However, there is little sign that Chen intends to adopt a lower profile when it comes to speaking out on Chinese human rights abuses, political corruption or problems with the country's legal system. In an editorial in the New York Times earlier this week, Chen called on the Chinese government to investigate the treatment meted out to him over the past seven years of activism. "While I pursue my studies, I hope that the Chinese government and the Communist Party will conduct a thorough investigation of the lawless punishment inflicted on me and my family over the past seven years," Chen wrote.
He continued in that vein at the CFR event on Thursday, his first major public speaking appearance since he arrived in New York. He described the authorities' attack on his brother and nephew as "illegal actions" and added: "The moral standards here are rock bottom." He said that his nephew was being detained in isolation from the outside world and was unable to meet lawyers, which raised the prospect that he might be being physically abused. "He may be tortured and they are just trying to hide that fact by not letting him meet with anyone," said Chen.
Chen has been given a fellowship to study at New York University's school of law. He and his wife and daughter now live near Washington Square park in Lower Manhattan. However, Chen said he did not consider himself as being in exile or as having sought political asylum. Instead, he insisted, he was just using the right to freedom and travel that any Chinese citizen should have and he said he wanted to return to his homeland.
"I do want to go back to China and then to come out again to study. As long as they guarantee my rights as a citizen, that is normal," he said, though he did concede he was using the time abroad to recover from his ordeal. "Both for my body and my mental health, I need some rest," he said.
Chen appears prepared to use his time in the West, and the media spotlight that is following him, to make high-profile statements. He criticized Chinese efforts to suppress demonstrations, predicted that democracy would eventually come to China and said repression by the authorities was simply a sign they were afraid. He said progress would likely be slow, but it was inevitable. "Many people, they want to move the mountain in one week. But that is not realistic. We have to move it bit by bit," he said.
Chen reserved special condemnation for Chinese efforts to police the internet and restrict and control the flow of information to its people. "If you don't want people to see something, that means you are afraid of something," he said. "You cannot repress the basic goodness that is in human nature. I think that basic goodness will come out.
Intellpuke: You can read this article by Guardian U.S. correspondent Paul Harris in context here: www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/may/31/chen-guangcheng-china-us