Michael Cook

Barefoot and blind: how one Chinese peasant exposed China’s abuses to the whole world

Michael Cook
By Michael Cook
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Click “like” to join a Facebook page in support of Chen!

May 2, 2012 (MercatorNet.com) A blind Chinese peasant has given the whole world a lesson in the power of one. Chen Guangcheng became one of China’s best-known civil rights activists after defending women in his province who had forced abortions under the one-child policy.

Now, after a dramatic escape from house arrest, he appears to have taken refuge in the US embassy in Beijing. His flight is perfectly timed to coincide with weighty discussions between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and their Chinese counterparts.

No doubt “barefoot lawyer” Chen realises that he has put both governments in a cleft stick. He has exposed one of China’s most hideous human rights abuses and he has challenged the Obama administration to truly make human rights – in the President’s words—“a core national security interest and core moral responsibility.”

Chen may be blind; he may be poorly educated; he may be a peasant – but he has outsmarted the world’s two most powerful governments. Neither of them wanted the one-child policy exposed to the glare of the world media. But now it is being discussed around the globe.

Forty-year-old Chen is a man of remarkable courage and intelligence. Blind almost from birth, he was raised on classic tales of courageous heroes fighting corrupt officials. He came from a poor family and only began school when he was 17. 

In 1996 he began to lobby for rights for the disabled in Shandong Province, about 500 kilometres south of Beijing. He was so successful as a “barefoot lawyer” that local people took their grievances to him. He gained a national reputation by leading protests against illegal taxes, polluters, and discrimination against the disabled.

Click “like” to join a Facebook page in support of Chen!

Local officials had already started harassing him when he launched a protest against illegal implementation of the one-child policy. He documented abuses and worked with victims and lawyers to organise a class-action suit against family planning officials in 2005. This failed, but his reputation grew.

Then local officials revenged themselves. They charged him with “wilfully damaging public property and organising a mob to disturb traffic”. In 2006 he was sentenced to jail for four years.

In 2010 Chen was released but, together with his wife and son, he remained under illegal and sometimes brutal house arrest. Making his guards look like a bunch of Keystone Cops, Chen escaped on the night of April 22. Supporters drove him to Beijing.

From his hiding place Chen has released a YouTube appeal to Premier Wen Jiabao asking that officials who attacked his family be prosecuted and that the government prosecute corruption cases according to the law. Appealing to the law may seem quixotic, but if the draconian family planning laws had just been obeyed to the letter, women would have been spared some of the horror of forced abortions and sterilizations.

Horror is not too strong a word. Activist Annie Jing Zhang, of Women’s Rights in China, told a US Congressional hearing in 2009 that some towns display slogans like “Pregnancy with permit”, “When you are required by policy to get abortion, but if you don’t, your house will be destroyed, your buffalo will be confiscated”, “Abort it, kill it, terminate it.  You just cannot give birth to it” or “We would rather to have blood flow like a river than to allow one extra baby to be born”.

Chen ends his YouTube appeal by saying:

“Premier Wen, many people don’t understand these illegal actions. Is it the local Party officials who are disobeying the laws, or do they have the support of the central government? I think that in the near future, you must give the public a clear answer. If we have a thorough investigation and tell the truth to the public, the results will be self-evident. If you continue to ignore this, what will the public think?”

Chen’s audacious ploy discomfits the US as well. Although President Obama recently set up an Atrocities Prevention Board, his administration has been reluctant to question the notorious one-child policy of its biggest trading partner. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters in 2009 that human rights shouldn’t interfere with practical concerns:

“Successive administrations and Chinese governments have been poised back and forth on these issues, and we have to continue to press them. But our pressing on those issues can’t interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis, and the security crisis.”

And Vice-President Joe Biden gave a speech at Sichuan University last year in which he spoke so diplomatically about the one-child policy that he seemed to be endorsing it: “Your policy has been one which I fully understand—I’m not second-guessing—of one child per family”.

Now it’s time for the Obama Administration to show some courage of its own in standing up for Chen and his family. Essentially his demands are modest. All he wants is the protection of Chinese law. Even his activism against the one-child policy has been focused on getting officials to observe the informed consent enshrined in the law, not to overturn it.

Besides, it is possible that reformers in the upper echelons of the Communist Party like Wen Jiabao actually welcome Chen’s move. The hardline chief of security, Zhou Yongkang, who orchestrated the persecution of Chen, has already been rattled by the purging of party princeling Bo Xilai. Sympathy for Chen weakens his own position.

In any case, it is becoming increasingly clear that the one-child has been a disaster for China, as The Economist recently pointed out. China’s burden of elderly is growing, and the proportion of younger tax-payers is shrinking. Already there are labour shortages. Notwithstanding its current strength, China is a country which will grow old before it grows rich. Chen is a reminder not only of his government’s brutality but its folly in defying the laws of economic growth.

Chen Guangcheng’s fate now depends upon negotiations between two governments who both wish that he would step under a truck. But there is a way to support him. Nominate him for the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Population Award “outstanding contributions to increasing the awareness of population questions”.

In the past the prize has been given to odious family planning apparatchiks and to dictators like Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Indonesian President Suharto. Its inaugural recipients, in 1983, were Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, after her notorious campaign for forced sterilization in the 1970s, and Qian Xinzhong, an architect of China’s one-child policy. 

An avalanche of nominations for Chen Guangcheng would show that the world has finally repudiated one of the most despicable, senseless violations of human rights ever implemented by a government against its own people. Click on this link to download an official nomination form.

Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet. This article first appeared on MercatorNet and is reprinted under a Creative Commons license.


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Quebec groups launch court challenge to euthanasia bill

LifeSiteNews staff
By LifeSiteNews staff

As announced when the Quebec legislature adopted Bill 52, An Act respecting end-of-life care, the citizen movement Living with Dignity and the Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia, representing together over 650 physicians and 17,000 citizens, filed a lawsuit before the Superior Court of Quebec in the District of Montreal on Thursday.

The lawsuit requests that the Court declare invalid all the provisions of the Act that deal with “medical aid in dying”, a term the groups say is a euphemism for euthanasia. This Act not only allows certain patients to demand that a physician provoke their death, but also grants physicians the right to cause the death of these patients by the administration of a lethal substance.

The two organizations are challenging the constitutionality of those provisions in the Act which are aimed at decriminalizing euthanasia under the euphemism “medical aid in dying”. Euthanasia constitutes a culpable homicide under Canada’s Criminal Code, and the organizations maintain that it is at the core of the exclusive federal legislative power in relation to criminal law and Quebec therefore does not have the power to adopt these provisions.

The organizations also say the impugned provisions unjustifiably infringe the rights to life and to security of patients guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. They further infringe the right to the safeguard of the dignity of the person, which is also protected by the Quebec Charter.

In view of the gravity of the situation and the urgent need to protect all vulnerable persons in Quebec, they are requesting an accelerated management of the case in order to obtain a judgment before the Act is expected to come into force on December 10, 2015.


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Colorado baker appeals gvmt ‘re-education’ order

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By LifeSiteNews staff

A Colorado cake artist who declined to use his creative talents to promote and endorse a same-sex ceremony appealed a May 30 order from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to the Colorado Court of Appeals Wednesday.

The commission’s order requires cake artist Jack Phillips and his staff at Masterpiece Cakeshop to create cakes for same-sex celebrations, forces him to re-educate his staff that Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act means that artists must endorse all views, compels him to implement new policies to comply with the commission’s order, and requires him to file quarterly “compliance” reports for two years. The reports must include the number of patrons declined a wedding cake or any other product and state the reason for doing so to ensure he has fully eliminated his religious beliefs from his business.

“Americans should not be forced by the government – or by another citizen – to endorse or promote ideas with which they disagree,” said the cake artist’s lead counsel Nicolle Martin, an attorney allied with Alliance Defending Freedom. “This is not about the people who asked for a cake; it’s about the message the cake communicates. Just as Jack doesn’t create baked works of art for other events with which he disagrees, he doesn’t create cake art for same-sex ceremonies regardless of who walks in the door to place the order.”

“In America, we don’t force artists to create expression that is contrary to their convictions,” added Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “A paint artist who identifies as homosexual shouldn’t be intimidated into creating a painting that celebrates one-man, one-woman marriage. A pro-life photographer shouldn’t be forced to work a pro-abortion rally. And Christian cake artists shouldn’t be punished for declining to participate in a same-sex ceremony or promote its message.”

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In July 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins asked Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, to make a wedding cake to celebrate their same-sex ceremony. In an exchange lasting about 30 seconds, Phillips politely declined, explaining that he would gladly make them any other type of baked item they wanted but that he could not make a cake promoting a same-sex ceremony because of his faith. Craig and Mullins, now represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, immediately left the shop and later filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division. The case now goes to the Colorado Court of Appeals as Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Craig.

“Jack, and other cake artists like him – such as those seen on TV shows like ‘Ace of Cakes’ and ‘Cake Boss’ – prepare unique creations that are inherently expressive,” Tedesco explained. “Jack invests many hours in the wedding cake creative process, which includes meeting the clients, designing and sketching the cake, and then baking, sculpting, and decorating it. The ACLU calls Jack a mere ‘retail service provider,’ but, in fact, he is an artist who uses his talents and abilities to create expression that the First Amendment fully protects."

Celebrity cake artists have written publicly about their art and the significant expressive work that goes into the artistic design process for wedding cakes.


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Prisoner of conscience Mary Wagner appeals her conviction

Tony Gosgnach
By Tony Gosgnach

TORONTO -- As promised, Mary Wagner has, through her counsel Dr. Charles Lugosi, filed a formal notice of appeal on numerous points regarding her recent, almost two-year-long court case that ended on June 12.

Justice Fergus O’Donnell of the Ontario Court of Justice rejected every application made by the defence – including for access to abortion center records, public funding, standing for a constitutional challenge and for expert witnesses to be heard – before he found Wagner guilty and sentenced her to five months in jail on a charge of mischief and four months on four counts of failing to comply with probation orders.

He further levied two years of probation, with terms that she stay at least 100 metres away from any abortion site. However, because Wagner had spent a greater time in jail than the sentence, she was freed immediately. She had been arrested at the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site on Lawrence Avenue West in Toronto on August 15, 2012 after attempting to speak to abortion-bound women there. She then spent the duration of the trial in prison for refusing to sign bail conditions requiring her to stay away from abortion sites.

Wagner is using the matter as a test case to challenge the current definition of a human being in Canadian law – that is, that a human being is legally recognized as such only after he or she has fully emerged from the birth canal in a breathing state.

Wagner’s notice states the appeal is regarding:

  • Her conviction and sentence on a single count of mischief (interference with property),
  • Her conviction and sentence on four counts of breach of probation,
  • The order denying public funding,
  • The order denying the disclosure of third-party records,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts on the applicant’s constitutional challenge concerning the constitutional validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts concerning the construction of Section 37 of the Criminal Code,
  • The probation order denying Wagner her constitutional rights to freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion on all public sidewalks and public areas within 100 metres of places where abortions are committed,
  • And each conviction and sentence and all orders and rulings made by O’Donnell.

In the notice of appeal, Lugosi cites numerous points on which O’Donnell erred:

  • He denied Wagner her constitutional right to make full answer and defence.
  • He denied Wagner her right to rely on Section 37 of the Criminal Code, which permits “everyone” to come to the third-party defence and rescue of any human being (in this case, the preborn) facing imminent assault.
  • He decided the factual basis of Wagner’s constitutional arguments was a waste of the court’s time and that no purpose would have been served by having an evidentiary hearing on her Charter application because, in the current state of Canadian law, it had no possibility of success.
  • He misapplied case law and prejudged the case, “giving rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias and impeding the legal evolution of the law to adapt to new circumstances, knowledge and changed societal values and morals.”
  • He accepted the Crown’s submission that it is beyond the jurisdiction of the courts to question the jurisdiction of Parliament legally to define “human being” in any manner Parliament sees fit.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code is not beyond the powers of Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code does not violate the Preamble to, as well as Sections 7, 11(d), 15 and 26, of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • He denied Wagner standing to raise a constitutional challenge to the validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code.
  • He ruled that Section 223 of the Criminal Code applied generally throughout the entire Criminal Code and used it to deny unborn human beings the benefit of equal protection as born human beings under Section 37 of the Criminal Code.
  • He denied the production and disclosure of third-party records in the possession of the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site, although the records were required to prove Wagner was justified in using reasonable force in the form of oral and written words to try to persuade pregnant mothers from killing their unborn children by abortion.
  • He denied Wagner the defence of Section 37 of the Criminal Code by ruling unborn children did not come within the scope of human beings eligible to be protected by a third party.
  • He ruled Wagner did not come within the scope of Section 37 because she was found to be non-violent (in that she did not use physical force).
  • He ruled the unborn children Wagner was trying to rescue were not under her protection.
  • He denied Wagner the common-law defences of necessity and the rescue of third parties in need of protection.
  • He denied Wagner public funding to make full answer and defence for a constitutional test case of great public importance and national significance.
  • He imposed an unconstitutional sentence upon Wagner by, in effect, imposing an injunction as a condition of probation, contrary to her constitutional rights of free speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.

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Among the orders Lugosi is seeking are:

  • That an appeal be allowed against conviction on all counts and that a verdict of acquittal be entered on all counts,
  • That Section 223 of the Criminal Code be found unconstitutional  and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, as well as the unwritten constitution of Canada,
  • That the sentence be declared unconstitutional and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and the unwritten constitution of Canada or that a new trial be conducted, with Wagner permitted to make full answer and defence, be given standing to make a constitutional attack on Section 223 of the Criminal Code, with the admission of expert witnesses,
  • That the Women’s Care Clinic abortion site be made to produce third-party records pertaining to patients seen on August 15, 2012 (when Wagner entered the site),
  • And that there be public funding for two defence counsels at any retrial and for any appeal related to the case.

No date has yet been established for a decision on the appeal or hearings.

A defence fund for Wagner’s case is still raising money. Details on how to contribute to it can be found here.


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