News / Asia

Chinese Dissident Calls on US to Pressure Beijing

Dissident Vows to Keep Pressure on Beijingi
February 01, 2013 2:20 AM
In an exclusive interview with VOA, Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng called for human rights reform in China. Chen captured world attention when he sought protection in the U.S. embassy in Beijing last May. He was in Washington now to receive a human rights award. Jeff Swicord reports.
Dissident Vows to Keep Pressure on Beijing
Blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng called on the United States Thursday to pressure Beijing to improve its human rights record as he urged his fellow citizens not to depend on foreign assistance in their push for change.

In an exclusive television interview with VOA Mandarin, the 41-year-old legal activist said the U.S., as the global human rights leader, commands substantial leverage over China because "its economy is not really as powerful as it is made out to be."

"Many of their statistics are inflated and the vast majority of China's citizens have not benefited from the country's economic successes, which are limited to a handful of cities," Chen said.

Earlier, he had called on the Chinese people to end one-party communist rule and for Washington not to "give an inch" on human rights in its relations with Beijing.

But analyst Michael Mazza of the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute said U.S. influence is "of course, limited by the nature of the [countries'] relationship and business interests."

"There are things we can do to step up pressure to help alleviate - in minor ways - some of the human rights abuses that happen in China, and do so without putting the larger relationship at risk. Basically, it is public statements, public pressure in support of dissidents in China," said Mazza.

Pivotal moment

Chen told VOA that dictatorship is one of the greatest threats to human civilization but that the time is ripe in China for change.

"In this key moment of transformation, international pressure is extremely important. But Chinese [youth] back home must understand that although others can help us, we cannot wait for outsiders to be the main actors in this effort," Chen said.

He has encouraged China’s people to learn from Burma, which recently ended decades of military rule as well as media censorship.

Chen was in Washington this week to receive the 2012 Lantos Human Rights Prize, named for the late U.S. congressman Tom Lantos, who was a Holocaust survivor and prominent rights advocate.

The self-taught Chinese lawyer had endured four years of prison, followed by an illegal and abusive detention separated from his family after he led a campaign for the rights of the disabled and against forced abortions in China.

He has been studying law at New York University since he dramatically fled house arrest and sought refuge at U.S. Embassy in Beijing last April.

In a video message posted on the Lantos Foundation website, Chen thanked the world community for its "great concern for China's freedom, human rights, the rule of law and social justice."

"In the wake of the Arab Spring," he said, while countries like Burma and Cuba liberalize, "China's human-rights situation is actually getting worse."

Family persecuted

Chen called on Beijing to keep its promise to investigate those responsible for persecuting him and his family in his rural community in eastern China for the past several years.

He said the Chinese government has sentenced his nephew, Chen Kegui, to three years in prison as a punishment for his escape.

"Not only has there been no investigation, but those officials - including the local police chief - who persecuted my family members were promoted. These robbers who stormed my brother's house with clubs, beat my sister-in-law and nephew and sent him to jail, continue their surveillance and harassment," he said.

"That's the nature of dictatorship," Chen said. "There's no monitoring system, no watchdogs."

Washington has urged China to stop further retribution against Chen's family members. Beijing has said it would abide by the Chinese legal system.

Getting local officials to follow the law, even after a newly-announced policy or reform, can be a vexing issue in China, made worse by the country's rampant corruption. But Chen is hopeful, even in the face of state-sponsored repression.

"Changes to the Chinese legal system are inevitable. While the country has good laws that protect citizens from robbery and other crimes, party officials are able to habitually invade your property, beat and interrogate you without reprisal," Chen said.

But even under communist rule, he added, information is increasingly able to filter down through the Internet.

"In the past, we could only get party-controlled media in China. [But] now, people have access to a much wider range of information and can express themselves through [new media]. This has led to more awareness and more protests. [Such actions] will only increase in the future," Chen said.

Mark Snowiss

Mark Snowiss is a Washington D.C.-based multimedia reporter.  He has written and edited for various media outlets including Pacifica and NPR affiliates in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @msnowiss and on Google Plus

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Wu from: USA
February 03, 2013 1:55 AM
It is obvious that in America people can say whatever they want. But in China you can not say what you want abou the china chairman.
This is a good example for the Chinese younger generation. If you want to compete with the West, you have to have freedom to education, express, and action.

by: jack from: NY
February 01, 2013 1:39 AM
American government is mean, it even use a blind person, the blind person is pathetic, he thought he is valuable, in fact, nothing.
In Response

by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
February 03, 2013 12:24 AM
@ Hunonymous from: Canada, yeah, you bet. In last years jasmine revolution, totally how many Chinese went out to the street?
100? maybe.
Now China is stable, life is improving. Our "dictatorship" is much better than India's "Democracy", who is gonna be that stupid to protest a better life?
In Response

by: Hunonymous from: Canada
February 02, 2013 11:25 AM
Its up to the newer Chinese generation to step up for Democracy. But I am afraid unlike other governments, the Chinese communist party can be ruthless to its own citizens. They wouldn't mind mowing down a million and not feel a thing, but just their objective. Disgusting! I can't wait for that day - when the entire nation of China goes out on the streets protesting for change!! It has to happen eventually... I am afraid.
In Response

by: Trisha from: China
February 01, 2013 10:53 PM
yes, I agree with you

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs