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China dissident arrives in New York

Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng said he was gratified by the way the Chinese government had dealt with his situation with “restraint and calm” after arriving in the United States.

“I hope to see that they continue to open discourse and earn the respect and trust of the people,” Chen, speaking through a translator, told reporters on Saturday outside a New York University building in Manhattan.

He will be studying as a fellow at NYU’s School of Law.

Chen, 40, a self-taught lawyer and activist, arrived in the US after China allowed him to leave a hospital in Beijing on Saturday. His wife and their two children also came with him.

The activist escaped from house arrest in northeastern China last month and sought refuge in the US embassy in Beijing, embarrassing China and creating an uncomfortable backdrop for US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to improve ties between the world’s two biggest economies.

“I believe that no matter how difficult the environment nothing is impossible as long as you put your heart to it … I hope everybody works with me to promote justice and fairness in China,” Chen said.

“Equality and justice have no boundaries.”

He expressed concern however that “acts of retribution may not have abated” in his hometown of Shandong. The village of Dongshigu, where Chen’s mother and other relatives remain, is still under lockdown.

“We hope to see in the future a thorough investigation into these events,” he said.

Chen’s nephew was denied his family’s choice of lawyers on Friday to defend a charge of “intentional homicide”, the latest in a series of moves to deny him legal representation, and underscores the hardline stance taken against the dissident’s family.

Strained ties

Victoria Nuland, a US State Department spokesperson, on Saturday expressed “appreciation for the manner in which we were able to resolve this matter and to support Mr Chen’s desire to study in the US and pursue his goals”.

US President Barack Obama’s administration had feared a dispute over Chen’s fate could sour already strained ties with China and generate criticism of Obama at home. Beijing has accused Washington of meddling in its affairs in the case.

Chen’s abrupt departure from Beijing came nearly three weeks after he arrived at the Chaoyang Hospital from the US embassy, where he had taken refuge after an escape from 19 months of house arrest in his home village.

A United Airlines plane carrying Chen, his wife and two children, landed at Newark Liberty International Airport in New
Jersey shortly after 6pm (22:00 GMT) on Saturday and Chen was the first person taken off the plane.

Chen is one of China’s best-known dissidents, having won plaudits for exposing rights abuses including forced sterilisations and late-term abortions under China’s “one-child” family planning policy.

In 2006, he was sentenced to more than four years in jail on charges – vehemently denied by his wife and lawyers – that he incited a crowd that disrupted traffic and damaged property.

He was formally released in 2010 but remained under house arrest in his home village in northeastern Shandong province.

The US embassy had earlier thought it had stuck a deal to allow Chen to stay in China without retribution, but that fell
apart as Chen grew worried about his family’s safety.

He changed his mind about staying in China and asked to travel to the US.

Human rights are a major factor in relations between China and the US, even though the US needs China’s help on issues such as Iran, North Korea, Sudan and the fragile global economy.

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