Chen Guangcheng’s Visit to the UK
by Oxford Students for Life
Lord Alton characterised Chen Guangcheng as a man fired by an ‘innocent idealism’ and ‘righteous anger’. I would add gentle humility and unremitting bravery to the description. The ‘barefoot lawyer’, blind from infancy, was invited to Parliament on 20th May 2013 to receive the inaugural Westminster Award for the promotion of human life, human rights and human dignity. Although it was notable that no Cabinet member agreed to meet with him, Chen was unfazed. Parliament was all action that evening, with voting on important bills resulting in Chen’s hosts, Lord Alton and Fiona Bruce MP, having to leave hastily a number of times. Yet, somehow, the commotion and slight informality suited this unassuming man who began his address with a simple ‘Good evening, dear friends.’
Although Chen’s speech was a searing criticism of the brutal Chinese dictatorship that ‘robs people of their lives’, his indictment of the complicity of the West in allowing China to implement practices such as the one-child policy was evident. He claimed that we, in the West, are like florists who no longer smell the scent of flowers: we have become too accustomed to the sweet smell of freedom and take it for granted. In Western democracies, we forget the plight of our fellow humans around the world: the mothers forced to abort their children, no matter the stage of their pregnancy, the fathers, family members and neighbours tortured for not revealing those in breach of the one-child policy, the children left to die on the side of the road, in dustbins, for the simple reason that they are not the first-born, or perhaps not male. This is the world beyond the florist’s shop; a world in which the culture of respecting human life has been almost completely destroyed.
Telling the harrowing tale of a three year old left to starve to death in an apartment when her mother was arrested, the scratch marks from the little girl’s fingers left on the door through which she had tried to escape, Chen, and many members of the audience, were reduced to tears. This barbarity, he forcefully stated, is a direct result of the lack of respect for human life which we can see is evident from its earliest stage. Stories like this are just ‘the tip of the iceberg’ – an iceberg Chen wishes to expose so that we may no longer claim blindness to these atrocities, so that we refuse to bow down to such disrespect for life, so that we must act.
For a man who has endured torture and 4 years of house arrest, who has suffered the knowledge that his family are still being targeted by the Chinese Government, and who has witnessed the horrors that have been inflicted upon countless families by the one-child policy, Chen’s message was, surprisingly, one of unwavering hope. Through his translator Bob Fu, who had to flee China in order to have his second child, Chen lauded the limitless potential in each person that enables each of us to boldly decry the dictatorships that show utter disregard for the value of human life. Chen remains adamant that the perseverance and heightened awareness he exemplifies will win the battle. In his closing address, Chen extended his hands, a smile playing on his lips, calling the room, and the UK, to action: ‘The time has come. Let’s work together.’
What will you do to help stop the brutality of the one-child policy and gendercide?
- Make Chen’s story known.
- Lobby Parliament that they stand up to the Chinese government and defend the value of human life at all stages.
- Call on the government to remove funding from UNFPA and IPPF which fund the one-child policy in China.
- Screen ‘It’s A Girl’ [We hope to screen this is Oxford in the upcoming terms]