Following his sudden departure last night from his hospital in Beijing, legal activist Chen Guangcheng arrived in New York and greeted the media near New York University, where he is expected to take up a fellowship. From CNN:
United Airlines Flight 88 landed at New York/Newark Liberty International Airport to little fanfare after the U.S. State Department prohibited public and media access.
Less than two hours later, Chen, 40, spoke from New York University, where he will participate in a fellowship.
“I am very grateful to the assistance of the American Embassy and the promise of the Chinese government to keep protection of my rights as a citizen in the long term,” Chen said to a mob of reporters and onlookers. “I am very gratified to see the Chinese government has been dealing with the situation with restraint and calm.”
The activist indicated he had been granted partial U.S. citizenship and asked people to “promote fairness and justice in China.”
Passengers, including reporters, on the flight were not permitted to speak with Chen and his family, but a New York Times reporter did have a brief interview with him:
Mr. Chen left Beijing with his wife and two children, and like most events surrounding his case, the departure was shrouded in secrecy until the last minute. Even on the plane, flight attendants took pains to keep other passengers from invading his privacy, drawing a curtain swiftly around the first rows of the plane where he was sitting with his family.
But in a brief conversation on the plane, Mr. Chen said, “I don’t really feel that happy, but rather sentimental.”
“After all the suffering for years, I don’t have those tearful moments anymore,” he said, “but I do feel something inside.” He looked calm, but his hands shook as he talked about leaving a country he has tried to change for years from within.
“I’m very clear what kind of role I’m playing right now. Opportunity and risk exist at the same time,” he said.In Washington, the State Department praised the Chinese government in a statement that reflected its handling of the case from the start: understated and nonconfrontational, despite the emotions and high stakes involved for both countries. “We also express our appreciation for the manner in which we were able to resolve this matter and to support Mr. Chen’s desire to study in the U.S. and pursue his goals,” the State Department’s spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, said.