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Chen Guangcheng

Chen Guangcheng is a blind Chinese civil rights activist who has worked on human rights issues in rural areas of China. A self-taught legal worker, 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 U.S. Embassy in Beijing. He now lives with his family in the U.S.Chen Was born in November 1971 in a small rural village in Shandong. He lost his eyesight due to a severe fever when he was six months old. However, he was not deterred from developing his interest in a legal profession. Chen’s family read legal texts to him and he audited classes at Nanjing University. A largely self-taught legal worker, known as a “barefoot lawyer” in China, Chen used his education to advocate for the rights of rural villagers and individuals with disabilities, submitting his first legal petition in 1996. He attracted international media attention in 2000 after submitting a petition to close a paper mill, which resulted in a landmark class-action lawsuit against officials in the city of Linyi.Since his arrival in the U.S., Chen has devoted his work to studying English and collaborating with American legal scholars. Chen was named one of TIME’s 100. He also received the Ramon Magsaysay Award and the Human Rights Award from Human Rights First. Chen Guangcheng continues to denounce one-party rule in China and frequently publishes editorials outlining the regime’s human rights violations and the lack of rule of law in his country. He is aDistinguished Senior Fellow in Human Rights at the Witherspoon Institute and aSenior Distinguished Advisor to the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice.

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