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Chen Guangcheng, Blind Chinese Activist, To Speak In New York City

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NEW YORK — A blind Chinese activist who was the focus of a nearly monthlong diplomatic standoff has a speaking engagement in New York City this week.

Chen Guangcheng will speak Thursday at the Council on Foreign Relations in Manhattan. His mentor, New York University law professor Jerome Cohen, also will participate in the event.

The dissident and the professor have been in touch for years, since they met when Chen came to the United States on a State Department program in 2003.

Cohen advised Chen while he was in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, where he was given sanctuary after his daring escape following seven years of prison and house arrest.

That triggered a diplomatic standoff over his fate. With Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Beijing for annual high-level discussions, officials struck a deal that let Chen walk free, only to see him have second thoughts. That forced new negotiations that led to an agreement to send him to the U.S. to study law at New York University.

Chen gained recognition for crusading for the disabled and for farmers' rights and fighting against forced abortions in his rural community. That angered local officials, who seemed to wage a personal vendetta against him, convicting him in 2006 on what his supporters say were fabricated charges and then holding him for the past 20 months in illegal house arrest.

Since his arrival from China this month, Chen has stayed in faculty housing with his wife and children.

Chen also has received medical treatment for his foot. Cohen has said the dissident suffered three broken bones while fleeing from his village.

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