Blind Chinese activist Chen arrives in New York

Monday, 21 May 2012 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

NEW YORK (Reuters) : Blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng arrived in the United States on Saturday and declared “equality and justice have no boundaries” after China let him leave a Beijing hospital to quell a sensitive diplomatic rift between the two countries.

Chen escaped from house arrest in northeastern China last month and sought refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, embarrassing China and creating an uncomfortable backdrop for U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to improve ties between the world’s two biggest economies.

“I am very gratified to see that the Chinese government has been dealing with the situation with restraint and calm and I hope to see that they continue to open discourse and earn the respect and trust of the people,” Chen, speaking through a translator, told reporters outside a New York University housing building in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village.

Chen, one of China’s most prominent dissidents, is going to study as a fellow at the NYU School of Law. Leaning on a crutch because of an injury suffered during his escape, he smiled and waved to a cheering crowd before speaking to reporters.

“I’m very grateful for the assistance of the American Embassy and also (for) receiving a promise from the Chinese government for protection of my rights as a citizen over the long term,” he said. “I believe that the promise from the central government is sincere and they are not lying to me.”

“I believe that no matter how difficult the environment nothing is impossible as long as you put your heart to it ... I hope everybody works with me to promote justice and fairness in China,” he said. “Equality and justice have no boundaries.”

Chen, 40, who taught himself law, was a leading advocate of the rights defense movement in China. He gained prominence by campaigning for farmers and disabled citizens and exposing forced abortions.

He expressed concern on Saturday that “acts of retribution may not have abated” in his hometown of Shandong. The village of Dongshigu, where Chen’s mother and other relatives remain, is still under lockdown.

“We hope to see in the future a thorough investigation into these events,” Chen said.