Universe Column for 14th January 2007
by David Alton
Just before Christmas the blind Chinese Human Rights activist, 34-year-old Chen Guang Cheng, was given a four year prison sentence.
He was convicted after first exposing and then speaking out against the policy of forced abortions and sterilisations in the Shandong Province of China.
More than 130,000 women were forcibly aborted as part of the coercive one child policy. This is a policy which Britain supports through our taxes (via international organisations funded by the British Government and who in turn fund the Chinese Population Association).
I feel deeply ashamed of our continuing collaboration and truly inspired by a man who has no eyes but sees quite clearly the enormity of what we choose to look away from.
Although he lost his sight in childhood, Chen’s vision of humanity and of human rights has helped to shine a light on the harrowing ordeal of countless Chinese women and their families.
When local officials in Shandong began to impose their draconian coercive population policies no one other than Chen was willing to confront them
He began a legal action in the courts on behalf of the women who were being forcibly aborted and sterilised. He said:
. “Someone has to fight for people with no voice. I guess that person is me.”
Chen does not have a law degree but taught himself about China’s laws and when he was approached for advice by the families of two women who had been forced to take the lives of their unborn babies just days before their birth he travelled to Beijing to champion their cause. He is often called “The bare foot lawyer” and China’s “peasant activist.” Time magazine have just voted him one of the world’s most influential 100 people.
Initially Chen approached the State Family Planning Commission asking them to stop the outrages. They had Chen thrown into the back of a vehicle and then placed him under house arrest for three months. Observers report that hired dozens of thugs regularly visited his home, to intimidate him and his wife. It is a classic illustration of the truth of Tertulian’s words, written in the second century, that “The first reaction to truth is hatred.”
That hatred expressed itself through brute force and also through a corrupt and manipulated legal system.
First, in August last Chen was jailed for four years and three months for “damaging public property” and for organising villagers to disrupt traffic. His defence lawyer told the court in December’s retrial that the charges were trumped-up by officials eager to silence him and seeking revenge. Teng Biaao, his lawyer, said: “This verdict is a blow to China’s legal system and it’s a violation of human rights.” Chen’s brother, Chen Guangfu, said: “The legal process was a mockery. It is shameful.” No witnesses or evidence were presented from the defence. His lawyers said: “In court we had the upper hand and the other side made no effective rebuttal. At first we hoped that this would be a fair trial. However, the court clung obstinately to its evil course.” At the original trial, his attorneys were detained and refused the right to appear in court. The whole process has been a total travesty of justice – and, a year before China hosts the Olympics, once again exposes the attitude of this Communist regime to human rights. The Communist-controlled State media have labelled Chen a “blind mob organiser”.
From his cell Chen told the outside world: “I am still engaged in the rights campaign. Don’t worry about me. Think of it as if I have embarked on a long journey. My resolve has not been shaken. I will never give up.”
While the Chinese government is trying to forget Chen, grateful women in the Shandong province have not forgotten his bravery and neither should we. Edmund Burke, a great Irishman who went on to become a great British Parliamentarian, famously said that “Evil flourishes when good men do nothing.”
If you are willing to “do something” for Chen and believe we should not remain silent and stand idly by while China continues to silence dissidents and oppress its citizens, then please write a letter or send a postcard (see below) on Chen’s behalf and write to your MP..
Through Jubilee Campaign a nationwide protest has been launched calling for Chen’s release.
This will take the form of a postcard campaign to the Chinese Ambassador in London. The campaign is supported by LIFE, Right to Life and others.
To order cards for yourself, your friends or your church please contact Jubilee Campaign, 96 High Street, Guildford, Surrey GU1 3HE or e-mail the Director of Jubilee Campaign, Danny Smith, atwww.jubileecampaign.co.uk or firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0845 4504748