NEW YORK (AP) — A blind Chinese legal activist who escaped house arrest and endured a nearly monthlong diplomatic tussle and a hurried daylong flight paused ever so briefly upon his arrival in New York before taking up a familiar fight.
Taken from a hospital in his homeland and put on a plane for the United States after Chinese authorities suddenly told him Saturday to pack and prepare to leave, Chen Guangcheng embraced his new surroundings at New York University and renewed his call to fight injustice.
“I believe that no matter how difficult the environment, nothing is impossible if you put your heart to it,” he told a cheering crowd at NYU shortly after arriving at Newark Liberty International Airport on Saturday evening.
“We should link our arms to continue in the fight for the goodness in the world and to fight against injustice. So, I think that all people should apply themselves to this end to work for the common good worldwide.”
Dressed in a white shirt and khaki pants and using crutches, his right leg in a cast, Mr. Chen was greeted with cheers when he arrived at the apartment in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village where he will live with his family. The complex houses faculty and graduate students of New York University, where Mr. Chen is expected to attend law school.
“For the past seven years, I have never had a day’s rest,” Mr. Chen said through a translator, “so I have come here for a bit of recuperation for body and in spirit.”
Mr. Chen thanked the U.S. and Chinese governments, along with the embassies of Switzerland, Canada and France.
“After much turbulence, I have come out of Shandong,” he said, referring to the Chinese province where he was under house arrest. The U.S. has granted him partial citizenship rights, he said.
Mr. Chen gave a short statement, which was greeted by cheers in Mandarin and English. He didn’t take questions from reporters.
The departure of Mr. Chen, his wife and two children to the United States marked the conclusion of nearly a month of uncertainty and years of mistreatment by local authorities for the self-taught activist.
After seven years of prison and house arrest, Mr. Chen made a daring escape from his rural village in April and was given sanctuary inside the U.S. Embassy, triggering a diplomatic standoff over his fate. With Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Beijing for annual high-level discussions, officials struck a deal that let Mr. Chen walk free, only to see him have second thoughts. That move forced new negotiations that led to an agreement to send him to the U.S. to study law, a goal of his, at New York University.
“Thousands of thoughts are surging to my mind,” Mr. Chen said before he left China. His concerns, he said, included whether authorities would retaliate for his negotiated departure by punishing his relatives left behind. It also was unclear whether the government will allow him to return.
In New York, he said China had promised him protection of his rights as a citizen there.
“I am very gratified to see that the Chinese government has been dealing with the situation with restraint and calm, and I hope to see that they continue to open discourse and earn the respect and trust of the people.”