Blind Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] arrived in New York on Saturday, resolving a US-China struggle that began when Chen escaped house arrest [JURIST report] last month and fled to the US embassy in Beijing, seeking protection from Chinese authorities. In a press conference Saturday evening Chen thanked the US for its help and the Chinese government for its cooperation and its promise to respect his citizenship rights in the future. Chen left the US embassy [JURIST report] earlier this month out of fear that the Chinese government would hurt his family if he remained secluded. The larger relationship between the US and China was strained throughout Chen's struggle to obtain an agreement from the Chinese government guaranteeing the safety of both himself and his family, as the US backed Chen and pushed for China to agree to treat him humanely. Chen has accepted a fellowship to study law at New York University [official website] and has pledged to eventually return to his home country.
Chen is an outspoken activist who was originally wanted in his rural town for exposing forced abortions and other human rights abuses. Before escaping to the US Embassy Chen was kept under house arrest after he was released from prison in 2010. Chen served four years in prison [JURIST report] for damaging property and "organizing a mob to disturb traffic." During his house arrest Chinese authorities increased surveillance of his home and family, bringing into question the authenticity of his release [press release]. Chen's family members have claimed that the activist suffers from health problems caused by mistreatment he received while in prison, including beatings and repeated food poisonings [WP report]. Chen claims that the charges were retribution for his documentation of forced sterilizations and abortions performed by Chinese officials to enforce China's one-child policy, and has been consistently detained [HRW backgrounder] by Chinese authorities since 2005.