【 The New York Times 】   Post Date: 5/19/2012
Chen and Family on Flight to the U.S.
Author: Andrew Jacobs
Renowned blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng boarded a flight on Saturday with his family, bound for Newark, New Jersey. Chen will be attending law school at New York University on a fellowship.  Chen remains concerned about his extended family left behind, however.
BEIJING — Chen Guangcheng, the blind legal defender who made a dramatic escape from house arrest and whose decision to seek refuge in the American Embassy here jolted American-Sino relations, left China aboard a commercial flight bound for Newark on Saturday.
 
Mr. Chen and his family departed around 5:30 p.m. on a United Airlines flight after facing earlier delays. The Chens, accompanied by American officials, were brought onto the plane shortly before takeoff and seated in the business-class cabin. Flight attendants drew a curtain around their seats and barred other passengers in the cabin from using the toilet while the plane was on the runway.
 
In a statement, American officials obliquely praised the Chinese government for its cooperation in resolving what had become a diplomatic headache for both sides. “We also express our appreciation for the manner in which we were able to resolve this matter and to support Mr. Chen’s desire to study in the U.S. and pursue his goals,” Victoria Nuland, a State Department spokeswoman said.
 
Speaking by cellphone before he boarded the flight, Mr. Chen told friends he was excited to leave China but that he was also worried about the fate of relatives left behind. “He’s happy to finally have a rest after seven years of suffering, but he’s also worried they will suffer some retribution,” said Bob Fu, president of ChinaAid, a Christian advocacy group in Texas that championed Mr. Chen's case.
 
Mr. Fu, who spoke to Mr. Chen several times on Saturday, said the family had no idea they were leaving — or where they were going — until officials notified them to pack up their few belongings.
 
They were driven directly to Beijing International Airport by employees of Chaoyang Hospital, where Mr. Chen was being treated for intestinal problems and for the foot he broke during his escape. Mr. Chen told friends that he and his family were handed their passports by Chinese officials shortly before they boarded the plane.
 
The family waited for their flight in an area separated from other passengers. Airline officials increased security on the flight, and reporters were told they would not be able to speak to Mr. Chen during the 13-hour trip to Newark.
 
One of China’s best known dissidents, Mr. Chen, 40, made a daring escape last month from home confinement, scaling walls and evading the dozens of guards who were charged with keeping him and his family locked up in their Shandong Province farmhouse. 
 
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Key Words: Chen Guangcheng, human rights China, political dissidents China
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