(CNN)-- In his first in-depth TV interview since his dramatic escape from house arrest, Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng told CNN about his departure from China and his continuing concern for family and friends he left behind.
He also spoke about tasting freedom recently.
"I haven't been able to feel (nature) for a long time," Chen said. "On that day I had some time to soak in the sun and feel the breeze. I just felt I hadn't been able to do that in so long. I have missed out for too long. "
Asked about speaking out against China, he said, "It was natural for me, it was very natural for me. I feel it's in people's nature to want to stop evil and embrace the good."
His experience being under house arrest in China, he said, brought much suffering.
"I want to correct one thing here," Chen said. In the future, he continued, "let's not use the word 'house arrest' but instead let's use the term 'illegal detention.' It's hard for me to describe what it was like during that time. But let's just say that my suffering was beyond imagination."
He made his comments Thursday morning in an exclusive with CNN's Anderson Cooper.
Chen's arrival in the United States on Saturday brought an end to a diplomatic firestorm between Beijing and Washington that erupted after he escaped from house arrest in the Shandong province.
Chen, 40, and his wife and children are in the United States for Chen to study at New York University under a fellowship.
On Saturday, the activist indicated through a translator that the U.S. government granted him partial citizenship rights. He asked people to work with him to "promote justice and fairness in China." And Chen said he was looking forward to recuperating in "body and spirit."