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Netizens Light a Flame for Escaped 'Bare Foot' Attorney

Chen and family in happier times

High value target in China slips past tight security cordon and makes way to U.S. embassy in dramatic escape.  Sound familiar?  No, not Wang Lijun redux. This time it’s Chen Guangcheng (陈光诚), a celebrated human rights lawyer in China who has slipped the bonds of his extra-legal detention in Shandong province and allegedly made his way to Beijing, some even say into the U.S. embassy.  To further embarrass his erstwhile captors, Chen is blind.  

A self-trained lawyer, Chen has been called the “barefoot lawyer” for his advocacy on behalf of villagers in his native Shandong province and his belief in the importance of widespread legal training for the protection of basic rights at the village level. After angering local authorities by taking on the case of a group of women who were forcibly sterilized, Chen was given a four year prison sentence and subsequently kept under house arrest along with his family…until now.

Has He Escaped?

The news of Chen’s escape was reported in (thinly) veiled language on Weibo, China’s Twitter [searches based on his name turn up nothing].  Due to the sensitive nature of the subject matter, the account names will be kept anonymous.  One account tweeted: “CNN reports, a famous blind Chinese person has dramatically escaped his house arrest in Shandong and has been driven by others to Beijing.  The news comes from the friend of this blind person, whose last name is Chen. The report says: Chen has already prepared a few months for this escape, when guards saw that he stayed in bed for many days, they let their guard down…” {{1}}[[1]]CNN 报道,一位著名的中国盲人已戏剧性地逃离其在山东被软禁的家,并被人驾车带到北京,消息来源是这位陈姓盲人的维权朋友。报道说:陈已为逃离准备了几个月, 看守的人见他卧床日久,放松了警惕。[[1]]

Ai Weiwei for CGC

Lacking any official account of the story, some netizens are trying to verify the rumours.  One netizen asked, “I heard lawyer Chen has gone into the American embassy? Persons in the know fill us in!”  Another netizen seemed more sure of himself, though he probably got the last part of his story wrong: “That person who can’t see but is famous the world over, the lawyer named Chen from Shandong has escaped and is now in America!” 

 This Sure Beats Wang Lijun!

Seemingly gladdened by the escape of Chen, who is a folk hero to some for his courage and grassroots scrappiness, netizens tweeted their joy.  One wrote: “A modern ‘One flew over the Cuckoo’s nest’, congratulations, Lawyer Chen, you’re free! ”  Another wrote, “the happy news today is lawyer Chen has gone to a ‘safe’ place with the help of others; the infuriating thing that his family is [probably] being beaten in Shandong.” 

“Protecting lawyer Chen is every freedom-loving citizen’s basic duty,” tweeted one netizen, and another wished him “happiness living overseas.”

A birthday graphic for Chen made by friends

One netizen seemed tired of the drama surrounding Bo Xilai and Wang Lijun and happy that the escape has been made this time by someone he can respect: “This is really a spectacular great escape by lawyer Chen! In comparison Wang’s escape appears so vulgar and kitschy.”


A Coded Poem

One account tweeted a poem, not long after the news of Chen’s escape first emerged, titled “Blindness of the Eye and Blindness of the Mind” that is being seen by some netizens as a coded celebration of Lawyer Chen’s role as a beacon for justice despite his disability.

A blind person said to God: ‘Lord, this is unfair, why is it only I who cannot see the light?’ God said, “No, no don’t doubt my justice; though some can see the bustling world, their hearts are forever sunk in darkness; although your eyes are blind, I planted in your heart the seed of light. Use your heart to feel!  My child, you yourself are the light, and their eyes are used for gazing up at you!” {{2}}[[2]]【目盲与心盲】一盲人对上帝说:“主啊,这不公平,为什么只有我看不到光明?”上帝:“不,不要怀疑我的公正,有些人虽然可以看到繁华世界,他的心却永远坠入 黑暗;你虽目盲,但我已在你心中种下光明的种子,所以,用心去感受吧!我的孩子,你本身就是光明,他们的眼睛是用来仰望你的![[2]]

One netizen tweeted in response, “This makes me think of Lawyer Chen. I hear he’s gone to a good place and received protection. I hope it’s true.”  Another echoed the poem’s sentiment: “The dark night gave me black eyes, but I used them to find the light…” One netizen simply tweeted the characters in Chen’s name: “Light, Honesty” 光,诚。

Light and honesty.  It’s what Chen sought for the disadvantaged and downtrodden who were his clients. And perhaps it’s what he’s seeking out in his mind’s eye, in the distance, on his flight from darkness.

 

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  • Aura

    Good piece. The story about God and Guangcheng makes me so touched. BTW, in the photo are Ai Weiwei and Teng Biao (滕彪). Teng is a lawyer, professor as well as human rights activist in China. Teng has been continously calling for the freedom of Chen Guangcheng and support for other human rights defenders in China for years.

  • Aura

    Good piece. The story about God and Guangcheng makes me so touched. BTW, in the photo are Ai Weiwei and Teng Biao (滕彪). Teng is a lawyer, professor as well as human rights activist in China. Teng has been continously calling for the freedom of Chen Guangcheng and support for other human rights defenders in China for years.

  • tealeafnation

    We’re glad you enjoyed the piece, Aura! And thanks for point out that’s Teng Biao beside Ai Weiwei.

  • tealeafnation

    We’re glad you enjoyed the piece, Aura! And thanks for pointing out that’s Teng Biao beside Ai Weiwei.

  • Ray2570

    The world seems like such a dark place. People selfish and brutal. Chen Guangcheng let me SEE a glimmer of light and hope.

  • Ray2570

    The world seems like such a dark place. People selfish and brutal. Chen Guangcheng let me SEE a glimmer of light and hope.