HKFP Reports Interviews Politics & Protest SinoBeat

HKFP Interview: I will come home one day, says exiled Chinese rights activist Chen Guangcheng

HKFP Exclusive

Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng made headlines around the world in April, 2012 when he escaped house arrest to seek refuge in the US embassy in Beijing. Chen fled under the watch of dozens of guards with the help of friends and supporters. Blinded since a young age, Chen taught himself law and has used it to fight against forced abortions and the unfair treatment of the disabled.

Chen now lives in the US with his family. He spoke to HKFP from London, where President Xi Jinping is currently conducting the first Chinese state visit to the UK in a decade. Chen said he believes he will eventually return home to China, and that day “won’t be too far away.”

chen Guangcheng

Chen Guangcheng. Photo: Apple Daily.

HKFP: Could you please tell us a little bit about what you’ve been doing recently? What are you doing in the US now?

Chen: 

I’ve been researching China’s freedom, human rights and internet control in cooperation with the Catholic University of America and the Witherspoon Institute. I also study American policies on human rights.
我一直和美國天主教大學以及Witherspoon Institute一起合作研究中國的自由,人權以及網絡自由問題,還有就是關於美國的政策,人權政策,在這方面跟他們有合作做研究。

HKFP: Was the purpose of your UK trip to take part in protests against President Xi Jinping? Are you going to give speeches in universities or the parliament?

Chen: 

Yes, yes, I came here this time to support the demonstration for Hong Kong to fight for freedom, democracy and human rights, to support people who made an effort in all aspects to fight for freedom. Of course this includes the rights defenders in mainland China, human rights lawyers and people who are suppressed by the Chinese Communist Party. People should pay attention to the issue of human rights because human rights are like air, they should be treated as the most basic things, and not just compared with business.

No university speeches so far, but this afternoon we went to the British parliament to meet a delegation of MPs from different parties, the chairmen and vice chairmen of parties, to discuss this [human rights] issue.

對,對,我這次來呢就是要支持香港爭取自由民主人權這樣一個活動,支持朝各個方面爭取自由的人民的努力,當然也包括中國大陸的維權者,維權律師,受到中共打壓的這些人。所以人權問題到目前為止應該引起大家的重視,它像空氣一樣應該作為最基本的東西來對待,而不僅僅是把它和商業對比起來。

大學的演講到目前為止沒有。但是我們今天下午到英國的議會去跟跨黨派的議員團的一把手,二把手主席見面,討論這個事情。

HKFP: How has the human rights situation in China changed since you left more than three years ago?

Chen: 

I don’t think much has changed. The crackdown now covers wider aspects, the way they break the law is even more reckless, more open now. So I think in reality the violation of human rights is worsening. Even though Zhou Yongkang was arrested, [the Communist Party] is still walking the way Zhou walked, using the means Zhou used. From July till now, the outside world in general thinks over 300 people were targeted in the crackdown on human rights defenders, lawyers and their families. But according to what I know, 27 people were arrested in Linyi city alone, and more than 200 were arrested in Shandong province. This means the total number of people persecuted or affected in this crackdown could add up to at least over 2,000 across the country.
我覺得其實沒有什麼變化,打擊的面更廣了,破壞法律更肆無忌憚,公開化了。所以我覺得實際上這種對人權的破壞是在惡化當中。雖然周永康被抓了,但是沒有周永康的時代仍然走的是周永康的道路,用的是周永康的辦法。最近從七月份到現在,外界多數認為是三百多人,人權捍衛者和律師被抓,被騷擾,他們的家人。那實際上根據我的了解呢,光我們臨沂就有二十七個被抓,然後山東超過兩百人被抓。那麼全國加起來的人數至少要超過兩千人在這一撥打壓當中受到株連,迫害等等一系列的。

HKFP: The people who were arrested in Shandong, were they lawyers?

Chen: 

Some were petitioners, some were human rights defenders and some were barefoot lawyers, all kinds. Overall, if you want to express your needs or speak the truth [in mainland China], you will be suppressed.
有的也是訪民,有的也是人權捍衛者,有的也是赤腳律師等各種各樣的情況,總之呢現在只要是表達你的需求,或者說說真話,都會受到這樣的打壓。

HKFP: Were your family in Shandong affected in this crackdown?

Chen: 

Now my family are OK, even though they still get harassed, things are not so serious any more. My nephew Chen Kegui was released from prison on July 29. Over the past more than three years the Chinese Communist Party didn’t shorten his sentence by one day. And the fact that he was only defending himself was never recognised. This is also a kind of extended persecution on me. What’s more, at the beginning some plainclothes officers were always watching [my nephew], then the situation got better, now there’s no big problem.
現在我的家人還好,雖然有騷擾,但是不是那麼嚴重。我的侄子陳克貴七月二十九號剛剛從監獄裏放出來。這三年多呢中共一天的刑也沒有給他減,當然他這種正當防衛也不被中共認可,那麼這也是一種延伸的迫害。而且剛開始的時候他們有一些便衣的特務偷偷地盯著,後來就好一點。現在呢沒有太大的問題。

HKFP: Earlier the Chinese ambassador to Britain, Liu Xiaoming said President Xi Jinping will not shy away from human rights questions, but would not be pleased to be lectured by the UK on human rights. The Chinese government insists it has another set of values and systems on human rights, which is different than the Western one and is based on the unique situation in China. What do you think about that?

Chen: 

I think this is a nonsense theory. Different than the West? Who is the West? Britain and America are different, Britain’s northern and southern parts are different, America’s central, eastern and western parts are all different, every place is different. Using this as an excuse does not make sense. Not only is China different than the West, every place in China is different than another place, then why is all of China using the same unreasonable system? So I think these are all excuses. Of course on China’s human rights issue, if the Communist Party says it doesn’t shy away from it, then come out and have a debate with us! Tell us publicly what you think is right about China’s human rights. Then why did they avoid all requests about [debating] human rights? Earlier when the US released a report about China’s human rights, Chinese ambassador Cui Tiankai said the report was against facts. Then American Congressman [Chris] Smith invited him to testify in Congress and tell us where the report was wrong. Then why didn’t he go? What is this if it isn’t shying away? So I think this excuse is very shameless. The CCP promised me through American negotiators that they would look into the people who persecuted my family, this promise still hasn’t been realised. What is this if it isn’t shying away? What can’t they investigate the facts? So this is what ordinary people call “official language”, it’s a nonsense theory and it’s against the facts.
我覺得這個是一個扯皮的理論。跟西方不一樣?那西方是誰啊?英國跟美國都不一樣,英國的北部跟南部都不一樣,美國的中部,東部,西部都不一樣,每個地方都不一樣。拿這個做藉口顯然是說不通的。中國不但和西方不一樣,中國的每一個地方和另外一個地方也都不一樣。那為什麼就可以都用現在這個不合理的制度呢?所以說我覺得這些都是一些藉口。當然中國的人權問題,你說中共不回避,我們出來對談一下呀!你覺得哪裏對我們可以公開的說一下。那他們為什麼對所有關於人權的要求都一律地回避?前一個階段美國的人權報告出來以後,駐美大使崔天凱也說這個不符合事實,那麼美國國會的議員史密斯先生就邀請他到美國國會去作證,你說說哪一個不是事實,那他為什麼不敢去啊?他不是回避是什麼呀?所以我覺得這是非常無恥的一種說法。中共當年通過美國談判代表團向我表示會對迫害我家人的元兇展開調查,到現在為止它還沒兌現啊。那這個不是回避是什麼?出來調查一下事實不行嗎?所以他們這些是老百姓說的“官話”,是不顧事實胡說八道的說法。

HKFP: Do you think the British government will raise human rights issues with Xi Jinping?

Chen: 

I think it’s possible they will bring it up privately. But this kind of private talk has no real effects, because this means they put CCP’s face first. Questions are there, right in front of them, why talk behind the doors? Right? How would the British people know if they talk behind closed doors? So I think this is a sign of degeneration. Issues concerning social justice, concerning fairness and justice cannot be avoided, they should be put on the table clearly.
我覺得私下地提有可能,但是我覺得這種私下地提沒有什麼實際的效果,因為這樣就把中共的面子放在第一位了。這樣的問題發生了,就擺在面前,還非得關起門來提嗎?對不對?關起門來提英國的百姓怎麼能知道?所以我覺得這也是一種墮落的表現。關於社會公正的問題,關於公平正義的問題是不能有任何的回避的,必須清清楚楚地擺在桌面上。

HKFP: You’re quite active on Western social media such as Twitter and Facebook. You also speak to the media from time to time. However, because of censorship, most people in mainland China are unlikely to hear your messages. Many people may not even know who you are. How do you reach your audience in mainland China and communicate with them effectively?

Chen: 

I think the reality may not be as pessimistic as that. I think many people in China do know. Maybe sometimes they know but they wouldn’t necessarily say they know. According to my knowledge, many people in mainland China use all kinds of means to go on Twitter and Facebook, or even read information on [Western] media. Of course I think even in an open society, not everyone will pay attention to the issue of fairness and justice. You cannot have a hundred percent of the population paying attention to the same issue at any time. So I think China is making progress as long as there are enough people paying attention to justice. In the past few decades the CCP spent more money on maintaining internal stability than on the military every year to try to control the society, control the flow of information and cover people’s eyes and ears. But we can see in the past more than a decade, the CPP cannot do that anymore, many information, even though it tried to block, the world found out. This proves it’s a game of “as virtue rises one foot, vice rises ten.” Of course it’s still difficult for many people to have access to outside information, but we can see more and more people do.
我覺得事實上沒有那麼悲觀。我覺得中國很多民眾還是知道的。可能很多時候他們知道不會非得說我知道。根據我的了解呢,國內還是有很多人可以用各種方法上網來了解Twitter和Facebook甚至一些媒體的信息。當然我想即使是一個開放的社會,它也不是說所有人都關心公平正義的問題。到什麼時候都不可能是百分之百的人關心同一個問題。所以我覺得中國有足夠的人數關心正義的問題,中國就是在進步。這十幾年來實際上中共雖然是每年花維穩經費超過軍費來控制社會的進步發展,控制信息的流動傳播,想被人民的耳朵眼睛給矇起來堵起來,但是我們看到十年多過來這個它已經做不到了,很多信息它盡量地封鎖,但是仍然能夠被世界所知。這就說明這是魔高一尺道高一丈的較量。當然很多老百姓還是不容易了解外面的信息,但是我們也能看到能夠自由地了解外面信息的人是越來越多。

HKFP: But many people in China think the idea of overthrowing the government and the party is too extreme and out of touch with reality. What do you say to those people?

Chen: 

Many people living under the CCP’s claws may not express their true ideas. Sometimes they may hold another opinion to protect their own safety, but this opinion may not reflect what they think. That the CCP is all lies is a concept that even people at the most grassroots level know very clearly. Those who support the CCP are one in a million now. Even the CCP members are full of complaints. In China some things you can say but not do, some things you can do but not say. I understand very much when the Chinese people use another opinion to express themselves in order to protect their own safety. But in general, more and more people dare to speak out.
很多人生活在中共的魔爪之下表達的可能未必是他真正的想法。可能是為了保住自己自身的安全有時候呢持有另外一種看法,但是未必是他內心的想法。關於中共沒有真事這個概念,根據我對國內的認識,我覺得最基層的老百姓都是清清楚楚地認識到這一點。擁護共產黨的人現在是微乎其微,包括現在共產黨自己的一些黨員也都是怨聲載道。有些事是能說不能做,有些事是能做不能說,所以中國的百姓為了自身的安全我是非常地理解他們用另外一種說法來表達自己。但是總的來講,敢於表達的人是越來越多。

HKFP: You and your family moved to the US more than three years ago. You now enjoy the freedom that many of your fellow human rights activists in China cannot enjoy. But at the same time, you have lost the opportunity to see your friends and relatives in China. Do you think you are lucky or unlucky?

Chen: 

I think on the whole I am quite lucky. I didn’t get tortured to death by the CCP like Cao Shunli. I didn’t get tortured to death by the CCP like Li Wangyang. From this perspective I am really very lucky. But we also endured very cruel persecution. From when I was illegally detained at home, then sent to a black jail, then sent to an official jail, then I came home and it was even worse than in jail. I was subjected to even more brutal beatings. The torture lasted for 20 months, me and my family were not allowed to leave home, we were in a state of food deprivation. From this perspective it’s quite painful. This caused my family a lot of harm. But all in all, I escaped with the help of others and I gained true freedom.
我覺得從整個來講我還是挺幸運的,沒有想曹順利一樣被中共直接折磨至死,沒有像李旺陽一樣被他們直接折磨至死。從這一點來講確實是很幸運的。但是相比來講我們也確實是受到來非常殘酷的迫害。從在家受到非法拘禁,然後被送進黑監獄,到被送進真正的監獄,然後回來到家裡比在監獄還慘,這種更加殘酷的毆打,酷刑長達二十個月,以及我整個家人都不能離開家,吃都吃不上的狀態。從這個角度講也是蠻痛苦的,也給我的家人造成很多傷害。但是總的來說,我畢竟有機會在大家的幫助下能夠逃出來,能夠獲得真正的自由。

HKFP: Have you thought about going home to China? Can you imagine what it would be like?

Chen: 

I think the day when I return to China will definitely come. Maybe it’s not now, but it won’t be too far away. Now I think people realise the CCP regime has lost its morale. You see CCP officials are all paving their way of escape by moving their families abroad, by moving their properties abroad. One official can have ten, 20 or more passports. What are they doing? They’re saving a way of retreat and preparing for escape. Why? If you can do whatever you want in an authoritarian regime, why do you want to run to America, Britain and places like Europe? Obviously they don’t have any faith that this regime is going to last long. Many examples like this are happening around us. These officials doesn’t have the slightest confidence in Communism. Rarely anyone will say they believe in these theories and scams. This has gone bankrupt, now they can only use violence and bribes. Why so many people are still playing along with it? Because they can still get some money. So I think the history of the CCP controlling all of the power in China has gone and will never come back.
我覺得我回國這一天是肯定會有的。可能不是現在,但也不會是太久的將來。現在呢我覺得大家都已經認識到中共政權是人心渙散。你看中共內部的官員也都在為自己留後路,就是把自己的家人啊轉到國外,把自己的財產轉到國外。一個官員手裏有十本二十本甚至更多的護照,都是幹什麼?都是為自己留退路,在為逃亡做準備。為什麼?既然在一個專制政權你可以為所欲為,你為什麼要跑到美國,英國,歐洲這些地方來?很顯然是他們對這樣一個政權能夠長久下去不抱任何的信心。有很多這樣的例子就在我們的身邊發生。他們這些官員其實對共產主義萬分之一的信心都不存在了,很少有人說相信共產黨這些理論和欺騙。這個已經破產了,只有用暴力和收買。那為什麼很多現在還跟它混呢?是因為他們還能拿到一點錢。所以我覺得中共控制中國所有權力的歷史已經一去不復返了。

Comments

HKFP Interview: I will come home one day, says exiled Chinese rights activist Chen Guangcheng