After China pressured New York University to boot Chen Guangcheng, known for exposing coerced abortions and sterilizations resulting from China’s one-child policy and enforced by state family planning officials, Catholic University of America is now working with the human rights activist.
As LifeNews reported, Chen received a fellowship to study at New York University after seeking help at the U.S. embassy in Beijing last year to escape China, where he faced imprisonment and house arrest for exposing brutal campaigns of forced abortions.
New York University law professor Jerome Cohen assisted Chen in China after he fled to the U.S. Embassy and assisted him in obtaining a fellowship at New York University. The two had known each other since Chen, a blind attorney, first came to the United States in 2003, before the controversy erupted in China.
Since arriving in the U.S., Chen had stayed at faculty housing along with his wife and children, until the Chinese pressured NYU to kick him out.
Now, Catholic University is welcoming Chen.
During an event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Chen revealed to a room full of domestic and international press that he will serve as distinguished visiting fellow of Catholic University’s Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies, senior distinguished fellow in human rights at the Witherspoon Institute (Princeton, N.J.), and senior distinguished advisor focused on Internet freedom and human rights for people with disabilities at the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights & Justice (Concord, N.H.).
“Today I’m at a new starting point and I’m very thankful for the support of these three organizations,” Chen said through an interpreter. “They jointly set up a human rights platform from which I’m able to speak up about the facts and realities of the Chinese communist authorities’ violation of human rights, their indescribable brutality, and the threat they pose to humanity. From today forward, no matter what difficulties we encounter, we will stick together and work closely for all mankind; we will make concerted efforts to defend the freedom of the Chinese people and move forward courageously to defend human dignity, and other universal values.”
Chen was joined at the press conference by John Garvey, President of Catholic University; Stephen Schneck, director of Catholic University’s Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies; Matthew Franck, director of the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution of the Witherspoon Institute; and Ambassador Richard Swett, treasurer of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights & Justice.
Blind since a young age, Chen grew up in a small Chinese village. He taught himself law and became known as a “barefoot lawyer.” His work exposing human rights abuses in China led to four years in prison, followed by house arrest. Chen escaped house arrest in April 2012, drawing international media attention. He made his way to the U.S. embassy in Beijing, and subsequently to the United States in May 2012 when he was offered a visiting fellowship at the law school at New York University.
“As a Catholic institution, we greatly admire Mr. Chen’s bravery in defending basic human rights in China,” said Garvey. “We consider his work as an advocate consonant with the academic mission of a Catholic university. By virtue of our faith in Jesus Christ, 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.”
Garvey also noted that Chen “provides a model for the kind of courageous commitment to protecting human dignity and advancing human rights that we hope for in our students.” (To read Garvey’s remarks, click here.)
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“Mr. Chen is one of the leading voices of freedom and justice in China today,” said Franck. “He has proven his courage and fearless devotion to freedom. He is a truth teller. It is our wish that he continue to tell the world the truth” from the platforms provided by the three organizations.
Chen will deliver his first lecture as a fellow at Witherspoon later this month.
“Mr. Chen reminds us of our founder, the late Congressman Tom Lantos, both in the breadth of his human rights leadership and in the fearless way he has taken on critical human rights causes, regardless of the odds,” said Swett.