John Jalsevac co-wrote this story.
NEW YORK CITY, June 14, 2013 (LifeSiteNews) – A leading human rights activist and one of the country’s top pro-life congressmen are calling for an investigation after New York University (NYU) abruptly ordered blind Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng to leave their campus.
Congressman Chris Smith says that, despite the university’s vehement denials, he has “no doubt” the decision to oust Chen came in response to pressure from the Chinese government.
“They can come and testify under oath that it’s not true,” Smith told the New York Post. “I’m ready to go.”
Reggie Littlejohn of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, who worked for years to protect Chen from the abuses of the Chinese government, told LifeSiteNews.com that when she first heard NYU was ordering Chen to leave she “couldn’t believe that NYU would actually do that to him.” Now, she says, NYU needs to be put on the hot seat to discover whether their actions came in response to demands from the Chinese Communist Party.
Guangcheng fled with his family to the United States earlier this year under cover of a visa to study at NYU, after suffering years of imprisonment, house arrest, and brutal beatings in his home country for exposing the horrors of the Communist Party’s one child policy.
Chen, his wife and their two children have been living on the NYU campus since they were granted refugee status in May 2012. He has been learning English, meeting with academics, and working on a memoir, the sales of which he hopes will support his family in their new life in the U.S.
But now they have to leave by the end of the month.
While the university maintains the arrangement was always intended to be temporary, inside sources told the New York Post that NYU was feeling pressured by the Chinese government to cut Chen loose. The university is in the process of opening a potentially lucrative Shanghai campus, and sources say their permits were threatened by Communist Party officials.
“The big problem is that NYU is very compromised by the fact they are working very closely with the Chinese to establish a university,” one anonymous source told the Post. “Otherwise, they would be much less constrained on issues like freedom of speech.”
One professor told the Post that NYU’s relationship with Chen was cool from the start. “Apart from the initial press hoopla, [Chen] really hasn’t had any kind of profile at NYU this year,” said Andrew Ross, professor of social and cultural studies at the university. He said that if it were not for the looming expansion into China, he thinks Chen “would have done seminars; he would have done panel discussions.”
Littlejohn says she agrees that NYU’s approach to having a world-famous refugee on campus has been unusually – even suspiciously – low-key.
“Chen Guangcheng risked his life and the safety of his family being the most outspoken critic in the world against China’s one child policy, and then, as soon as he comes over to the United States, he all of a sudden says next-to-nothing about it,” Littlejohn said. “Everybody’s been wondering why that was. Is it the case that NYU – because of their connection with China and this new branch of NYU in Shanghai – that they were advising him that it was somehow in his best interest or in his family’s best interest to keep quiet about this?”
She noted that the university only announced his departure after he resumed vocal criticism of the Chinese government. “The timing of this certainly raises questions,” she added.
Rep. Smith agreed. “He had a place, a physical space to stay,” Smith said. “But contact was extraordinarily limited, and it was under the watchful eye of somebody who would report on him.”
Smith said that since his arrival in America, the activist had been discouraged by NYU officials from speaking out about Chinese human rights abuses.
But Jerome Cohen, a director of the university’s U.S.-Asia Law Institute who originally brought Chen to the school, took his employer’s side. “No good deed goes unpunished,” Cohen told the Wall Street Journal. “No political refugee, even Albert Einstein, has received better treatment by an American academic institution than that received by Chen from NYU, and I am grateful to the university administration for its extraordinary generosity, which could not reasonably be expected to go on indefinitely.”
Upon fleeing Nazi rule in 1933, German-born Einstein was given an office at Princeton University, where he remained actively involved until his death 22 years later.
But Littlejohn said that there was never any indication from NYU last May that Chen’s arrangement had a fixed expiration date.
“They don’t have another place to go right now. He’s in negotiation with a couple of other places. Why can’t they wait until he finalizes his negotiations?” she asked.
One of the places Chen is in talks with is Fordham University, a Catholic school based in New York City.
Littlejohn said that because it’s June and enrollment is down for the summer, it can’t be a lack of space driving NYU to evict Chen. She wonders why the university can’t at least let the family stay on campus until the start of the fall term in September, even if they don’t want Chen to come back for classes in the fall.
“Surely they don’t need to be reminded that he’s blind and does not speak English, and New York is a very tough city,” said Littlejohn. “So what’s the hurry?”
Littlejohn suggested Chen’s supporters in the U.S. contact New York University and ask them to give Chen more time.
A call to New York University by LifeSiteNews seeking comment was not immediately returned.
According to Littlejohn, those wishing to contribute financially to the Chen family’s needs during their transition can do so by making a donation to Women’s Rights Without Frontiers. Contributions should be marked “for Chen Guangcheng.”
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