Chen Guangcheng 

Chinese civil rights activist and former political prisoner

Chen Guangcheng is a blind self-taught lawyer and one of the most prominent Chinese civil rights activists. Known as a “barefoot lawyer” in China, Chen used his education to advocate for the rights of rural villagers and individuals with disabilities. Chen faced a series of prison sentences and periods of house arrest after organizing a landmark class-action lawsuit in 2005 against Chinese authorities for excessive enforcement—including forced sterilization and abortions—of the country’s one-child policy. After a trial—during which his attorneys were prevented from entering the court—Chen was charged with “damaging property and organizing a mob to disturb traffic” in retaliation for his advocacy. In April 2012, Chen escaped from house arrest and fled to the US Embassy in Beijing. He now lives with his family in the United States. He is a distinguished senior fellow in human rights at the Witherspoon Institute and a senior distinguished advisor to the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice.

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