In Taiwan, blind activist Chen Guangcheng criticizes Beijing


Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng at New York University on May 19, 2012.


Andy Jacobsohn

Blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng has arrived in Taiwan, where he is expected to meet with opposition lawmakers and democracy activists, and give speeches about human rights in China.

The trip, which organizers called an 18-day "trip for freedom and human rights," began Sunday when Chen arrived at Taipei's airport and told reporters he respected Taiwan's democracy.

Last year, the self-taught lawyer escaped from house arrest in China to the US Embassy in Beijing, where after a diplomatic row he began a one-year fellowship as a special student at New York University's US-Asia Law Institute.

Chen, who had brought attention to forced abortions under China's one-child policy, said last week China's Communist Party has pressured New York University to end his fellowship, an accusation the university denies.

"Why do you keep asking about NYU?" Chen asked reporters. "I'll wait till a more suitable time to talk."

Clearly his departure from NYU has, at least in part, overshadowed a trip that is meant draw attention to human rights abuses in China.

To that end, Chen gave remarks about what he said is an increased desire for freedom in his home country that will "put an end to the authoritarian rule."

"No other regimes in the world have feared or monitored their own people in such a way," Chen said, adding the Chinese authorities "cannot make me shut up. That will be out of the question."

Chen's visit could also complicate Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou's relationship with China, which the country split from in 1949. China asserts that Taiwan is part of its territory, and Ma is looking to improve relations with Beijing. However, the Communist Party is not likely to look favorably on Chen's visit.  

"Now is a crucial moment for the entire mainland and Asia to move on to practice democracy," Chen said. Democracy in China could "spell the end of dictatorship for the entire humankind," he added.