Blind dissident urges global pressure on China over rights

Tue Jan 29, 2013 6:41pm EST
 

By Paul Eckert

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng urged the United States on Tuesday not to let business concerns prevent it from pressing China over human rights, saying America must never "offer the smallest compromise" on its principles.

Chen is a self-taught legal advocate whose escape from house arrest last April and subsequent refuge in the U.S. Embassy embarrassed China and led to a diplomatic tussle that ended with him leaving China to study in New York.

He used a speech at a human rights award ceremony in Washington to call on the world to hold China to account for repression and to urge ordinary Chinese to look to the example of Myanmar as they struggle to win their rights.

"I sincerely hope that everyone - petitioners, human rights workers, civil rights groups, national governments and especially the United States government - will come together to encourage progress in human rights," said Chen.

"There should be no compromise, even if there are large business interests at stake - dignity, freedom and justice are more important," he said in translated remarks read in English by actor and Tibet advocate Richard Gere.

Chen received the 2012 Tom Lantos Human Rights Prize, named after a California congressman who was the only Holocaust survivor to serve in the U.S. Congress. Lantos died in 2008.

The activist, now studying law at New York University, said he felt a "profound resonance in my heart" with Lantos from their shared experience escaping persecution and dictatorship.

"We must not only remember the atrocities of the fascists, but also recognize that today authoritarianism is firmly entrenched, and that the barbarism of the authoritarian system is the greatest threat to civilized societies," said Chen.   Continued...

 
Actor Richard Gere (R) stands with Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng (C) and his wife Yuan Weijing after Chen received The Tom Lantos Human Rights Prize in the Capitol in Washington January 29, 2013. Gere is a member of the Lantos Foundation advisory board. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY ENTERTAINMENT)