Chen Guangcheng’s decision to seek refuge at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing suggests it is "the safest place in China," former U.S. Ambassador to China said in a talk organized by the National Committee on United States-China Relations in New York on Wednesday.
"The fact that somebody at the end of the day would try to find a safe haven where they could find justice, I think, says a whole lot to me about how the United States is still viewed by so many in China," Jon Huntsman said.
The former candidate for the Republican presidential nomination served as U.S. Ambassador to China from 2009 to 2011.
Chen Guangcheng, 40, arrived in New York Saturday after negotiations between the U.S. and Chinese government allowed him to come as a visiting scholar at New York University.
Huntsman described this as "an elegant solution."
During the campaign, his rivals alluded to China as a threat and criticized Huntsman for speaking Mandarin and serving in the Obama administration. He advocated for closer engagement with China and earlier this month wrote an Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal saying Chen’s case could be used as opening for more dialogue between the two countries.
"When the relationship needs to work, it can do so," Huntsman said.
Chen, a self-taught, blind lawyer and one of China's best known dissidents, fled his home in rural China, where he was under house arrest, in late April. He found refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, and later decided to stay in China and study law.
But upon leaving the Embassy and entering a hospital in Beijing, Chen changed his mind, setting off a new round of intense negotiations between Chinese authorities and the U.S. officials, which ended with Chen's arrival to New York.
A course of instruction at NYU was being tailored for Chen, Jerome Cohen, his friend and NYU law professor told WNYC earlier this week.