U.S. diplomats are breathing a sigh of relief Sunday after a human rights activist sheltered briefly by the U.S. embassy in Beijing was allowed to leave China and come to the United States. Chen Guangcheng arrived Saturday night with his wife and two children. He has a fellowship to study at New York University.
Chen appeared briefly before the cameras Saturday night in New York’s Greenwich Village, where he will be living with his family and studying law.
“For the past seven years, I have never had a day’s rest. So I have come here for reparation in body and spirit,” he said through an interpreter.
He stood on crutches — his right leg in a cast. Chen, who is blind, was injured during his daring escape in April from house arrest in his village in China’s Shandong’s province.
The flight to Newark came after weeks of difficult negotiations and high drama in Beijing. U.S. diplomats, who brought him to the embassy, initially negotiated a deal for him to study in China. But he had a change of heart – and wanted to come here.
Two U.S. diplomats accompanied Chen and his family on their flight to the U.S. Saturday. There was little other fanfare. A senior White House official, Ben Rhodes, said simply that the U.S. was glad to see this issue resolved.
“We are pleased with the efforts that have been made within our own government by the State Department and with Chinese authorities, and with Mr. Chen to reach this resolution,” he said.
Chen said Saturday night he was grateful for U.S. assistance and for what he calls China’s restraint and calm.
“I hope everybody works with me to promote justice and fairness in China,” he said.
Human rights groups, though, are worried about Chen’s extended family and the activists who helped him escape house arrest.