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Rights Activist Chen Says China Pressured NYU To Force Him Out

Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng during a ceremony in January where he was presented the Tom Lantos Human Rights Prize.
Win McNamee
Getty Images
Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng during a ceremony in January where he was presented the Tom Lantos Human Rights Prize.

Chen Guangcheng says New York University is ending his fellowship after it received "unrelenting pressure" from "Chinese communists."

Chen, a human rights activist, became an international symbol of Chinese oppression after he escaped from house arrest last year and sought refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. The diplomatic crisis this caused came to an artful end a few weeks after it began, when Chen announced he was coming to the United States to study.

Last night, a little after midnight, Chenreleased a statement saying NYU had been talking about his departure "as early as August and September," a few months after he arrived. The accusation Chen is making implicitly is that the Chinese government was using a proposed NYU Shanghai campus to put pressure on the university.

"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," Chen wrote. "Academic independence and academic freedom in the United States are being greatly threatened by a totalitarian regime."

The New York Times reports that NYU denied those allegations.

"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, told the paper.

In his statement, Chen did thank NYU and Jerome Cohen, a friend who helps direct the U.S. Asia Law Institute, and who helped broker the deal that brought Chen to the U.S.

Chen went on:

"China's Communist rulers hope to use these means to disturb our normal life, and even want to make me so busy trying to earn a living that I don't have time for human rights advocacy, but this is not going to happen. Whether it was the dangers I faced in China or the current momentary difficulties we face, I will never bow my head to evil or to lies. I will always do everything I can for my compatriots back in China who still are not free and who are now being oppressed."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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