NEW YORK, June 17, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Human rights activist Chen Guangcheng has confirmed in a statement that New York University is forcing his family out of their campus home by month's end, warning that his case shows the power of a totalitarian regime halfway across the world to affect U.S. higher education policies.
“The work of the Chinese Communists within academic circles in the United States is far greater than what people imagine,” the blind activist said in a statement released by his lawyers, the Washington-based Bancroft PLLC.
“Academic independence and academic freedom in the United States are being greatly threatened by a totalitarian regime,” Chen warned.
The pressure of a foreign agent on a U.S. university began as soon as Chen made his escape, he said.
Chen Guangcheng, his wife, and their two children have lived in NYU faculty housing in Greenwich Village since last May, after professor Jerome A. Cohen arranged a fellowship at NYU Law School.
“As early as last August and September, the Chinese Communists had already begun to apply great, unrelenting pressure on New York University, so much so that after we had been in the United States just three to four months, NYU was already starting to discuss our departure with us,” Chen stated.
Congressman Christopher Smith, R-NJ, has called for a Congressional investigation into the possibility of foreign influence.
Reggie Littlejohn of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, who was one of the people to have contact with Chen during his long imprisonment and greet him when he stepped off the plane in New York, has also called for an investigation into Chinese pressure for the suspicious release.
Smith said that Chen was ostracized, even punished, by officials if he spoke out on Chinese human rights abuses.
“Contact was extraordinarily limited, and it was under the watchful eye of somebody who would report on him,” Congressman Smith said. “There were little penalties all along the way.”
Others admitted Chen remained effectively pigeonholed during the year he spent on campus learning English and working on his memoirs as a Chinese dissident. “Apart from the initial press hoopla, [Chen] really hasn’t had any kind of profile at NYU this year,” said Andrew Ross, a professor of social and cultural studies.
When Chen sought to discuss his situation, NYU administration would not speak to him.
“We have always wanted to thank the president of NYU in person” for the university's hospitality, Chen said. “Regrettably, to date, we still have not had the chance to meet him. Although NYU has arranged many of our activities, to date, it has not arranged a meeting for us with the president.”
Chen is not the first person on campus to criticize the university's leadership. Four colleges have passed votes of no confidence against NYU President John Sexton.
The university seemed particiularly keen to dissuade him from speaking out on Chinese human rights abuses, such as forced abortion. Exposing the regime's one child policy earned Chen four years in prison, then eight years under house arrest, where he and his family were beaten severely. Extended family members who remain at home are still harassed by Communist officials, according to eyewitness reports.
Now, he is being told his family must leave university housing by the end of the month. There would be no extension.
“The big problem is that NYU is very compromised by the fact they are working very closely with the Chinese to establish a university” campus in Shanghai, an anonymous source within the university told the New York Post.
Bob Fu, the president and founder of ChinaAid, said bowing to the possibility of Chinese reprisals is pandemic throughout academia, giving the politically repressive rulers in Beijing the power to affect America's higher education policies.
“American universities are out chasing the China dollar and are very reluctant to work with dissidents who have a strong voice in China,” Fu said. “It does not always have to be direct pressure from Beijing, there is also self-censorship, particularly if a college president believes their China campus or the future enrollment of Chinese students will be sabotaged.”
Chen's next steps are uncertain. Fordham University, a Catholic university in New York City, has reportedly expressed interest in bringing Chen to campus.
Nonetheless, he showed gratitude to NYU “for its help when my family was in a difficult period,” and thanked Cohen “and other friends for trying their best to help us.”
Regardless of the repercussions for himself or his family, Chen vowed to continue his work to bring freedom, and life, to one-sixth of the world's population.
“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,” he said. “I will always do everything I can for my compatriots back in China who still are not free and who are now being oppressed.”
“The Communist Party may have political control, but it does not control the hearts and minds of the Chinese people, who still look to the United States as a shining example of freedom, democracy, and the rule of law,” Fu said. “Hopefully, Chen's experience with NYU will not dim that view.”
New York University
Office of Public Affairs
25 West Fourth Street, 5th Floor