NYU booting blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng amid Shanghai expansion: sources
- By JAMES COVERT
- Last Updated: 9:04 AM, June 13, 2013
- Posted: 3:03 AM, June 13, 2013
NYU isn’t letting a pesky thing like human rights stand in the way of its expansion in China.
The university has booted a blind Chinese political dissident from its campus under pressure from the Communist government as it builds a coveted branch in Shanghai, sources told The Post.
Chen Guangcheng has been at NYU since May 2012, when he made a dramatic escape from his oppressive homeland with the help of Hillary Rodham Clinton.
But school brass has told him to get out by the end of this month, the sources said.
Chen’s presence at the school didn’t sit well with the Chinese bureaucrats who signed off on the permits for NYU’s expansion there, the sources said.
“The big problem is that NYU is very compromised by the fact they are working very closely with the Chinese to establish a university,” according to one New York-based professor familiar with Chen’s situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
“That’s their liability,” the source said. “Otherwise, they would be much less constrained on issues like freedom of speech.”
The outspoken Chen — whose many supporters include actor Christian Bale, who tried to visit him in China with a TV crew in 2011 — recently inflamed Chinese authorities again when he agreed to visit its archenemy Taiwan in the coming weeks, a source said.
NYU officials claim that Chen was never meant to stay there long-term and that the politics of the new Shanghai campus had nothing to do with his ouster.
“If there were outside pressure, why would we have taken him in the first place when his plight was on every front page in the world?” spokesman John Beckman said in a statement to The Post.
Beckman said NYU got approval for its Shanghai campus last fall, several months after Chen arrived.
Scrambling to find a new home, Chen is currently in discussions to move to Fordham Law School. The talks are still ongoing, a spokesman there confirmed.
A self-taught lawyer who spent years in prison and under house arrest in China, Chen sought refuge at the US Embassy in Beijing in April 2011. He pleaded with then-Secretary of State Clinton to help him, and ultimately landed at NYU, where he studied as a special student in law.
Chen’s move to NYU to avert a diplomatic crisis was brokered by prominent NYU law professor and China expert Jerome Cohen.
But insiders said NYU has felt itself increasingly vulnerable to pressure from China as the Shanghai campus project moves forward.
“Apart from the initial press hoopla, [Chen] really hasn’t had any kind of profile at NYU this year,” said Andrew Ross, an NYU professor of social and cultural studies.
Ordinarily, he noted, Chen “would have done seminars; he would have done panel discussions.”
Chen has had little communication with NYU President John Sexton, who has been spearheading the school’s expansion into Shanghai and Abu Dhabi, a source said.
Chen couldn’t be reached for comment.
Cohen was in China and also couldn’t be reached.