In the U.S.A., we are accustomed to students protesting what they perceive as injustice. The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights gives us the unalienable right to free speech, which includes peaceful protest, disagreement with the government, the Administration, rights of marginalized peoples. In China, there is no right to demonstrate. So, what caused those thousands of s students and sympathizers to march – silently, peacefully – through the main public square in Beijing?
I recently readThe Barefoot Lawyer: A Blind Man’s Fight for Justice and Freedom in China, the harrowing account of Chen Guangcheng, the young lawyer who lived with his wife and mother-in-law in China. He was appalled at what he learned from afar, and within his own family.
China had adopted the “one child” policy to keep population down. The law meant that a couple who chose to have more than one child were subject to fines, harassment, and worse. When Chen discovered that pregnant women “disappeared” or were beaten to death in the town square, he felt that he must use his legal skills and his compassion to protest this rule and protect his own family.
His protests led to his own incarceration, which included torture, starvation, and no contact with his family. He was finally sent home to rigid house arrest. He and his wife agreed that he must escape his confinement. This courageous man was able to find his way to the American embassy, which initially did not want to have this “embarrassing situation publicized because of concurrent “delicate” talks with the Chinese about trade. He eventually reached America.
Today, Chen Guangcheng lives in the U.S. History and this sad anniversary remind me of the wish we fostered in the 1980s that the plight of the Chinese people would improve. We have a stake in human rights for ALL. It is true that China is doing well financially, but stomping on human rights has not abated.
I was one of those people who wished, hoped, and prayed that China would change. I am still waiting. I hope that the witness of brave people will impact on someone here, since we have become – somehow – trade partners with China.
Author of 14 self-help books, five still available: Prepare Him Room, Ten Steps to Peace, Healing the Abusive Family, Moments for Mothers. Breaking the Boxes: critique of institutions vs. individuals. Work-in-progress: Memoir (Sorting out Secrets)