Chen Guangcheng was born in 1971 in the village of Dongshigu, China. The son of a poor farmer, Chen was left permanently blind by illness as an infant, and his family had few resources to support him. But despite his disability, he was determined to educate himself, eventually learning to read and write at age 18 when he began attending a school for the blind. He would be the first person in his family to earn a college degree.
Over time, with the help of his close family, he taught himself law and got involved in legal cases related to issues of civil rights and disability. His successful lawsuit against the Beijing Metro Corporation resulted in free ridership for the blind across China. He began to glean notice from the international media, eventually earning him the title, “barefoot lawyer.”
Living at home in his village, his legal work eventually lead to his investigation into the violent campaign carried out by the authorities to enforce the so-called One Child Policy. He came under notice by the authorities, which led to a period of harassment and detention that would last over seven years, including repeated house arrests, black jails, and a four-year prison sentence. After nearly two years of brutal detention in his own home, he escaped his village, later seeking safety at the American embassy in Beijing. High-level diplomatic negotiations secured his travel to the US, where he became a student at NYU Law School. Mr. Chen’s memoir, The Barefoot Lawyer, was released by Henry Holt Publishers on March 10, 2015.
The free Salon Reading with Chen Guangcheng will be held on Tuesday, December 1, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm at City of Asylum, located at 330 Sampsonia Way. A reception will begin at 7:00 pm. The reading, talk, and Q&A will take place at 7:30 pm, followed by dessert and informal discussion at 8:30 pm.