Chinese dissident Chen gets backing from Catholic University, two institutes

The Washington Post

A Chinese human rights activist whose dramatic escape from his homeland last year made him a celebrity appeared Wednesday in Washington with officials of Catholic University and two other institutions to announce they will sponsor his crusade against abuses by Beijing.

The move came several months after Chen Guangcheng, who was previously sponsored by New York University, broke off relations with officials there after alleging it had come under pressure from China to curb his activities.

Critics of Chen portrayed him as increasingly coming under the control of conservative Christian groups in America.

Chen and his new sponsors rejected suggestions that there was any ideological or religious significance to his new ties. His two other sponsors are the Witherspoon Institute, a research center in Princeton, New Jersey, that promotes public awareness of democratic moral freedoms, and a human rights foundation named for the late Rep. Tom Lantos. Chen, who is blind, will hold various posts as a fellow and adviser at the institutions and deliver a series of lectures at Catholic University.

Richard Swett, a former U.S. diplomat and official with the Lantos Foundation, said he hoped Chen could be a “bridge” on human rights issues in Washington, where views on China tend to be divided between trade and human rights agendas.

Chen, who was in a prison for four years in China for antigovernment activities, is known for his crusade against forced abortions under Beijing’s population-control policies.