Chen Guangcheng speaks of change in China at 18th Hauser Annual Dinner

Text courtesy of  NYU School of Law News

The event, now in its 18th year, brought together current scholars, faculty, alumni and friends of the Hauser Global Law School Program. Following welcoming remarks by Dean Richard ReveszGráinne de Búrca, Florence Ellinwood Allen Professor of Law, highlighted the achievements and research of current Hauser fellows, and Leah Trzcinski ’13, editor in chief of the Journal of International Law and Politics, spoke of the journal’s adoption of a peer-review process.

Rita E. Hauser, the alumna who founded the program with her husband Gustave Hauser (LL.M. ’57), kicked off the evening’s main event with an introduction of Chen, from his background as a “barefoot lawyer” who fought on behalf of victims of forced sterilization, to his insights into human and civil rights in today’s China.

Ira Belkin ’82, executive director of the U.S.-Asia Law Institute, gave an overview of the institute’s current projects on issues as wide ranging as land reform and the death penalty in China, and noted that its scholars not only do research, but also speak out publicly. Jerome Cohen, professor of law and specialist in East Asia law, welcomed Belkin’s return to NYU Law and shared with the audience the story of his friendship with Chen and how he became involved in Chen’s departure from China.

Speaking in Mandarin with Belkin serving as interpreter, Chen thanked his supporters in the room and offered clarification for a widely reported comment that he made in a phone call to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after his departure from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing last April. He had meant to say “I want to see you” rather than “I want to kiss you,” Chen said.

In New York, where he lives with his wife and two children, Chen has been able to rest for the first time in seven years, he said. He spends about half of his time working on a memoir, and the other half studying English and law and meeting with different organizations. He continues to follow events in China with interest. “Change in China is inevitable,” Chen added. “Whether the authorities are willing to change, this is the course of history.”

Asked what role he may play in this evolution, Chen answered that he is preparing for the future shifts in China by studying the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.