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Blind Dissident Says China Pressured NYU to Make Him Leave

Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng, center, smiles after being awarded the 2012 Tom Lantos Human Rights Prize by actor Richard Gere, right, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan 29, 2013.
The blind Chinese activist who arrived in the United States last year has confirmed stories that China exerted political pressure on New York University to make him leave at the end of this month.

Chen Guangcheng released a statement though his lawyers late Sunday, saying Beijing had exerted "unrelenting pressure" on NYU to ask him to leave at the end of June.

Chen thanked the university for its hospitality and support, but said the influence of Chinese communists within academic circles in the U.S. is far greater than what people imagine.

The university denied the accusation, saying Chen was told last year that his fellowship would last just one year.

NYU has been home to Chen and his family since they arrived in the U.S. on May 19, 2012. According to a university spokesman and others familiar with Chen's circumstances, the university has provided him with an office and a nearby apartment.

The head of NYU's U.S.-Asia Law Institute, Jerome Cohen, helped arrange Chen's departure for the United States, after he had spent six days in the U.S. embassy in Beijing. Cohen issued a statement last week saying "no political refugee, even Albert Einstein, has received better treatment by an American academic institution than that received by Chen from NYU." Cohen added that Chen "now is in the process of choosing between two attractive opportunities."

Earlier, the Financial Times reported that Chen has been offered a three-year contract to work at the Witherspoon Institute, based in Princeton, New Jersey, while also in negotiations with another New York-based university on becoming a visiting scholar.

Chen, who is 41, first gained international recognition as a defender of rural Chinese women who went through forced sterilization or forced late-term abortions. He has continued to criticize the Chinese government since arriving in the U.S. He says Chinese authorities still harass his family.