Chen Guangcheng, the famous blind Chinese dissident who spent years under house arrest, sought asylum in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing in 2011, escaped from Communist China in May 2012 to the United States, and ultimately became a student at New York University has been told by the university to get lost.
University insiders claim that the reason Chen has been unceremoniously dismissed is the pressure NYU has been receiving from Chinese bureaucrats who have approved permits for NYU to expand its Shanghai campus. Coupled with Chen’s announcement that he was planning on visiting Taiwan in the next month, which irritated Chinese authorities, NYU caved.
One New York-based professor said, “The big problem is that NYU is very compromised by the fact they are working very closely with the Chinese to establish a university. That’s their liability. Otherwise, they would be much less constrained on issues like freedom of speech.”
But NYU officials defended the university’s actions, saying that Chen was never meant to be a student at NYU for an extended period of time and that the expansion of the Shanghai campus was a non-factor. Spokesman John Beckman said, “If there were outside pressure, why would we have taken him in the first place when his plight was on every front page in the world?” He added that the Chinese approved the NYU Shanghai extension after Chen had already started at NYU.
Andrew Ross, an NYU professor of social and cultural studies, had another perspective. He noted the incongruity of Chen’s ouster, saying, “Apart from the initial press hoopla, [Chen] really hasn’t had any kind of profile at NYU this year… (he normally) would have done seminars; he would have done panel discussions.”
One source said Chen has barely communicated with NYU President John Sexton. Chen, who is a self-taught lawyer, is looking to move to Fordham Law School.