The idea that NYU is pushing out blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng after one year because of its budding relationship with the Chinese government (and new campus in Shanghai) has been backed up by the activist himself, but more complicated factors may be at play in the background. According to a detailed report from The Wall Street Journal today, Chen is working with conservative groups that hope, according to NYU’s defenders, to build on his opposition to China’s one-child system and cast him as a more general anti-abortion crusader. “Mr. Chen seems to be taking advice from a group that thrives on accusation, rumor, suspicion, gossip and malice,” said NYU law professor Jerome Cohen, who helped bring Chen to the university and denies his account of professional mistreatment.
The Journal reports that Chen “is being represented by Mark Corallo, a Republican crisis-communications strategist who has previously worked for Karl Rove and John Ashcroft” and has developed a relationship with Representative Christopher H. Smith of New Jersey, the co-chair of the Bipartisan Congressional Pro-life Caucus. While Chen is considering multiple offers for his next move, including a position at Fordham Law School, one potential suitor is the conservative New Jersey think tank the Witherspoon Institute, which works in part on advocacy against abortion.
A friend of Chen’s, a fellow dissident who is now a pastor, told the paper that Chen “will show evidence” of NYU bowing to Beijing at “the right time.”