New York University has been accused of asking blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng and his family to leave after facing pressure from the Chinese government.
Activist Chen Guangcheng made international headlines after successfully making a daring flight from house arrest in China last year. After his incredible escape, the blind activist came to the US seeking asylum.
Washington granted Chen’s request, despite the possible diplomatic backlash from China. Chen’s family joined him in the US, where he was granted a fellowship at New York University and has been studying for the past year.
However, Chen made statements Monday about NYU’s request for him and his family to leave. The activist believes China’s government is behind the decision. Chen says Chinese officials have been putting pressure on NYU to reject him and his family since their arrival.
How does the Chinese government hold such sway over New York University? Reports say NYU is in the process of opening a Shanghai campus.
In his statement Monday, Chen also made a startling claim about the depths of the Chinese government’s influence on US academia.
He said that this has created a situation where “academic independence and academic freedom in the United States are being greatly threatened by a totalitarian regime.”
Official statements from New York University have roundly denied Chen’s allegations, claiming their request is not unusual. Chen’s fellowship had expired, they said, and could not last indefinitely.
Chinese officials had also denied anything unusual at work here. They stated that Chen’s presence at NYU was part of a standard study abroad program. One official went so far as to have said to one source:
“I’m not sure if you got wrong information or Chen Guangcheng is fabricating stories.”
Whether New York University‘s decision will mean Chen must return to China is still unknown as he may seek fellowship at another university in the United States this week.