Chen receives his award from Fiona Bruce MP and Lord Alton of Liverpool.
Patrick Cusworth is Deputy Chair of Brentford and Isleworth Conservative Association. Follow Patrick on Twitter.
It is not often that one meets a hero – and this was no ordinary hero. Last Monday evening, a packed Grand Committee room rose in applause to greet Chen Guangcheng, the blind Chinese lawyer, who was presented with the inaugural Westminster Award by Fiona Bruce, the MP for Congleton, and the crossbench peer Lord Alton of Liverpool, for his work in promoting human rights, human life and human dignity.
Chen first drew the ire of the Communist authorities in his local province when he used class-action lawsuits to defend farmers in land disputes. This anger turned to outright aggression when, refusing to bow to intimidation, Chen exposed systematic forced abortions and sterilisations carried out under the China’s infamous one-child policy. For this, he was sentenced to four years imprisonment, at the conclusion of which he was placed under house arrest. During this time, both Chen and his wife were subjected to beatings, until his well-documented escape and sanctuary in the U.S embassy, and the subsequent negotiations under which China reluctantly allowed him to live in America.
Speaking through an interpreter, Chen began his acceptance speech by underlining what he sees as the biggest problem not only in China but in the world today, namely the ruling Chinese Communist Party:
“They are a dictatorship, and the nature of this dictatorship is the destruction of human life… they can take your life as well as your property”. This is expressed most viscerally in the one-child policy, which began in 1979 and “since then any respect for life has disappeared completely from China”. Those who dare speak out against the policy, let alone attempt to have a second child, are subject to penalties varying in severity. Those who, for example, “opposed the one-child policy can never get anywhere in their job, no matter how good they are”. Such punitive measures can take more extreme forms, however. “In 2005, in my city alone, there were over 120,000 forced abortions and sterilisations”. In extreme cases, “women who were 8 or 9 months pregnant were dragged through the hospital to have forced abortions performed on them. Their families, friends & even neighbours were dragged from their homes, tortured for days, and forcibly sterilised”.