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Chinese dissident Chen evades questions on NYU

By Clare Jim

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, who has accused New York University of bowing to Chinese pressure to ask him to leave, refused to shed light on the issue on Monday, adding to the mystery of a case that has been marred by allegations of lies and spying.

Chen has maintained his silence for a week since he made his accusations that have been vigorously denied by the university, which says the fellowship was only ever planned to last a year.

Chen sparked a diplomatic crisis between the United States and China after he fled house arrest in China and sought refuge at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. He has been a research fellow at NYU Law School since he flew to the United States in May 2012.

His accusations, which have sparked a debate on U.S. academic freedom, have baffled some of his closest friends, including Jerome Cohen, an NYU law professor who helped broker the deal for Chen to study in the United States.

Chen, who is in Taipei to meet Taiwan opposition lawmakers and address Taiwan's parliament, bristled when pressed to detail evidence behind his accusations.

"Why do you keep asking about NYU?" he asked. "I'll wait till a more suitable time to talk."

Chen also said he did not know about possible spyware being inserted into an iPhone and iPad given to him as gifts. The gadgets were intended to spy on Chen, according to Cohen and another source familiar with the episode.

"I'm not a PC expert," Chen said.

The two sources told Reuters that the wife of Bob Fu, the founder of ChinaAid, a Texas-based Christian advocacy group that has campaigned for Chen, had given him the gadgets shortly after he arrived in New York so that his communications could be monitored - a charge that Fu rejected.

Fu runs a Christian group called ChinaAid that supports underground churches in China and victims of forced abortions.

Critics have suggested that Chen has been co-opted by conservative, Christian groups in the United States. Chen declined to address these questions, saying: "Let's not talk about this."

Cohen, who has taken issue with Chen's allegations publicly, accompanied Chen on the trip to Taiwan and was in the audience when Chen met reporters at a briefing.

Chen is a self-schooled legal advocate who campaigned against forced abortions. He was jailed for four years on charges that he and his supporters said were spurious, and then held in his village home for 19 months after being released.

Chen's visit to Taiwan will be closely watched by Beijing. In late May, China had warned Chen to mind his language ahead of his trip.

Taiwan, the democratic, self-ruled island which China claims as its own, regularly plays host to people China despises, including exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou has no plans to meet Chen, according to Taiwan's presidential spokeswoman. Chen said he understood why Ma, who has come under fire for being soft on human rights issues, would not meet him.

"This is exactly an example of how a dictatorship threatens a free society," he said.

(Additional reporting by Christine Lu and Faith Hung in Taipei, Writing by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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