Chen Guangcheng: Lost in America

Foreign Policy’s Isaac Stone Fish talks to legal activist Chen Guangcheng about his acrimonious departure from New York University, his new affiliation with the conservative Witherspoon Institute, and the precarious position of Chinese dissidents abroad.

In the months since Chen left NYU, his appearance has changed little — his hair is slightly greyer, his suit better-fitting — but his image in the United States has grown far more complicated. […]

At dinner at a Middle Eastern restaurant in downtown Washington that evening, Chen spoke about his perceived affiliation with reactionary Christianity. “I don’t believe in any religion,” he said firmly, in between bites of kebab, and sips of tea. His wife, Yuan Weijing, who joined him for dinner — along with Chen’s brother, who sat alone at a nearby table and looked pleased just to be in the United States — added: “He only believes in truth and facts.”

Chen pointed out that, beyond his ties to the Witherspoon Institute, he’s also affiliated with the Catholic University of America, and the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice. Anyone who pays attention to human rights in China, who supports Chinese constitutional democracy, he said, is a friend. “Who’s right-wing or left-wing might be important to Americans,” his wife said. “Chen really doesn’t care.” [Source]

For more on Chen’s time in the U.S., see a detailed account from November by Reuters’ Jonathan Allen, via CDT.