News / Asia

    Change in China Inevitable, Says Dissident Chen

    Blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng (2nd R), standing with his wife Yuan Weijing, delivers remarks at the National Cathedral in Washington, January 30, 2013.
    Blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng (2nd R), standing with his wife Yuan Weijing, delivers remarks at the National Cathedral in Washington, January 30, 2013.
    Catherine Maddux
    Despite years of imprisonment, harassment and physical abuse by the authorities, activist Chen Guangcheng says he is hopeful about China.

    “I am actually optimistic that change will come,” said Chen, at an event Wednesday in Washington D.C. 

    Earlier this week, the blind activist, known by many in his country as the “barefoot lawyer, was presented with the Tom Lantos Human Rights award at a ceremony on Capitol Hill.  It comes just nine months after he made a dramatic escape from house arrest at his home in Shandong province. After taking refuge at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, he negotiated his way out of China to study in New York.  

    Chen has a somewhat paradoxical view of his home country - equal parts hopeful and dim.  

    Sizing up the new Chinese leaders who assumed power in November, he painted a bleak picture, describing the situation as “dire.”

    “The survival of the Communist Party has always taken precedence over rule of law and basic freedoms in China,” he said.  “And there is nothing to indicate that this situation will be any different under [President] Xi Jinping. To this day, the Chinese Communist Party has not given any sign that it will change or do the right thing.”

    He ticked off the continued persecution against those who wish to practice their religious beliefs, against activists who speak out and ordinary Chinese by the authorities. He said the government uses what he called Mafia-like suppression to maintain stability.  

    Before he left China last May, Communist Party officials told Chen – and the world -- they would investigate his complaints of abusive and illegal treatment against him and his family by the authorities in Shandong.  

    Nine months later, nothing has been done.

    “On the contrary,” said Chen. “The Shandong authorities sent my nephew to jail and also arrested my brother.”  He says his nephew and his nephew’s mother were also beaten in retaliation.

    But nothing is simple in modern-day China, where tensions between the state and the people have been stoked by a growing middle class, economic power, official corruption, increased use of the Internet and an unfamiliar willingness to challenge authority.  

    Chen pointed out improvements in the legal system, saying more laws and regulations are being drafted every year.  He warned of a back slide, however, noting that officials routinely ignore the law. 

    “In China, the law is optional,” Chen said.  “The law in China is nothing more than empty words. Scraps of paper.”

    But this champion of rights for farmers, women and the handicapped is not a bitter man.  Chen strongly believes that democratic reform is inevitable.  

    “China is a country of brave people.  And as more and more people in China speak out, demand their rights and fight for public interest, change in China will become unstoppable,” said Chen, adding that he believes it will come from the people, not the leadership, because they are the same “lineup” – as he describes them -- as the party’s former leaders.  

    Not everyone agrees about the current Chinese leadership and its ability to change.

    “We should not completely lose hope for Xi Jinping,” said Cheng li, director of research and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a director of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations.  “Now is still his honeymoon period…that he demonstrates some of the promises, some of the progress, like his trip to southern China emphasizing reform and openness. Now whether he will deliver, we do not know.  It’s still early stages. I’m still hopeful.”

    Other experts note that the notion of China’s people rising up against their leaders is not that far-fetched in a country of 1.3 billion people.

    “The people of China are increasingly bubbling up,” said Professor Jerome Cohen of New York University and the U.S.-Asia Law Institute.  “The Internet, social media, education… it all has an impact [and] they are increasingly aware of their rights. Also, there is a class we shouldn’t forget:  the educated, the middle class, the officials, the academics, the business people.  They are all now festering under this repressive regime… they are increasingly eager to improve,” Cohen said.

    You May Like

    Wife of IS Leader Charged in Death of US Hostage

    Suspect allegedly admitted to being responsible for American aid worker Kayla Mueller, who officials say was sexually abused and ‘owned’ by one IS member

    Year of the Monkey Could Prove Economic Balancing Act for China

    China is up against a tricky situation on the financial front, facing the need to fight capital flight while also stopping a further slide of foreign currency reserves

    Runners Attempt 26-mile South Pole Marathon in Sub-Zero Temperatures

    How alluring is running 26.2 miles at 10,000 feet when it’s minus 31 Celsius out?

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Wangchuk from: NYC
    February 01, 2013 3:01 PM
    Chen is correct that reform will eventually come to China & it will one day be a democracy. But the CCP will fight tooth & nail to hold onto its monopoly of power They will not go quietly w/o a fight. The CCP shed blood to take over China in 1945-49 and they're willing to do it to maintain their dictatorship. But the Chinese people are losing their fear of the PLA & police and the CCP cannot win against 1.4 billion Chinese who want freedom. All empires eventually fall and so will the CCP dynasty. And soon, as 1 party dictatorships in the modern era don't last past their 70th decade.

    And by the way Mr. Huang is just a member of the 50 Cent Party. His role here is to defend & apologize for the CCP.
    In Response

    by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
    February 01, 2013 11:56 PM
    I suggest you to go ask your Chinese friends if you have any, and to see how many are against CCP and how many support. I bet majority will support CCP. Because Chinese can see the improve of our country, no other country can compare with China. If they cannot see it is because they are BLIND, LOL

    by: Frank Von
    February 01, 2013 2:42 AM
    China will surely do better day by day!

    by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
    January 31, 2013 8:10 PM
    Sure China will be a better country and China will be the number one super power over taking USA.
    China will find her own right way to reach that goal. We tried fully people power before and failed, reference the great leap and culture revolution, we realize people could be crazy and be very destructive if not well organized.
    For the sake of the whole country's interest, some individual might sacrifice which is normal however some individual doesn't want to sacrifice and they are selfish. So what I could say is let them go, if they want to go live in US then go. Country cannot move but people can like LAWYER Chen!
    Let all dissidents go to USA, please, its a win-win situation right?
    In Response

    by: Frank from: O. County, USA
    February 01, 2013 2:49 AM
    @Jonathan Huang, Communist China's overtaking USA will never come true. Let all Chinese exiles who still love Communist China go back to China!

    by: Kirill from: Russia
    January 31, 2013 7:33 PM
    What he says about the Communist Party of China is equally right to KGB (under all its names) in Russia. As I feel it, as I see it.
    But, as to Russia(ns), I have no optimism.

    by: henry from: CA
    January 31, 2013 7:02 PM
    change is out of question, but not the way America hopes

    by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
    January 31, 2013 6:36 PM
    Mr. Chen Guangcheng is an examplary human being, all of China should be proud of his accomplishments. The current government of China may not understand him, nor appreciate him, but future generations will see his accomplishments. Those that contribute in societies to promoting the rule of law, are in fact contributing to the building of a better society for all.

    by: Rob Swift from: Great Britain
    January 31, 2013 5:34 PM
    China is said to work on a 40 year cycle. Dating this from the end of chairman Mao (from 1975) then it is coming to the end of it's run.
    In Response

    by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
    February 01, 2013 1:55 PM
    you cant even make that correct! the Chinese cycle is 60 years!
    From 1949 CCP establish the country, it already passed.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.