Chinese dissident lawyer Chen Guangcheng spoke Tuesday about the stagnant progress of human rights in the country where he was born, and from which he was forced to flee in 2012.
The event, held at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, marked the June 4 massacre of pro-democracy students by the Chinese military 25 years ago in Tienanmen Square.The Chinese government has never officially recognized the massacre and does its best to shove the event down the memory hole.
Chen, known as "the barefoot lawyer" because of his village upbringing, is self-taught in the law. Despite being totally blind since childhood, he rose to prominence as a critic of the communist government. Chen's success story is especially noteworthy because of the rigid class structure in his home country; opportunity is limited for those without party connections, a fact Chen notes bitterly.
As a result of his outspokenness, Chen invited the attention — then the brutality — of the Chinese government. He has been detained multiple times by Chinese authorities for his strong opposition to official policies ranging from state-approved history to state-approved reproduction under the reprehensible one-child policy. In 2012, the dissident escaped house arrest in dramatic fashion and, after a diplomatic tussle, gained asylum in the United States.