Chen Guangcheng: Reform Hopes “Wishful Thinking”

The Telegraph’s Peter Foster talks to legal activist Chen Guangcheng, who escaped to the U.S. from illegal house arrest almost a year ago, about his pessimistic outlook on reform under Xi Jinping and his efforts to obtain an audience with Barack Obama.

“Political reforms didn’t stop under Hu [Jintao] and Wen [Jiabao] – they went backwards. So just like when people started talking about the Hu-Wen ‘new deal’ in 2003, now we start to talk about the Xi-Li ‘new deal’, it’s just wishful thinking.”

[…] Asked what he would say to Mr Obama, if he ever got the chance, Mr Chen said that ignoring China’s record on human rights was undermining America’s standing in the world.

“I would tell Mr Obama there is no small matter in international diplomacy. If an agreement between the US and China can’t be fulfilled, then US credibility as the standard bearer of universal values, freedom and democracy will be jeopardised.”

In op-ed at The Washington Post, Chen and Geng He, wife of vanished rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, urge the White House to push for an end to persecution of activists, lawyers and their families in China:

Our stories are flip sides of the same coin. Geng He sought asylum in the United States after Chinese authorities detained and brutally tortured her husband, the rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng. Chen Guangcheng, a legal activist, was a prisoner of conscience for many years before escaping house arrest last spring. Now in America, he is studying at New York University and advocating on behalf of his relatives, who continue to endure persecution in China because of his activism.

While our stories are different, the theme is the same: The Chinese government targets rights advocates and their families.

[…] Our stories are just two examples of Chinese authorities acting with impunity and complete disregard for the rule of law. But the attacks on our families are especially worrisome because they show that the government targets not only activists and their families but also the lawyers who have an ethical obligation to defend their clients’ rights against government abuses. Gao once said that you cannot be a rights lawyer in China without becoming a rights case yourself. And when these essential advocates and their families are targeted by the government, the international community must speak out on their behalf.


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