BEIJING — Wang Dan, the self-exiled student leader of the Tiananmen democracy protest of 1989, has published an article in the New York Times to support the desire of Chen Guangcheng, a blind human rights activist in China, to leave the country.
In the article titled “Mr. Chen, Welcome to America,” Wang said that based on his own experience, being an exile has only helped him.
Wang, who was arrested and jailed twice, said he did not regret his decision to leave for the United States in 1998.
Wang said that he understands and respects reasons for which Chen might be hesitant to leave, noting that perhaps Chen thinks he will no longer be able to take part in China’s struggle for civil rights, or that his influence will diminish if he lives abroad.
“But if he feels that way, he is too pessimistic,” Wang said. “I’ve been in exile for 14 years and have learned that there are many ways to exert influence in China from abroad,” Wang said.
“I’ve studied at Harvard, I teach at universities in Taiwan and the United States and I continue to publish regularly about current events in China. My work circulates and is read extensively in China via the Internet and social media. I have tens of thousands of followers on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter,” he said.
“The Internet and globalization have changed the very concept of exile.
They have eliminated the possibility of isolating Los Angeles (where I now live) from Beijing (my hometown) and Shandong Province (where Mr. Chen is from),” Wang said.
Chen, who broke bones when he fled house arrest last month and sought refuge at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, is currently undergoing medical treatment at a Beijing hospital after staying at the embassy for six days.
Under a deal between China and the United States, he originally wanted to study law at a city in China, but later changed his mind and said he wanted to go to the United States with his family. New York University has invited him to be a visiting scholar at its law school.