On Monday, March 11th, Mr. Chen Guangcheng, a human rights activist from China, known as “the barefoot lawyer,” gave a lecture entitled “China: Kidnapped by the Communist Party” at The Institute of World Politics. Mr. Chen described his human rights work and discussed the realities of the Chinese Communist Party.
Founder and President of IWP, Dr. John Lenczowski, introduced Mr. Chen as “one of the most prominent dissidents in the U.S.” After thanking Dr. Lenczowski, Mr. Chen stated: “I have been making the Communist party very mad for a long time. I have always taken this as a compliment.” In 2005, Mr. Chen, along with some friends, fought against Beijing’s attempt to crack down on the one child policy. This angered the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and led them to harass Mr. Chen for seven years. He was kidnapped, underwent beatings, was imprisoned for four years, and was placed under house arrest. In April 2012, Mr. Chen escaped house arrest and arrived at the American Embassy in Beijing. The U.S. welcomed him to the States, where he became “free from the claws of the CCP.”
Mr. Chen focused much of his lecture on the nature of Chinese governance. He described two systems: the official People’s Republic of China government and the opaque CCP that controls the country. The official government is beholden to the CCP at each level. Mr. Chen highlighted three important characteristics of CCP rule: it is “written into the Constitution;” there is “no way for public interest to ever stand above private interest;” and “institutions are not what they seem.” Besides, at the village level, he added, the party secretary is always above the government official.
Mr. Chen concluded his lecture by describing the relevance of the CCP and Chinese government to the U.S. First, companies doing business with China do not see everything that is going on — Chinese companies are protected by the party. Foreign companies might have to give up valuable intellectual property. Second, he addressed the trade negotiations between Washington and Beijing. Mr. Chen stated that the official Chinese negotiators, government representatives, do not make decisions — the power is in the hands of the Party, and the “CCP operates for its own interests.” Mr. Chen also mentioned China’s respect for the American military, stating that the “CCP is trying to create a military system to rival America.” Lastly, he touched on the state of human rights in the country, citing his own story as just one example. Mr. Chen warned that “unfortunately CCP’s desire for control doesn’t stop at its border. It is extending its finger around the world.” Mr. Chen ended his lecture by calling for bravery and making “communist authoritarians a thing of the past.”
This lecture is a part of the IWP lecture series on China. Other recent lectures include “Chinese Espionage and U.S. Security and “By More Than Providence: Grand Strategy and American Power in the Asia Pacific Since 1783.”