(NEW YORK) — Blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng and his immediate family arrived in Newark, N.J., Saturday evening, capping off three weeks of roller coaster diplomacy that reached the very highest levels of Chinese government and the White House. After landing at Newark-Liberty International Airport, Chen and his family headed straight to New York University.
Standing on crutches in lower Manhattan, Chen thanked both United States and Chinese officials for how the situation has been resolved since he escaped house arrest and turned up at the U.S. embassy in Beijing in April.
“For the past seven years, I have never had a day’s rest,” he said through a translator, “So I have come here for a bit of recuperation for body and in spirit.”
“I feel like everybody is very passionate,” he said. “I will say a few simple words to everyone here. After much turbulence, I have come out … thanks to the assistance of many friends. The embassy has given me partial citizenship here. I’m very grateful to the U.S. and to the Chinese government for my protection over the long term. Very grateful to other friends like France, who have called in their support. I am gratified the Chinese government dealt with situation with restraint and calm.”
Chen and his family were accompanied on the flight by two Chinese-speaking officers from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, and they were met at Newark-Liberty International Airport by State Department personnel and NYU Law School Professor Jerome Cohen.
Chen will be a special student in law at NYU, working with professors Cohen and Frank Upham in the law school, NYU spokesman John Beckman said.
“He has worked with Prof. Cohen in the past and had a standing invitation to come here,” Beckman said.
Chen and his family will live in NYU housing, he said.
The human rights activist is best known for his fight against forced abortions and sterilizations under the One Child Policy.
He served a four-year prison sentence for what are widely believed to have been trumped up charges before being placed under a brutal, extra-judicial house arrest in his hometown province of Shandong.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Paul Cruickshank and Michael Pearson, CNN