Print options

May 21, 2012

China Urges Exiled Dissident to Follow Chinese Law

by Stephanie Ho

BEIJING - Chinese officials are calling on exiled dissident Chen Guangcheng to follow Chinese law, although they gave no details on whether authorities would allow the blind legal activist back into the country should he choose to return from the United States.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei Monday was asked if the Chinese government will allow Chen Guangcheng to return to China.

He did not directly answer the question, but said that since Chen is a Chinese citizen, he should abide by Chinese laws and regulations.

The spokesman also did not answer directly questions about whether Beijing is conducting an investigation into what Chen says are abusive activities by local officials.

Chen and his family left China for the United States on Saturday. He is a 40-year-old self-taught legal activist who was jailed for four years after he helped Chinese stand up against abortions and sterilizations forced by family planning officials.

After he was freed from prison in 2010, he was kept under heavy surveillance, and reportedly even beaten, in his home in Shandong. Earlier this month, he drew international media attention when he sought refuge in the U.S. embassy in Beijing.

At the time, the Chinese government demanded an apology from the United States for what it called interference in China's internal affairs. The foreign ministry spokesman Monday did not repeat that demand.

He says China has noted that the U.S. side takes its concerns seriously and will take concrete measures to prevent similar incidents from happening again.

New York University law professor Jerome Cohen says Chen has no fixed time limit for how long he can stay in the United States.

"Maybe he'll really be a very serious student for more than a year," he said. "Another possibility is maybe he'll go back to China directly at the end of the year, if things look good. Another option is to stay a year or two, or more, and mostly do human rights work."

Cohen is helping settle Chen and his family. New York University has offered the Chinese legal activist a fellowship.