Yesterday was blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng's first day in New York City. Chen arrived on Saturday, after seven years of abuse from Chinese officials, a daring escape and sudden uncertainty over whether he and his family would be able to leave. According to The Daily Beast, he "relaxed in an outdoor playground with his family Sunday, basking in perfect spring weather—and not having to worry about being beaten or harassed for the first time in years."
Chen, his wife, their 10-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter are now living at Washington Square Village, NYU's graduate housing. Chen, a self-taught lawyer who advocated for the poor and women (he exposed family planning corruption), was given a fellowship to study law at NYU Law School, and he and his family were given one apartment at the ideally located (but expensive) graduate residence hall. However, probably unlike other grad students, Chen has another apartment—for his security. Time finds it's ironic that Chen is living at WSV, since it's so "Stalinist" in its design.
According to the Daily Beast:
A TV-satellite truck has materialized outside Chen’s apartment block, which has also been staked out by reporters and photographers who scrambled when he appeared in the playground. (“It’s exciting. I’ve never heard so many police sirens as I did last night,” said one of Chen’s new neighbors about his arrival in the building.) But Chen didn’t want to grant media interviews on their first day in America. He and his wife are especially concerned about protecting the privacy of their 10-year-old son, Chen Kerui—who’d lived separately from his parents for several years so his father’s imprisonment and harassment wouldn’t disrupt his schooling—and their vivacious 6-year-old daughter, Chen Kesi, who succumbed to her jet lag by early evening. “She was fast asleep on the couch when I first arrived,” said one visitor, “but then she woke up and greeted me full of giggles.”
Other challenges Chen (and his family) have include learning English, maneuvering around—his left foot was broken during his escape—and figuring out how to keep up his campaigns in China from the other side of the world. Also, Chen's other relatives, like his mother, are still in China and his nephew has been targeted by the government.
Aside from his future studies, Chen does look forward to when he can meet movie star Christian Bale. Bale was roughed up by Chinese authorities when he attempted to see Chen, who was under house arrest, last December. Bale told CNN, "Please shake Chen's hand, and give him and his family a hug from me upon their arrival in the US. They must be overwhelmed with relief at being ... safe. I would love to meet with Chen when he has the time."