By Dave Andrusko
GQ [Gentleman’s Quarterly] is not the first place you’d expect to find pro-life human right activist Chen Guangcheng profiled sympathetically, let alone given the designation “Rebel of the Year 2012.” But you take what you can get and the article by John B. Thompson is terrific.
Thompson cuts right to the chase before giving us excerpts of his interview with Chen. “Guards routinely stole into Chen Guangcheng’s house, wrapped him in a blanket, beat him bloody, broke his wife’s bones. The blanket seemed especially gratuitous: Chen is blind. This went on for a year and a half, all because the self-taught lawyer had sued the Chinese government to stop forced abortions in his village.” This after Chen had served over 4 years in jail on a trumped up charge and after he was released having endured 19 months under house arrest.
As you recall Chen escaped, breaking his foot going over the wall, and after a car chase wound up at the American embassy in Beijing. After a series of negotiations—and lots of publicity generated by pro-life Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ)—Chen was allowed to come to the United States with his family.
The interview with Thompson provides helpful details about his life here, beginning with the flight itself and the touch down in New Jersey. Chen told Thompson
“The moment the plane landed and I was getting up on crutches—I still couldn’t walk, remember—all of the other passengers stood up and applauded. I was so moved: even [though] they had never spoken to me, they knew who I was. At the same time, my heart was surging with emotion, filled with a million sighs. All these years, everything I’d been through—I originally hadn’t wanted to leave China, but this series of events forced me to, and I couldn’t help but feel hurt.” [At his first press conference] “I knew a lot of people were watching me the moment I stepped out of the van and everyone started cheering. They were applauding, whistling. People who knew me shouted my name. I hadn’t really prepared or knew what I was going to say, so I just spoke straight from the heart. I clearly knew that I had to thank all the people that had worked so hard for this result, for me to come to America. I don’t know if it was the best I could do, but at least it was honest.”
One other important quote, talking about meeting House leadership from both parties on August 1, Chen says
“I think I protect the rights of unborn children, the rights of women, and the rights of any citizen. Human rights are not just children’s rights or women’s rights. Men have rights. The elderly have rights. This is a human problem, a fundamental concept.”
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