NEW YORK, June 20, 2012 ( – An American activist against forced abortion who has toiled nonstop to help blind Chinese lawyer Chen Guangcheng escape the hands of his torturers, described her emotional, first-ever meeting with him this weekend, a surreal encounter she says she could hardly believe was happening.

Reggie Littlejohn of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers (WRWF) said she felt “inexpressible joy” in her Saturday meeting with Chen with wife Yuan Weijing and said, “This was the most emotional meeting I’ve had in my life.”

“I can’t express how it felt being so close to Chen and Yuan, after years of advocating tirelessly for their release, feeling anguish every time I received fresh word of torture, malnutrition, illness and lack of medical treatment, while he and his family languished, sometimes near death, on the other side of the earth,” said Littlejohn in an email to supporters.


“I never thought I would actually meet them.”

Littlejohn, a petite woman with short-cropped hair and a powerful presence, was once described as “remarkably buoyant” by Washington Post writer Kathleen Parker. Parker wrote that Littlejohn had told her that “action” “is her way of coping with the unconscionable.” Littlejohn, a graduate of Yale Law, gave up her law practice in San Francisco to pursue the work of ending forced abortion in China full-time – a thankless job that meant little money and less rest.

Chen’s fate was uncertain for several days after he escaped oppression by Chinese officials in Dongshigu village in April, only to leave his refuge at the U.S. Embassy under force of threats aimed at his family. But amidst considerable international pressure on China, Chen and his wife and two small children were cleared to leave the country last month, and flew to the United States to accept a fellowship at the New York University School of Law.

“The cumulative strain of every sleepless night, every jetlagged day, all the weeks, months and years on the road away from home raising the visibility of their case melted away when I sat next to Chen and Yuan, free at last in New York City,” Littlejohn said.

Littlejohn says the blind lawyer, speaking in Chinese with his wife interpreting, thanked Littlejohn for all her work. The activist says they “were all misty-eyed” when she showed Chen and his wife the video that helped spread his story across the globe. She also showed them the 500 portraits of those who participated in a sunglasses campaign in support of him.


Yet despite all of Littlejohn’s work thus far – she has testified on Chen’s behalf before U.S. Congress, the White House, British officials, and the Vatican, in addition to being interviewed countless times on major news networks – the blind lawyer made one request Littlejohn wasn’t sure she could handle.

“Chen made one request of me.  He wants me to learn Chinese so that we can communicate unimpeded,” said Littlejohn.

“I said I didn’t know if I could learn Chinese – it’s such a hard language, with its difficult tones.  He said, ‘If I can escape from Donshigu Village, you can learn Mandarin.’ 

“He’s got a point, and I promised him I would learn it.”