Blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng has arrived in the United States, saying he is gratified that the Chinese government showed “restraint and calm” in dealing with his situation.
Chen also thanked the United States for giving him refuge at the U.S. embassy in Beijing and for making it possible for him to leave China and allowing him to live and study in the United States.
Chen made his remarks outside the New York University late Saturday, shortly after arriving at Newark Liberty International Airport, where he was greeted by State Department personnel and his friend, Professor Jerome Cohen.
His arrival in New York marks the end of a month-long diplomatic tussle between China and the United States, following Chen’s daring escape from house arrest in Shandong province.
Chen, his wife and their two children were allowed to leave the country early Saturday. Chen had been hurriedly taken from a hospital hours earlier and the family received their passports at Beijing’s international airport shortly before boarding the United Airlines flight.
Chen fled to the U.S. embassy in Beijing last month after escaping from his heavily-guarded and reportedly abusive house arrest in Shandong province. The self-taught lawyer and human rights activist left the embassy and entered a hospital for treatment, after agreeing to a deal reached by U.S. and Chinese authorities that would allow him to stay in a “safe” place in China. But he changed his mind hours after leaving U.S. protection, saying he did not feel safe and asking to go to the United States.
Blind since childhood, the 40-year-old Chen was given a four-year prison sentence in 2006 for exposing abuses under China’s forced abortion policy aimed at population control. After his release from prison in 2010, he was put under house arrest.
Officials in Shandong province have charged Chen’s nephew with attempted murder after he allegedly attacked local officials who broke into his house after discovering his uncle was missing.