Officials at New York University (NYU) denied claims by blind Chinese dissident Chen Guancheng that the school is ousting him because of pressure from the Chinese government.
NYU officials confirmed that Chen’s academic fellowship would end this month but denied Chen’s assertions that the Chinese government pressured the university to force him out as NYU prepared to open a campus in Shanghai. NYU leaders said they told Chen months ago that his fellowship would last only a year.
Chen arrived in the United States in May 2012, after a dramatic escape from house arrest in his home province in China. Chinese officials had subjected Chen to years of imprisonment, and then confined the self-taught attorney (and his family) to his home because of his human rights activism, including criticism of forced abortions under China’s one-child policy.
When Chen arrived in the United States, officials at NYU offered him an academic fellowship at the school and an apartment for his family. Over the past year, Chen has spoken at several public events about the rule of law in China.
On Sunday, Chen released a statement saying NYU officials had asked him and his family to leave before the end of June. Chen claimed that as early as last August the Chinese government “had already begun to apply great, unrelenting pressure” on the school to cut ties with Chen and his family. He also claimed China’s influence in U.S. academia is “far greater than what people imagine. …”
NYU spokesman John Beckman refuted Chen’s claims, and said his departure had nothing to do with the Chinese government. He said the school had promised Chen a fellowship for only one academic year: “NYU believes it has been generous in supporting this family, and we are puzzled and saddened to see these false claims directed at us.”
Bob Fu—president of the Christian advocacy group ChinaAid—has communicated often with Chen since his arrival in the U.S. On Monday, Fu said on his group’s website that “American universities are out chasing the China dollar and are very reluctant to work with dissidents who have a strong voice in China.” Fu told The Wall Street Journal that Chen told him he “will show evidence” of Chinese pressure on NYU “at the right time.”
Still, Chen, Fu, and other critics of NYU—including U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.)—haven’t produced direct evidence showing the Chinese government pressured NYU, or that NYU reacted to such pressure. If they hope to prove such claims, the right time to show evidence is likely now.