By William Saunders, J.D.
On October 9, the program in human rights held its second annual human rights lecture/discussion, “Thirty Years after Tiananmen Square – Human Rights in China Today.” Last year, the series was inaugurated in a conversation with Princeton professor and former Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Robert P. George, who also serves on the Advisory Board of the MA in human rights. This year the speaker was Chen Guangcheng, a Distinguished Fellow at CUA.
Program director, William Saunders, began the event by referring to three anniversaries occurring this year – the four month anniversary of the demonstrations in Hong Kong, the seventieth anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party in China, and the thirtieth anniversary of the suppression of the pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. He noted that human rights in China was regularly in the news – only a few days earlier a public furor had erupted due to a tweet by the general manager of the Houston Rockets basketball team in favor of the Hong Kong protests; the Chinese government replied that “Freedom of speech does not include the right to criticize the government,” and threatened to ban the NBA from China.
Noting that those under thirty-seven years of age might be unfamiliar with the events of Tiananmen Square, Saunders discussed those protests and the suppression of them by the Communist Party and the army. He noted that we can get a good idea of what had happened in China afterwards by looking at the life of Guangcheng.
Guangcheng, who was born in 1971 in a poor village and who became blind in infancy because of inadequate rural medical care, became an advocate for the disabled and for the rural poor, becoming in the process the most famous of China’s “barefoot lawyers.” After several years in illegal detention, he was confined to his home, which was closely guarded. Yet, he managed to escape to the U.S. embassy, and then on to the U.S.
Since coming to the U.S., he has been a tireless advocate for democracy in China, finding effective ways around the electronic wall China created to keep such information from reaching its people. His lecture on human rights in China was followed by a question-and-answer session with Saunders. Then the event was opened to audience questions.
You can view the entire event here.