BEIJING — Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, who was allowed to travel to the United States after escaping from house arrest, said Monday that New York University is forcing him and his family to leave at the end of the month because of pressure from the Chinese government. The university denied Chen’s allegations.
Chen said in a statement that China’s Communist Party had been applying “great, unrelenting pressure” on NYU to ask him to leave, though he did not provide details or evidence to back his claim. Chen said Beijing’s authoritarian government has more influence on the American academic community than is perceived.
“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,” he said. “Academic independence and academic freedom in the United States are being greatly threatened by a totalitarian regime.”
NYU officials called Chen’s account puzzling, saying that his fellowship was meant to be a one-year position and had simply concluded as planned, and that school officials have been talking with him for months about what his next step might be.
Chen sparked a diplomatic crisis between China and the United States last year when he fled to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing from house arrest. Since last May, he’d been a special student at NYU’s U.S.-Asia Law Institute. He has been working on a book due out later this year.
NYU spokesman John Beckman said in a statement Monday that the conclusion of Chen’s fellowship had nothing to do with the Chinese government.
“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 NYU’s decision-making that are both false and contradicted by the well-established facts,” Beckman said.
Beckman said that even before Chen’s family’s arrival in the United States the fellowship he was to take at the university was discussed as a one-year position.
“NYU believes it has been generous in supporting this family, and we are puzzled and saddened to see these false claims directed at us,” Beckman said.
NYU said Chen has two offers for new institutional affiliations. Earlier, a spokesman for New York-based Fordham University confirmed that Chen was negotiating with Fordham Law School’s Leitner Center but said he didn’t know what kind of position was being discussed.