SAN FRANCISCO—Chen Guangcheng, the well-known, blind, Chinese lawyer and human rights activist who now lives in exile in the United States, was recently given an award for his legal advocacy efforts by overseas Chinese in San Francisco, and took the occasion to list a range of rights violations by the Chinese regime.
“High level CCP members have already reached a consensus: the only method they’ve got left is to use violence to maintain their rule,” Chen said. “But, relying on violence isn’t going to last long. It only requires the people to overcome their fear, and rule by violence will fail.”
“The Communist Party is announcing before the world: ‘I’m a bandit, what are you going to do about it?'” — Chen Guangcheng, blind human rights lawyer.
Chen came to the United States under extraordinary circumstances almost a year ago, in May 2012. The previous month he had escaped house arrest in his hometown in Shandong Province by climbing over a fence and crawling through the darkness, before being driven to the U.S. embassy in Beijing. There, a tense diplomatic standoff ensued, ending with his transfer to New York for “medical treatment.” He is now a visiting scholar at New York University.
During the award ceremony on March 16 in a spacious Chinese restaurant in Novato, California, Chen gave profuse thanks to the support he received from the international community. “It’s just that sense of fair play and the common good,” Chen said. “That’s precisely mankind’s most important value. If we only protect property rights, but not human rights, then in the end even the right to private property will have no protections.”
“Your concern is not only helpful to victims in China, but it’s about us rallying together and safeguarding the values of mankind. When these values are recognized by all, only then is it a society in which everyone can live at ease.”
Chen was asked whether he had been disappointed in the outcome of the recent Two Meetings in Beijing, where the National People’s Congress and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Congress had recently convened. He said he had no hope for them to begin with, and thus felt no disappointment.
He said he would “Continue my engagement with human rights work. As long as there is oppression, as long as there is injustice, we must work hard, we must fight— there is no other choice.”
One of Chen’s most striking insights during the course of the discussion came when he was asked about the human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng. Gao was in December 2011 sentenced to jail for 3 years, in what human rights experts widely considered a flagrant violation of the PRC’s own laws.
“This is how you figure it in China,” Chen said. “The ferocity with which someone has been persecuted is a question of whether or not they’re really having a big impact in their human rights work. The more on point, the bigger the impact, the more sincerely you do it, then the Communist Party will absolutely use an iron fist on you. Gao Zhisheng is that case.”
He said that the manner in which they threw Gao in jail in the final days of his already legally-questionable sentence, “just amply demonstrates the gangster-like nature of the CCP.”
In response to a question about his views on allegations of live organ harvesting from Falun Gong and other prisoners of conscience, Chen called for an international investigation.
What Chen called the gangster-like character of the CCP was also on display in their treatment of his nephew, Chen Kegui, Chen said.
Chen Kegui was sentenced to three years in prison for “intent to injury,” after he defended himself from intruders who had broken into his house in the early hours of the morning, armed with bats. A number of the men were local village officials. Kegui defended himself with kitchen knives, slashing at the men. After they left, he ran away and went into hiding, but was later apprehended and given the harsh sentence.
“Name me another place on earth where someone can take up weapons, and climb the wall of your house and start smashing things, and not be punished by the law. I don’t know of any other place on earth. But China under the rule of the CCP is just such a place. They beat you, shoot you, they do whatever they want and you can’t resist. If you resist, then they call you a criminal. Chen Kegui is an emblematic case.”
He noted how Chen Kegui had lost 20 pounds under violent interrogation in mere days, and that he was told his sentence would be made permanent if he dared to appeal.
On the other hand, Chen said, the extreme measures the Party took against his nephew tells everyone that “the Communist Party has little confidence in its survival going forward. It’s in such a panic, and that’s why it does what it does.”
Chen said: “The Chen Kegui case is just like the Communist Party announcing extremely clearly before the world: ‘I’m just a bandit, and what are you going to do about it?’
The United States and the international community, Chen thinks, has not done enough.
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