New York (AsiaNews) - Chen Guangcheng, the blind dissident known for his fight against forced abortions, could start his legal studies at New York University (NYU) as early as next week as university staff wrap up a research plan for the newly arrived blind legal activist. Lectures will be given in Chinese since Chen does not speak English. His wife, Yuan Weijing, may join him in his studies. The couple arrived in the United States with their children.
The Chen Guangcheng affair broke out on 26 April when the dissident escaped from house arrest the authorities had imposed on him after four years of prison.
A diplomatic tug-of-war between Beijing and Washington began when he found refuge at the US Embassy in Beijing, at a time when the two nations were holding their annual bilateral summit.
After two days of impasse, Chen left the embassy on the condition that he be allowed to leave the country. He was sent to hospital where he was placed under police guard until he left last Saturday.
Chen "wants to go back to China and he should go back to China. That's our goal," said Law professor Jerome Cohen, who served as mentor to the self-taught lawyer. "It is hard to be a foreigner here and for a refugee trying to have an impact."
Cohen said he believed Chen had a good chance of returning should he focus on legislation to protect the disabled. He noted that more Chinese activists had been pressing for legal reforms without being jailed, such as civil rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang.
Meanwhile, Chen Guangcheng has begun to enjoy his freedom. With his wife and children, he spent Sunday at a park in New York. "For the past seven years, I have never had a day's rest," he said, "so I have come here for a bit of recuperation."
However, the situation for his family back in Shandong seems to be getting worse. His nephew Chen Kegui is still in prison, persecuted by police, and unable to find a lawyer to represent him.
The Chinese Human Rights Defender (CHRD) obtained a letter addressed to the police chief of the Yinan County Public Security Bureau (PSB) in Shandong Province contesting the police's unlawful interference in their efforts to defend Chen Kegui.
The latter was formally arrested two weeks ago on suspicion of "intentional homicide" for acting in self-defence when a group of police officers and thugs broke into his home searching for his uncle who had escaped. The charge is absurd because no one was killed in the incident.
Lawyers Ding Xikui, of the Beijing Mo Shaoping Firm (which takes on human rights cases), and Si Weijiang, of the Shanghai Dabang Law Firm, wrote the letter. Both have been authorised by Chen Kegui's wife to represent her husband.
According to the letter, Chen Kegui's wife retained Ding and Si to represent her husband after two other lawyers she had hired, Liu Weiguo and Chen Wuquan, were intimidated and harassed by authorities.
For the two lawyers, Chen Kegui's arrest and detention have no legal basis. "We believe," Ding and Si said in their letter, that the "Bureau's conduct violates the Criminal Procedural Law of the People's Republic of China and other administrative and legal regulations, and seriously violates the legal rights of Chen Kegui and lawyers' lawful rights to carry out their profession."
So far, the accused has not yet met any lawyer of his choosing.