Chen Guangcheng has become the first person to be presented with a ‘Westminster Award’ of Human Rights, Human Life and Human Dignity. The blind Chinese anti-abortion activist has been described as a ‘barefoot lawyer’ in his consistent battle to expose the abuses in family planning systems related to China’s one child policy.
Chen Guangcheng, who recently escaped house arrest in China and sought asylum in the US embassy after suffering years of persecution and torture at the hands of the Chinese authorities, has been hailed as one of the Chinese government’s most outspoken critics. Guangcheng is calling for pressure to be put onto the Chinese government to stop their ‘barbaric’ practises in forced abortion and the compulsory sterilisation of women. The Chinese government claims that 13 million abortions (1438 every hour) are carried out each year in an attempt to curb the ever increasing population in China and to adhere to its one child policy – but Guangcheng claims the number is much greater, and that women are being forced to have abortions at the stage of 8 months into their pregnancies.
Lord Alton of Liverpool, present at the award ceremony that took place on the 20th May, has said ‘China’s one child policy caused more violence against women and girls than any other policy on earth – than any other official policy in the history of the world’. The award was presented to Guangcheng by Fiona Bruce MP, the Vice Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Pro Life Group, and Chris Whitehouse, trustee of the Right to Life Charitable Trust. Fiona praised Guangcheng, emphasising how ‘Chen Guangcheng’s fight for the respect of life from its earliest moments – at great personal cost to himself – stands out as a beacon of bravery across the world’. Chris Whitehouse further added, ‘in saluting Chen’s truly remarkable courage we call on the Chinese authorities to cease their cowardly bullying of his innocent family and friends’.
Certainly the ‘cowardly bullying’ of Guangcheng can be seen as an attempt by the Chinese authorities to silence the outspoken governmental critic. Guangcheng is today delivering a list of 44 senior Chinese officials he accuses of human rights abuses against himself and his family, fellow activists, or any who have forced abortion upon females. It is hoped the British government will take action against these officials, in order to prevent the barbaric practises of forced sterilisation and forced abortion that are inflicted upon Chinese women daily.
Chen Guangcheng’s campaigning work is currently supported by China Aid. Guangcheng also received a cheque from Right to Life when receiving his Westminster Award. It is hoped the Westminster Award will inspire those who bravely risk their lives and dedicate themselves towards the protection of human rights. Furthermore, the British government are being increasingly called upon to take action in regards to China’s one child policy, and it is truly remarkable that a blind Chinese man has fought against his own country, forcing him into exile, to not only raise this issue of awareness to the Western world, but to protect the women of China.