MANHATTAN — The Chinese activist who escaped house arrest and found himself at the center of a diplomatic battle between the U.S. and China breathed a sigh of relief in Greenwich Village this weekend.
The blind activist Chen Guangcheng and his family moved into NYU university housing in the Washington Square Village apartment complex Saturday — to the delight of a throng of supporters who greeted them bearing flowers, according to news reports.
Standing on crutches after breaking his foot during his escape, Chen, a self-taught lawyer who will study at NYU School of Law, thanked U.S. and Chinese officials for negotiating his departure from China.
"For the past seven years, I have never had a day's rest, so I have come here for a bit of recuperation for body and in spirit," he said through a translator, ABC News reported.
A resident of the four-building Washington Square Village complex, located on one of two "superblocks" NYU seeks to transform through a 20-year expansion plan, told TIME that a security team is using an apartment next door to the apartment given to Chen, his wife and their two children.
NYU did not immediately respond to an inquiry about security measures in place for the family.
Chen, 41, suffered years of house arrest before scaling the walls of his farm April 22 and fleeing to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
He is best known for accusing his home province, Shandong, of forcing women to undergo abortions and sterilization in order to comply with China's one-child policy.
Chen ventured out to Central Park on his second day in New York, the Associated Press reported.
Jerome Cohen, the co-director of NYU's U.S.-Asia Law Institute, told WNYC that the freed dissident enjoyed some rare relaxation.
“He said he sat in the sun for an hour, and it was the first time he can remember doing that in many, many years,” Cohen said.