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UPDATE: Chen Guangcheng arrived Saturday evening in the United States, ending a diplomatic standoff that threatened to strain relations between Washington and Beijing, reports CNN. After landing in Newark, N.J. he was quickly taken to an apartment at New York University, where he will be a fellow at the law school.
Chen expressed gratitude to all those who helped him leave China, including the U.S. and Chinese governments. “I am very gratified to see that the Chinese government has been dealing with the situation with restraint and calm, and I hope to see that they continue to open discourse and earn the respect and trust of the people,” Chen said. He also called on a cheering crowd at NYU to fight injustice, notes the Associated Press.
Saturday, May 19: After a month of controversial back-and-forth, blind Chinese legal activist Chen Guangcheng was quickly removed from his hospital room and put on a flight to the United States along with his wife and two children. Before leaving China, Chen insisted he was still concerned about possible retaliation against his relatives, but asked the activist community to understand his desire for “a leave of absence,” reports the Associated Press.
The resolution to the Chen case was so sudden that the activist only found out at 10 a.m. he would be leaving, when he received a call from authorities telling him to pack his bags. He was on his way to the airport by 11 a.m., reports CNN. The swift action seems to demonstrate how both China and the United States were eager to end the case as quickly as possible in order to avoid a repercussion in bilateral ties, notes the Washington Post.
China’s authorities did not take any chances, keeping close watch on Chen until the very last moment. Police officers and plainclothes security officials followed passengers into the plane’s door, two police cars were stationed below the walkway to the plane, while around 10 security officers walked around the airport, reports Reuters.
The U.S. Embassy bought the plane tickets but will be reimbursed by New York University, where Chen will study law on a fellowship, reports the New York Times. The White House was pleased with the negotiations that led to Chen’s departure to the U.S., Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser, told reporters, according to the AP.