NYU Says It Treated Chinese Activist Chen Guangcheng Like Albert Einstein

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Photo: DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty

Blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng arrived at New York University last year amid much fanfare and diplomatic wrangling, but his stay was never meant to be more than temporary, the school says. Today, the New York Post reported that Chen was being "booted ... under pressure from the Communist government" because of NYU's plan to open a campus in Shanghai in the fall, leaving the activist "scrambling to find a new home." Not so, countered the university: "The story's claims of 'outside pressure' are fanciful and false," said NYU spokesman John Beckman in a statement. "If it were true, why would NYU have taken Mr. Chen in at the height of the public fervor, and why would the Chinese authorities have given us permissions to move forward with our Shanghai campus AFTER his arrival here?"

"The plain fact is that these are unrelated matters," Beckman continued. "In countless hours of conversations involving the establishment of our Shanghai campus, this matter has never come up."

NYU Law professor Jerome Cohen, who helped negotiate the deal to bring Chen in, concurred. "No good deed goes unpunished," he said in a statement to Daily Intelligencer. "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."

"He now is in the process of choosing between two attractive opportunities," Cohen added. "No political refugee, even Albert Einstein, has received better treatment by an American academic institution than that received by Chen from NYU, and I am grateful to the university administration for its extraordinary generosity, which could not reasonably be expected to go on indefinitely."