Chen in the Beijing hospital last week.(Jordan Pouille/AFP/GettyImages)

At the center of the wrangling over Chen Guangcheng—the blind Chinese human-rights activist who escaped to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, then left ostensibly on his own accord, then was placed in a hospital with a foot injury but with a curious amount of government security, and now says he would like to visit the United States, in an incident that has turned into an international cause célèbre and risked straining Sino-American relations—is New York University law professor Jerome A. Cohen, 81, a Jewish kid from outside Newark. The guy who 40 years ago helped persuade Henry Kissinger that President Nixon should go to China, he is basically the dean of Chinese legal studies in the U.S, among other things the first Western lawyer to practice in Beijing.

Cohen shed some light on Chen’s situation—he met the activist in 2004, bonding over shared desire to reform China’s legal system, and by the next year was already fixing him up with Western journalists—in an extensive interview late last week. Cohen had apparently recommended that Chen sit tight inside the U.S. embassy.

While he claims to be playing only an ancillary role in the current, tense negotiations between the United States and China over Chen, it’s no accident that should Chen’s request to visit the U.S. for a few months be granted, Chen will be a visiting scholar at … NYU Law, courtesy his friend Jerry.

Prominent Legal Scholar and China Expert Comes to Aid of Chen Guangcheng [WP]
China’s Legal Lion [The NYU Law School Magazine]
Chen Confidante: No U.S.-China ‘Agreement’ on Blind Activist’s Fate [FP The Cable]