Comment number 1.

    I wonder who is paying for his "fellowship?" I also wonder who is paying to house him and his family? Hopefully no American taxpayers dollars are going towards this.

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 46.

    41 geosquared

    At least Mr Chen can be quite certain that he will not have a wall built around his house and be watched day and night by CP thugs whilst living happily in US

    The US has democratic government while regime China does not. China has only ever known dictatorship through its long history.

    The two countries are very different and it is very clear which is the civilised one

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 45.

    @ 35. Exegete
    Dis China or Iran or N.Korea. You never know :)

    Just don't dis the west because you might get a J Assange style "theatment".

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 51.

    gasmeerkat

    My name is historical and comes from a long history of civil protest against obvious injustice.

    The injustice of regime China is very obvious so therefore I protest.

    Unjust law is made to be broken and Just law is to be upheld. There is a big difference between the two

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 55.

    52 gasmeerkat

    The house arrest of Ai weiwei is another Regime China utter disgrace.

    These CP Gangsters have no idea of how to behave and govern properly. They make a fool of China and the Chinese people on the world stage. Everyone can see that.

    While these arrests outside the law continue, then China is outside of the civilised community. That is very clear

 

Comments 5 of 103

 

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