AFP: Chinese activist Chen meets Bush, urges pressure

(AFP) – 1 day ago

WASHINGTON — Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng, the center of a diplomatic crisis a year ago, on Wednesday met former US president George W. Bush and urged pressure on Beijing to improve human rights.

Chen, a blind self-taught lawyer who dramatically escaped house arrest and later was allowed to head to New York to study, said that he met Bush and his wife Laura at the former US leader’s institute in Texas.

Speaking afterward at a webcast forum of the George W. Bush Institute’s Freedom Collection, Chen said the United States should consider human rights a “foundation of diplomacy and not just part of diplomacy.”

“I think the United States should stand firm on the principle of human rights and not compromise for the sake of business relationships,” Chen said.

But Chen said he was not hopeful for changes under China’s newly installed president, Xi Jinping, as he had already been part of the leadership.

“For China to truly change, there must be a grassroots movement about the rule of law and understanding democracy. It’s not to expect one savior-leader to change China,” Chen said.

Chen, 41, angered authorities in eastern Shandong province by documenting abuses in the one-child-only policy that led to forced abortions or sterilizations of up to 7,000 women.

Chen served more than four years in prison. After his release in September 2010, he was put under house arrest where he said thugs frequently beat him and his wife in an unsuccessful attempt to silence him.

He escaped in the dead of night in April last year, scaling walls and injuring himself as he fled to the safety of the US embassy in Beijing on the eve of a visit by then secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

After protracted negotiations, China allowed Chen to go to the United States with his family to study law at New York University.

Chen says that he is only studying overseas, but he is widely expected to face problems if he tries to return to China. Chen has complained that Chinese authorities have targeted his nephew after Chen went to New York.

Bush, who left office in 2009 with low approval ratings, makes few public appearances. His Freedom Collection project aims to serve as an archive of materials in “the struggle for human freedom and democracy around the world.”

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