Chen Guangcheng, a blind Chinese dissident and human rights activist, released a statement Sunday insisting that communist pressure is forcing him out of New York University.
Chen suggested that China is still trying to limit his activism and interfere with his position as a visiting scholar at NYU Law, where he has been studying since May 2012. Chen released the statement in the wake of NYU denying a report by the New York Post on Thursday that claimed the university was forcing him to leave due to pressure from the Chinese government.
"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," Chen said in a statement released to several media outlets through a PR agency. "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. Academic independence and academic freedom in the United States are being greatly threatened by a totalitarian regime."
Chen provided no specific examples of how the Chinese government influenced NYU or other areas of academia.
John Beckman, spokesman for NYU, refuted Chen's statement in an email to The Huffington Post. Beckman offered a slew of links showing Chen continuing his activism throughout his time at the private university.
"We are very discouraged to learn of Mr. Chen's statement, which contains a number of speculations about the role of the Chinese government in NYU's decision-making that are both false and contradicted by the well-established facts," Beckman wrote in a statement.
Beckman noted that the university has helped provide Chen with food, housing, health insurance, English lessons, training and even connections to a publisher who "furnished a large advance."
Beckman also pointed to interviews from 2012 in which NYU professor Jerome Cohen said Chen would likely only stay with the university for one year.
Chen has long protested China's one-child policy, and he was arrested in China on charges of destruction of property and causing others to disrupt traffic, the Washington Post reported. He was imprisoned and released in 2010 to an unofficial house arrest. In April 2012, he escaped from China with the help of the U.S. government, and landed an arrangement to study law at NYU.
The Post suggested NYU faced pressure from the Chinese government as the university works to open a Shanghai campus. Beckman said the Chen situation never came up in discussions about the Shanghai campus.
In an article on Chen's allegations, The New York Times also pointed out that an increasing number of Chinese students are attending college in the U.S., bringing in millions in tuition dollars.
Chen, The Times reported, was "quietly stewing in recent months" over what he told friends were efforts by the university to restrain his activism.
Chen did include a statement of gratitude for NYU's help in his transition to the U.S., but he also complained that he never once met John Sexton, the university president.
NYU has confirmed that Chen will be leaving the university. Beckman told HuffPost that Chen has "two extremely attractive offers" for his next institutional affiliation, but did not say where.