- (Photo: REUTERS/US Embassy Beijing Press Office/Handout)
Blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, who escaped house arrest in China last month, made his way with his immediate family out of his country and arrived in Newark, N.J., Saturday evening after three weeks of high-level negotiations between Washington and Beijing.
Chen, who traveled with his wife and two children, landed at Newark-Liberty International Airport and headed straight to participate in a fellowship at New York University.
"For the past seven years, I have never had a day's rest so I have come here for a bit of recuperation for body and in spirit," ABC quoted Chen as saying. "I feel like everybody is very passionate," he said, adding that he came out "after much turbulence I have come out... thanks to the assistance of many friends."
Chen said the U.S. embassy had given him partial citizenship. "I'm very grateful to the U.S. and to the Chinese government for my protection over the long term. Very grateful to other friends like France, who have called in their support. I am gratified the Chinese government dealt with situation with restraint and calm."
Chen will study as a fellow at the NYU School of Law, and live with his family at the university.
The activist told Hong Kong Cable Television that he didn't know when he would return to China, "but I'll definitely come back."
While in China, Chen was helped and supported by country's underground Christians among others. Christian activist Bob Fu recently reached Chen by cellphone while at a Capitol Hill hearing and let him make his appeal for passage to the U.S. directly to lawmakers.
Chen, who escaped from his heavily guarded house in Linyi in China's eastern Shandong province, appeared in a video he posted on the Internet late last month, saying, "I finally escaped. All the stories about the brutal treatment I have received from the authorities, I can personally testify they are all true."
After his daring escape April 22, Chen remained underground for a few days and then sought refuge at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing April 27.
Chen exposed forced sterilization and other abuses by Chinese authorities. Chinese law requires families to have only one child. While rich Chinese can afford to pay fines for having more children, poor families are often treated brutally. Chinese authorities allegedly impose harsh punishments on the families of women who run away to save their babies.
Chen was arrested in 2007 on charges of disruption of traffic, vandalism and anti-government activities. He was released after four years and three months, and subsequently put under house arrest.
"They broke into my house, and more than a dozen men assaulted my wife," Chen said in his video message. "They pinned her down and wrapped her in a blanket, beating and kicking her for hours. They similarly violently assaulted me."
Chen wanted to live in China after his escape but he was not sure if he and his family were safe in his own country. While he is out of harm's way, many other dissidents continue to face persecution by Chinese authorities.