NEW YORK – Western media describe my friend and colleague Chen Guangcheng as a blind activist who made a flight to freedom when China allowed him to journey from Beijing to the United States. What is essential about Chen is neither his blindness nor his family’s visit to the US, but the fact that he upholds a vision of universal human rights, a vision that can be fully realized only when, and if, China honors its promise to allow him one day to return home.
China has a history of forcing scholars and dissidents like us into exile. When the Chinese student movement broke out in 1989, I was pursuing a Ph.D. in mathematics at the University of California-Berkeley. I traveled to Beijing to participate as an activist in Tiananmen Square, where I narrowly escaped the massacre and was able to make my way back to the US.