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A U.S. congressman who has held hearings on China’s influence on U.S. universities and academic freedom issues raised by partnerships between American and Chinese universities gave a speech at New York University’s Shanghai campus on Tuesday in which he criticized China’s human rights record.

"Over the past several years, I hear the same thing -- human rights conditions have gotten worse," U.S. Representative Chris Smith, a Republican from New Jersey, said in written remarks distributed by his office. "Human rights lawyers are 'disappeared' for simply trying to represent the poor and vulnerable. Labor rights advocates are targeted, academics and students muzzled, civil society and ethnic minorities increasingly are viewed as a security threat."

Smith said he visited NYU's Shanghai campus at the invitation of Vice Chancellor Jeffrey Lehman, who testified at a June hearing the congressman chaired on academic freedom issues raised by American universities developing campuses and partnerships in China. 

"As a university committed to exploring ideas from multiple perspectives, we were pleased to welcome Rep. Chris Smith, the first sitting member of the U. S. Congress to visit the NYU Shanghai campus since its inception a little over three years ago," Thomas Bruce, NYU Shanghai's senior counselor, said via email.

"Smith spoke with passion and vigor, and the multinational audience, comprised of NYU Shanghai's faculty, staff and students, was equally passionate and vigorous during a lengthy, challenging question and answer session," Bruce added. 

The event was open only to the "NYU Shanghai community," and not the general public.