Blind Chinese Activist Chen Due to Arrive in Taiwan

Sunday, 23 Jun 2013 07:57 AM

 

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TAIPEI, Taiwan — Blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng is due to arrive in Taiwan on Sunday for what organizers called a "trip for freedom and human rights," likely to spark Chinese anger.

Chen will fly in to Taipei late Sunday night from New York, after New York University announced earlier this month that it would be parting ways with Chen.

The activist, who is also a lawyer, claimed that Beijing had applied "unrelenting" pressure on the university to end his study program, a charge which NYU has denied.

Chen has been in New York since May last year after he fled the Chinese mainland.

The 41-year-old escaped from house arrest to the U.S. embassy in Beijing, which triggered a brief crisis in relations between China and America.

At least one Taiwanese university has expressed interest in inviting Chen to the island as a visiting scholar, said Yang Sen-hong, chairman of the Association for China Human Rights, which is hosting his high-profile visit.

"It is a trip for freedom and human rights. It is of special significance when Taiwan is engaging China," Yang said of his visit, referring to improving ties between the former rivals.

Relations between Taiwan and China have warmed since 2008, after President Ma Ying-jeou came to power on a platform of beefing up trade and tourism links.

It is not clear if Ma, a mild critic of China's human rights abuses, will meet Chen, risking the China detente he initiated.

He is scheduled to meet the press Monday, deliver a speech in Taiwan's parliament Tuesday and meet with human rights and judicial reform groups.

Yang said that the authorities have guaranteed blanket security protection during the visit until July 11.

"Citing a tip-off, the security authorities have alerted us that Chinese sympathizers may pose as reporters to divert media attention at the press conferences," Yang told AFP.

The association declined to provide details of Chen's arrival time and hotel amid security concerns.

Blind since childhood, Chen angered authorities in eastern Shandong province by exposing abuses of the one-child policy.

He was sentenced to four years in prison and later put under house arrest, where he said he and his wife were beaten for speaking out.

Chen will also visit a human rights park outside Taipei, accompanied by former vice-president Annette Lu, and meet opposition Democratic Progressive Party leader Su Tseng-chang, organizers said.

© AFP 2014

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