NYU welcomed Chen, his wife and two children in May 2012 following negotiations between the United States and China. A self-taught lawyer, he is best known for his organization of a class-action lawsuit in the province of Shandong against violent enforcement of the "one-child" coercive population control program. Chen served four years and three months in prison. After his release in 2010, Chen was placed under house arrest but escaped last year.
Chen, who is blind, expressed gratitude to NYU for welcoming his family last year and supporting them at first, but he said Chinese officials began applying "great, unrelenting pressure" on the school as early as August. NYU officials soon began talking to Chen about his departure, he said.
"The work of the Chinese communists within academic circles in the United States is far greater than what people imagine.... Academic independence and academic freedom in the United States are being greatly threatened by a totalitarian regime," Chen said in a June 17 news release.
Bob Fu, president of ChinaAid, confirmed Beijing's influence on American universities, saying in the news release U.S. schools "are out chasing the China dollar and are very reluctant to work with dissidents who have a strong voice in China. It does not always have to be direct pressure from Beijing. There is also self-censorship, particularly if a college president believes their China campus or the future enrollment of Chinese students will be sabotaged."
Chen said the Chinese government's tactics would not halt his human rights advocacy. " will never bow my head to evil or to lies. I will always do everything I can for my compatriots back in China who still are not free and who are now being oppressed," he said.
China's "one-child" population control program, which began officially in 1980, generally limits couples in urban areas to one child and those in rural areas to two, if the first is a girl. Parents in cities may have second babies if the husband and wife are both only children. Couples who violate the policy face the threat of large fines, job loss and imprisonment.
The policy also has resulted in many accounts of authorities carrying out forced abortions -- even in the last three months of pregnancy -- and sterilizations. There also have been many reports of infanticide, especially of female babies. The policy has produced a dramatic gender imbalance because of the Chinese preference for sons.
Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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