News / Asia

Chen: China's Communists Must Obey Own Laws

Chen Guangcheng speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations, New York, May 31, 2012.Chen Guangcheng speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations, New York, May 31, 2012.
Chen Guangcheng speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations, New York, May 31, 2012.
Chen Guangcheng speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations, New York, May 31, 2012.
Peter Fedynsky
NEW YORK -- Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng, who recently arrived in the United States, today called for government and party officials in China to honor the country’s constitution and laws.

Addressing the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, his first formal speaking engagement since arriving on U.S. soil, the blind lawyer said the problem in China is not the absence of laws, but lack of respect for laws already in place.

Speaking through an interpreter, he said rule of law begins with its observance by senior Communist Party officials, including President Hu Jintao.

“You are supposed to be in charge of law and order -- the party secretary -- and if you are not going to observe the law, how do you expect people to observe the law?" he said.

Chen, who is expected to study international law at New York University, said its rules and principles should apply to China if its leaders exhibit inappropriate behavior toward citizens. As an example, he described a vicious physical attack on his brother and nephew in his native Shandong province after he had fled their home. Although central authorities promised to investigate the incident, he said, they never did.

Responding to a question about possible democratic models for China, Chen said that while it is true China cannot simply copy Western democracy, it can look to other models of democratic rule.

“We also need to learn Eastern democracy," he said. "Japan, South Korea and China, what is wrong with having our own democracy? Taiwan has democracy, too. I still remember, there is an ancient Chinese phrase, ‘We learn from what is good, and what is bad we try to avoid.' "

The self-taught lawyer spent four years in a Chinese prison and had been under house arrest for two years before fleeing to the U.S. embassy in Beijing in April. In 2007, Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience who had been incarcerated for angering Chinese officials by opposing the country's strict population control laws, and for helping people fight government abuses.

After weeks of negotiations last month, Beijing allowed Chen to come to the United States to study at the New York University Law School. His wife and children were allowed to come with him, but his mother and other relatives remain under tight security in China.

In his Council on Foreign Relations appearance, Chen said he has not had a free weekend in seven years and needs some rest. But having been isolated from the world, he explained that he must replenish his knowledge of current developments.

"I want to know, what are the differences between English and American law versus continental law, so I can have some comparisons," he said. "And also, what role does law play in a society? Why is it that while everybody has laws, in some societies law does function, [while in other] societies, [people] act as if [they] can do without it.”

China, he predicted, will change very quickly because of information technologies, which have developed to the point that "if public officials do not want others to know about their misdeeds, they better not do them."

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Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: sheo white from: Australia
June 05, 2012 3:20 AM
The CCP will soon self destruct, in accordance to cosmic law,... in relationship to its horrific invasion and brutal occupation of its peaceful neighbour Tibet. The only hope for China to avoid complete disintegration, is to Peacefully leave Tibet Now.

by: Wangchuk from: NY
June 04, 2012 10:46 AM
So according to 50 Cent Party member Jon Huang the CCP is doing a great job even though Tibet is under martial law & thousands of Chinese, Tibetan & Uighur dissidents are in jail. Yet the CCP won't allow free & fair elections to see if the Chinese people want the CCP to rule them. Perhaps the CCP is afraid of the result of elections if not everyone has the same opinion as Jon Huang? Or maybe CCP can't afford to buy off all 1.2 billion people like Jon has been bought? It seems w/ Jon the CCP is infallible. Who know the CCP was perfect like a god?

by: Anonymous
June 03, 2012 5:20 AM
Jerry, there has been not a legal opposition party in China ever since 1949.

by: Jonathan Huang from: Canada
June 02, 2012 2:00 AM
I am not sure when China will accept fully west democracy. But I am sure about two things, CCP is trying her best to make China a superpower of the world, and CCP is trying to improve normal Chinese's life. These two things are priorities to China, and CCP is doing incredible job. We are so proud that China has a much better system than democratic India has. One day when China passes over US, you will admit this system is better than west democracy.

by: Wangchuk from: NY
June 01, 2012 11:51 AM
China, Tibet, Xinjiang & Inner Mongolia all need more democracy & human rights & rule of law as the Party officials in these lands frequently ignore the law, the Constitution & human rights. But I'm not optimistic as Chen that the CCP is moving in that direction. The CCP is moving towards less freedom for Chinese, Tibetans, Uighurs & Mongolians, not more. I'm afraid it will take either another revolution or a CCP leader who will call for elections before China can finally become a democracy.

by: alex from: philippines
June 01, 2012 11:42 AM
I think that China is willing to take a path to democracy at the proper time and in the proper way. For now, the world must wait for this transformation though I am certain that the Chinese government doesn't want a revolution: a revolution is hurtful both for the government and the people. Besides, China has been used to strong central government. A democratic type should still be evolved.

by: Fan from: China
June 01, 2012 10:24 AM
Chen Guangcheng is a hero. His voice should be heard by all Chinese.

by: jerry from: US
June 01, 2012 9:50 AM
Where can we watch his speech?

by: jerry from: USA
June 01, 2012 9:39 AM
Ierry Mei, are you talking about Singapore? The last thing I remember is that almost all leaders of opposition parties of Singapore are overseas seeking political asylums. Tell me if it is not true.

by: GE from: China
June 01, 2012 5:34 AM
Indeedly,the similar cases will happen in the future.Repression come from local forces and government,which make risidents did not feel good,even feel so badly.Even so,people have no way to release its emotion,so depression feeling is more and more.
Comments page of 2

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