New York University, a private college located in New York City, is refuting the claims of blind human rights activist Chen Guangcheng, who is accusing the university of caving to "great, unrelenting pressure" from China in ending his fellowship position at the college campus.
The university is arguing that it has not chosen to end Chen's fellowship because it is opening an abroad campus in Shanghai, but rather because Chen's fellowship was only planned for one year and set to expire this summer.
Jerome Cohen, a law professor at NYU who played an integral role in helping Chen escape China last year, said in a recent email statement that the university has played its part in helping the blind human rights activist adjust to life outside of China.
"My understanding with the Chens was that NYU could guarantee him one year in order to get their feet on the ground and transition to a more permanent position," Cohen told The Washington Post in a recent email.
"I am grateful to the university administration for its extraordinary generosity, which could not reasonably be expected to go on indefinitely," Cohen added. "No political refugee, even Albert Einstein, has received better treatment by an American academic institution than that received by Chen from NYU."
Chen, who has long been a staunch critic of China's controversial one-child policy, recently confirmed a New York Post article which claimed NYU was ending its fellowship contract with the human rights activist due to pressure from the Chinese government in allowing the university to build a campus in Shanghai.
"It is true that New York University has asked us to leave before the end of June," Chen confirmed in a statement released Monday, according to CNN.
"In fact, as early as last August and September, the Chinese Communists had already begun to apply great, unrelenting pressure on New York University, so much so that after we had been in the United States just three to four months, NYU was already starting to discuss our departure with us," the human rights activist added.
"The work of the Chinese Communists within academic circles in the United States is far greater than what people imagine, and some scholars have no option but to hold themselves back," Chen continued. "Academic independence and academic freedom in the United States are being greatly threatened by a totalitarian regime."
The university continues to deny the claims, however, arguing that it received government approval to build a Shanghai campus several months after Chen arrived to begin his fellowship.
Additionally, university spokesman John Beckman told the Post that the activist's fellowship agreement had never been long-term.
"If there were outside pressure, why would we have taken him in the first place when his plight was on every front page in the world?" Beckman questioned in a statement to The Post.
Chen has reportedly received new fellowship offers from two schools, one being Fordham University Law School, also located in New York City, although he has not indicated his next move after leaving NYU.
Spokesman Beckman told CNN that the university was "puzzled and saddened" by Chen's allegations, but confirmed that the university will continue helping the Chen family in its future accommodations.
"Mr. Chen now has two extremely attractive offers for his next institutional affiliation. We began talking with the Chens about the coming transition in their living arrangements months ago, not because of some fictional 'pressure' from China, but so that they could use the months to make their transition a smooth one. It is disappointing to us that that period was not used more wisely," Beckman told CNN.
Chen, a blind, self-taught lawyer, gained international headlines in May 2012 by successfully fleeing his house-arrest situation in China and safely arriving in New York City, due immensely to the help of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Chen, who has become known as a defendant of women's rights and welfare for the poor, had been put on house arrest in 2005 in China for filing a class-action lawsuit against China's one-child policy, a law requiring each household to only have one child, thus resulting in forced abortions and sterilization.
Even after safely escaping to the United States, Chen Guangcheng continued to criticize China's botched human rights record from abroad, continuing to call on the Asian country to end its controversial policy.