Having contributed several essays on the development of China's judiciary to the FAR EASTERN ECONOMIC REVIEW over the last five years, it is sobering to look back on the fate of those individuals whose plight we discussed. The sufferings of these activists tell us much about the lack of progress to establish the rule of law.
Chen Guangcheng - This blind lay advocate's only ambition had been to help the weakest and neediest among his fellow rural residents to protect themselves against extortion and cruelty. A dirt-poor farmer's child, he campaigned to expose massive official abuses against the families of women who fled forced abortion and sterilization and against those who resisted unlawful "taxes." These activities incurred the wrath of local government and, it became increasingly clear, the central authorities (see Jerome Cohen's November 2005 essay for the review, "China Trips Up Its Barefoot Lawyers").
Just prior to his arrest, Mr. Chen participated in an online fasting campaign for human rights initiated by fellow activists Hu Jia, Gao Zhisheng and others, writing that he did this "to oppose thuggish behavior toward human rights defenders" and "to protect the dignity of the law and resist the brutality of local government."