Blind Chinese legal activist arrives in the US

 

A blind Chinese legal activist who was suddenly allowed to leave the country arrived in the US, ending a nearly month-long diplomatic tussle that had tested US-China relations.

Chen Guangcheng had been hurriedly taken from a hospital hours earlier and put on a plane for the United States after Chinese authorities suddenly told him to pack and prepare to leave.

He arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport and was whisked to New York City, where he will be staying.

Dressed in a white shirt and khaki trousers and using crutches, his right leg in a cast, Mr Chen was greeted with cheers when he arrived at the apartment in Manhattan's Greenwich Village where he will live with his family.

The complex houses faculty and graduate students of New York University, where Mr Chen is expected to attend law school.

"For the past seven years, I have never had a day's rest," he said through a translator.

"So I have come here for reparation in body and spirit."

Mr Chen urged the crowd to fight for injustice, and thanked the US and Chinese governments, and also the embassies of Switzerland, Canada and France.

"After much turbulence, I have come out of Shandong," he said, referring to the Chinese province where he was under house arrest. He spoke briefly and didn't take questions from reporters.

The departure of Mr Chen, his wife and two children to the United States marked the conclusion of nearly a month of uncertainty and years of mistreatment by local authorities for the self-taught activist.

After seven years of prison and house arrest, Mr Chen made a daring escape from his rural village in April and was given sanctuary inside the US Embassy, triggering a diplomatic stand-off over his fate.

With Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Beijing for annual high-level discussions, officials struck a deal that let Mr Chen walk free, only to see him have second thoughts.

That forced new negotiations that led to an agreement to send him to the US to study law, a goal of his, at New York University.

"Thousands of thoughts are surging to my mind," Mr Chen said before he left China. His concerns, he said, included whether authorities would retaliate for his negotiated departure by punishing his relatives left behind. It also was unclear whether the government will allow him to return.

AP

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