Washington DC: As the University of Washington has offered a fellowship to blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, the latter on Thursday accused authorities of detaining a sister-in-law and nephew. However, his lawyer later said that Chen’s sister-in-law had since been released.
Seattle-based University of Washington’s offer follows a similar invitation extended by New York University.
Chen, who is recuperating in hospital for broken foot, is waiting for approval to travel to the United States under a deal struck between the Obama administration and Beijing.
The 40-year-old self-taught activist took refuge in the US embassy for six days after fleeing house arrest in Shandong township.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said that Chen, who campaigns for farmers and disabled citizens, and exposed a campaign of forced abortions in Shandong, can apply to study abroad, but it was not clear how soon Beijing would let him leave.
In a letter signed by its president Michael Young and provost Ana Mari Cauce, the University of Washington, invited Chen to come to Seattle to study either law or international relations.
“The University of Washington has a strong history and reputation in China Studies, with both a China Studies program and a China Law Center.
“We have no doubts that we could provide you with a strong collegial and academic environment where you could be involved in taking, and possibly teaching, classes as well as conducting other scholarship,” the letter said.
The US Ambassador to China and a former Washington state governor, Gary Locke, was contacted by administrators in this regard.
The University spokesman Norm Arkans said Locke’s Washington ties helped the university get the message through. He said the University of Washington was inspired to make the offer by New York University’s similar announcement.
“We think he would be a real asset here,” the spokesman said adding “there are a lot of folks who would be eager to have him here in residence.
It is upto Chen to decide between Seattle and New York, but since the western coast has a sizeable Chinese and East Asian population he may feel more at home there than thousands of kilometres further east. But, it is also felt that Chen might prefer multiple options despite his existing relationship with New York University law professor Jerome Cohen.