Human Rights First, “an independent advocacy and action organization that challenges America to live up to its ideals”, gave Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng its “Human Rights Award” at its annual gala in New York on Wednesday.
Chen Guangcheng champions the rights of women, the disabled, and the poor in China, and gives courage to all who struggle for human rights. Blind from an early age and a self-taught “barefoot lawyer,” Chen has made imaginative and energetic use of litigation and legal advocacy to address many human rights abuses. He brought a class action lawsuit against officials in China’s Shandong Province because of their abuses against the families of women who were seeking to evade late-term forced abortion and mandatory sterilization. Local officials then illegally imprisoned Chen in his home before sentencing him to 51 months in a formal prison. Upon completing the sentence, he and his family were subjected to another 20 months of even harsher, lawless home imprisonment until he escaped and sought refuge at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing in April 2012.
The award was presented to Chen by actor Christian Bale, who attempted to visit Chen while he was still under house arrest in December 2011, but was attacked and driven off by Chen’s gaolers. According to the New York Post, Chen expressed a desire to meet Bale shortly after arriving in the US.
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