Washington (AsiaNews) - After a month of uncertainty and verbal confrontations with New York University, blind dissident Chen Guangcheng received three job offers in as many US academic institutions. Chen, a lawyer by trade, secured three positions with US academic, advocacy, and policy institutions. The Catholic University of America, the Witherspoon Institute and the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice have in fact offered him a sturdy platform from which to continue his activism on human rights and democracy in China.
"We greatly admire Mr. Chen's bravery in defending basic human rights in China," said John Garvey, president of the Catholic University of America (CUA), when he announced the offer at a press conference at the Press Club in Washington.
"We consider his work as an advocate consonant with the academic mission of a Catholic university," Garvey explained. "By virtue of our faith, we are dedicated to supporting the international struggle for the recognition of human dignity and the protection of basic human rights. We welcome the opportunity to support Mr. Chen in his advocacy."
"As a Catholic institution," CUA president noted, "we are also deeply committed to the moral formation of our students. We aspire to provide moral exemplars in our teachers and scholars. Mr. Chen's heroic moral witness provides a model for the kind of courageous commitment to protecting human dignity and advancing human rights that we hope for in our students. His fortitude and perseverance are virtues we hope our students will imitate."
For years, Chen Guangcheng fought against forced abortions and land grabs in China. After 4 years in prison for "subversion", he escaped in April of 2012 from his home in Shandong, where he was kept under control by the police.
After a daring flight, Chen was able to enter the US Embassy in Beijing, leading to a diplomatic impasse that ended with an agreement between China and the United States allowing Chen to leave the country like an ordinary Chinese citizen after being invited to study at New York University (NYU).
Last June, that relationship ended in acrimony with Chen saying that the university had come under pressure from the Chinese Communist Party to expel him.
The university responded saying that Chen's master had been completed noting that, throughout the period, the dissident and his family were guests of the university.
In taking leave, Chen said that he was thankful "for all sorts of assistance and care" offered by New York University and Professor Cohen, Chen's sponsor. "My family and I want to express our sincere gratitude . . . thank you to kind Americans."
In discussing the offer, Garvey explained that the institutions that now support Chen "don't really fit some ready description."
He noted that the Catholic University does not endorse any party and that the Lantos Foundation was founded by Democrat Tom Lantos, whilst the Witherspoon Institute is known for its Republican sympathies.
For his part, Chen said before the press conference ended, "With the support and aid of numerous kind hearted American people, I am sure that the seeds of freedom and democracy will take root in the land of China, germinate, and eventually in the future bear beautiful fruit."