May 19 marked the 10th anniversary of Chen Guangcheng’s arrival in the United States. It was also one of the most memorable days in my life, as I spent years campaigning internationally for his release. You can learn more about Guangcheng’s incredible bravery by watching our historic “Free Chen Guangcheng” video (3 minutes) HERE.
Guangcheng was blinded in early childhood from a fever, but he did not let this disability stop him from teaching himself law. He then became an acclaimed disability rights ”barefoot lawyer” in China, but the Chinese Communist Party turned against him when he started exposing and opposing late term forced abortion and sterilizations perpetrated under China’s brutal One Child Policy. For this he was jailed, tortured and finally placed under house arrest. His deteriorating health due to torture and malnutrition made us worry that he might die, but he escaped – nothing short of a miracle! You can read his astonishing account in his book, The Barefoot Lawyer: A Blind Man’s Fight for Justice and Freedom in China.
As if to mark the 10th anniversary of Guangcheng’s arrival in the United States, Chen received the prestigious Bradley Prize, for his tireless and effective advocacy for human rights and against the atrocities of the Chinese Communist Party.
When Chen and his brave wife, Yuan Weijing, touched down in New York, it was one of the most thrilling moments of my life. I went from being wracked with worry about them to being able to embrace them as dear friends. When I was able to sit down with them in New York, it felt almost surreal to be able to show them the video we had created for them, as well as our Sunglasses Campaign collecting 500 self-portraits of people from all over the world wearing sunglasses to express their support of Chen.
Congressman Chris Smith participated in this campaign as part of his massive effort to free Chen. Then, after Chen arrived in the United States, the three of us took a photo together after speaking at Heritage.
Congratulations, Guangcheng and Weijing. You are people of heroic bravery. The United States is blessed that you are here!