Chen Guangcheng, a dissident Chinese lawyer is profiled by Jay Nordlinger in the latest issue of National Review. As Nordlinger writes, his profile may or may not be a posthumous one, as Chinese authorities have blocked most or all information regarding Guangcheng’s current fate. Nordlinger writes that Guangcheng was a blind attorney who championed the rights of the disabled around the Shandong Province, where he was raised. “What gained him his fame, and torment, was his exposure of one fact: In the year 2005 alone, in just the Linyi area, there were 130,000 forced abortions and sterilizations. These procedures are brutal.”
So was what the Chinese government did to Guangcheng in the years since:
He was released from prison in September 2010 and confined to his home in the village of Dongshigu. This sort of confinement is known as ruanjin, or soft detention, but it has been very hard. Chen and his family have been watched constantly and subjected to escalating abuses. In February, he managed to have a video smuggled out to the West. It was publicized by a group in Texas called the China Aid Association, which said that the video had come courtesy of a “sympathetic government source.”
In the video, Chen described the circumstances in which he and his family were being kept, and he said, “The thing we need to do now is conquer terror” and expose practices that are “lacking in human conscience.” He said he was “fully prepared” to be tortured after the video’s release, but was “not afraid.” Yuan Weijing spoke too, saying that her family was in danger. With a breaking voice, she expressed the hope that friends would take care of their children, Kerui and Kesi, if something happened to them, the parents.
What happened immediately is that Chen and Yuan were beaten to a pulp. A letter from Yuan, made available in June, told us the following:
More than ten men covered me totally with a blanket and kicked my ribs and all over my body. After half an hour’s non-stop torture, I finally squeezed my head out of the blanket. I saw more than ten men surrounding Chen Guangcheng, torturing him. Some of them twisted his arms forcefully while the others pushed his head down and lifted his collar up tightly. . . . Guangcheng was not able to resist and passed out after more than two hours.
The letter details a great deal more.
Infuriated by the video, the authorities did their best to ensure that nothing could get in or out of the Chen home. They removed the family’s electronics and sealed the windows with metal sheets. They installed surveillance cameras. They plundered the house of almost everything, down to family photos, toys, and Chen’s white cane. The goal was to isolate the family completely.
Over the months, a stream of visitors have trekked to Dongshigu, hoping to see Chen. These include writers, lawyers, advocates for the disabled, and ordinary citizens. They also include foreign diplomats and journalists. All have been repulsed by teams of thugs at the four entrances to the village. These thugs — a mixture of policemen and their hirees — have detained, beaten, robbed, and shot at the would-be visitors. Many of these incidents are meticulously documented.
And this is government that Thomas Friedman of the New York Times (source of the quote in the headline), Andy Stern, former head of the SEIU, and President Obama himself have all said we should emulate.