When Chinese dissidents moved in the past to the US, whatever influence they had in their home country would fade away. But the blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng is different, discovered author and friend Zhang Lijia in visits to his home town and in calls to the US, she writes in the New York Times. Zhang Lijia was the first journalist to write about Chen.
During my recent video call with Chen Guangcheng himself, he told me that he keeps in touch with people from all over the country. Before our conversation, he had been talking to a blind man from Inner Mongolia who runs a grocery store but also devotes much of his energy to helping other disabled people with their rights issues. Chen was planning to video-chat with a group of activists in Sichuan and give them his pitch about the importance of protecting their rights.
“How do people find you?” I asked. He replied with a laugh. “In this Internet age, if you are willing to be available, people can find you easily.”
Part of Chen Guangcheng’s ongoing appeal here in China may have to do with his focus on practical matters that have an impact on the lives of ordinary people — like forced removals from homes — rather than on abstract principles that appeal more to a few high-brow intellectuals.
On the international stage, Chen is also far from fading away. In the past year, he has been honored with many awards, including the annual award of the New York-based organization Human Rights First. In January, he received the Lantos Human Rights Prize, presented by the Hollywood star Richard Gere. And the next day, he gave a keynote speech called “In Search of China’s Soul” at the Washington National Cathedral to a standing ovation.
China Weekly Hangout
What political change can we expect under Xi Jinping? The China Weekly Hangout discussed the first signs of political reform under the new government, with Steve Barru and Fons Tuinstra; agenda: Hu Jintao, austerity, poor-rich divide, and more.