Of course, our experiences were widely separated in space and time. I was living in the far south of China in 1980 when the one-child policy was first imposed upon the peasants of the Pearl River Delta. Chen was living in the far northern province of Shandung in 2005 when that same policy, some 25 years later, resulted in the arrest and abortion of thousands of women in his county alone.
We were both arrested for our trouble, but here the similarities end. I was held for three days and then released, largely due to my get-out-jail-free card—also known as a U.S. Passport.
Chen, on the other hand, was a subject of the People’s Republic of China. He was arrested, brought before a kangaroo court, and sentenced to four years in prison for “disturbing the public order.” Thereafter he was put under “house arrest,” without even the pretense of a trial. Up to a hundred security personnel patrolled the streets of his village to make sure he was kept sequestered and silent.
A self-taught country lawyer selflessly trying to help his fellow citizens would be a sympathetic figure to many Chinese. Add to this the fact that he is blind, is the father of two small children, and has been jailed by corrupt officials on trumped up charges.
But what makes him an iconic figure to his countrymen is his exposé of the one-child policy.
Bear in mind that almost every Chinese family has been impacted in some way by the loss of a loved one because of the one-child per family policy. Virtually everyone in China is missing a son or a daughter, or a brother or a sister because some Communist Party hack found out that their wife or mother was pregnant with an “illegal” second or third child, arrested them for the “crime” of being pregnant, and took them in against their will for an abortion.
Chen documented 7,000 such cases, taking down the names and addresses of those women who were victimized, as well as the particulars of the officials who committed these crimes.
Now you can see why the Chinese Communist Party is so eager to silence Chen. Not only has he exposed their crimes against the Chinese people, he has at least the potential to generate massive protests against the brutal one-child policy.
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