In a big move for the Catholic University of America and the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies (IPR), famed human rights activist Chen Guangcheng, whose dramatic escape from house arrest and persecution by Chinese authorities became a national story last year, will be joining IPR as a distinguished visiting fellow. Millennial editor Robert Christian, a graduate fellow at the institute, is thrilled to have Chen as a new colleague, saying:
“As someone with grave concerns about the injustice of China’s one-child policy, I was familiar with his important work long before his brave escape from house arrest. His efforts on behalf of human rights, in the face of persecution, have truly been inspiring. My jaw hit the floor when I found out he would be joining IPR. It’s just an unbelievably exciting addition.”
For those not familiar with his background, Chen’s biography at IPR’s website provides a solid overview:
Chen Guangcheng is a Chinese civil rights lawyer and activist who has been a persistent voice for freedom, human dignity, and the rule of law in his native country. Working in rural communities in China, where he was known as the “barefoot lawyer,” Chen advocated for the rights of disabled people, and organized class-action litigation against the government’s violent enforcement of its one-child policy. Blind since his childhood, Chen is self-taught in the law. His human rights activism resulted in his imprisonment by the Chinese government for four years, beginning in 2006; after his release he remained under house arrest, until his escape from confinement in 2012, whereupon he came to the United States, where he was a scholar at New York University in 2012-13.
Chen will also be affiliated with the Witherspoon Institute and the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights & Justice.
Reggie Littlejohn, the president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, explained to Millennial the importance of Chen’s work and the way it transcends the deep divide that exists over the legality of abortion:
“Chen Guangcheng’s work against forced abortion in China is important because he has had the courage to stand up to this hideous form of violence against women, and he has paid the price. His work is done from a human rights perspective and rises above the divide between pro-choice and pro-life. No one supports forced abortion, because it is not a choice. His work is also important because he courageously exposes the brutality of the Chinese Communist Party — and how, despite appearances, they are far from living under a rule of law.”