The Barefoot Lawyer: A Blind Man’s Fight for Justice and Freedom in China

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The Barefoot Lawyer: A Blind Man’s Fight for Justice and Freedom in China
By Chen Guangcheng
Henry Holt, 2015
352 pp.

Chen is the blind human rights activist whose dramatic 2012 escape from house arrest to refuge in the U.S. embassy in Beijing led to tense negotiations over his fate between U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Chinese authorities and then to Chen’s exile in the United States. His stubborn resistance to in-justices in rural China—especially the government’s coercive enforcement of the one-child policy—led him and his family to be targeted by local Communist Party officials with detentions, beatings, a sham trial, imprisonment, and extralegal house arrest, to the point where his mistreatment became an international scandal. The book culminates in the gripping story of his nighttime escape from his village, right under the noses of dozens of guards. Chen is an outsize personality, but he comes from an ordinary village, so his memoir provides insight into the factors that make relations between local officials and peasants so explosive throughout China. It also illuminates some of the ways in which foreign pressure can help ameliorate human rights abuses, even in this era of Chinese assertiveness.

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