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I Support Chen Guangcheng. Do you?

May 2nd, 2012 · No Comments · Uncategorized

This week’s post isn’t about a product to buy nor a gift to give. But I felt compelled to write about something that’s been in the news lately.

For the last few days, we’ve been hearing about Chen Guangcheng. All the major news outlets here in the United States refer to him as the “The Blind Activist”, as if he’s some kind of odd character in a book or curiosity to entertain us for 5 minutes on the evening news before we watch our reality TV shows.

Chen Guangcheng is a very real person. Perhaps his story strikes home with me because he’s about my age and he and I share a common ancestry (both my parents were born in China but they both escaped before Mao closed the borders in 1949 and emigrated to the United States).

My parents raised me in a very comfortable upper-middle class home growing up. I grew up enjoying Sesame Street, Sugar Corn Pops, a Buick Station Wagon, the finest medical treatment when I got very sick, a wonderful education, a brother and sister that loved me, two parents that loved me, a church that taught me the love of Christ, and so many other freedoms we enjoy in the United States. I grew up to be an expert at Web development and search engines, and today work for a advertising agency. I have lived the American dream, and not a day goes by that I’m not thankful for it.

Guangcheng? He was born in Eastern China. He went to college in the same town that my mom grew up in. He developed an interest in the law. In 2000, he organized a petition against a paper mill that was dumping toxic chemicals into a river, poisoning his city’s food and wildlife. In 2005, he railed against the brutality of China’s one-child policy, which was being enforced through forced sterilizations and abortions. That drew the ire of the local officials in his town, who arrested him and convicted him in a kangaroo court. He and his wife were subjected to repeated harassment and beatings. He was separated from his family. The Chinese government has tried its best to silence him, even going so far as to censor words like “blind man” from the Internet.

Even though the same blood courses through our veins, he and I have led very different lives. And one word separates him and me: freedom.

A few days ago, Guangcheng escaped from his house arrest and made his way all the way to Beijing where he sought asylum in the US Embassy. What happened next was absolutely unbelievable. The US Embassy, having been “assured” that Chen would be allowed to live a free life by the Chinese government, turned him back to China.

I don’t like to get into politics, especially not on this blog. But I cannot believe how incredibly bone-headed a move this was on our diplomats’ part. It reminds me of the old Native American story of the boy who saw a talking snake who asked him to pick him up and carry him to his home. When the boy did it, he was immediately bitten by the snake. When the dying boy asked why the snake did it, the snack said “You knew what I was when you picked me up”.

The moment I heard that the State Department had “struck a deal”, I wanted to shout at them. What the heck do you think you’re doing?

It’s the same with China. My mother told me stories of how brutal the Mao regime was during the cultural revolution of the 1960s, when anyone who had a university education or was religious was persecuted and in many cases executed. I heard accounts from members of my church of being singled out, beaten, and even having their eyes burned out because they refused to give up their Bibles.

When my sister and I went to China in 1999, one incident will forever live in my memory. We were in Tiananmen Square, when all of a sudden we saw a bunch of old woman assemble and start unfurling a Falun Gong banner. Within seconds, a police truck drove by, several uniformed men got out and led the women into the truck and they whisked away, probably never to be seen by anyone again. There are reports that these people end up imprisoned, and after they die their organs are harvested and used to transplant into others.

What shocked me that day the most were the faces of the people in the square. Not one person blinked. They just went about doing their business. Entire generations have been lulled into believing that mindless adherence to the government is the norm, and that any kind of free thought is to be marginalized and seen as an anomaly. I’m reading a book called In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin, which I think should be required reading of all young people in the United States. It describes how “local officials” in Hitler’s Germany controlled their local areas through intimidation, marginalization of “troublemakers”, and brutality, and how local citizens grew oblivious to it–even to the point where ovens stood only blocks away from where they lived and worked and played and they looked the other way.

The United States used to stand for freedom, and liberty, and justice. But today, as long as we can get cheap iPads and cheap Polo shirts that are made in China, well, we’ll be quiet. Plus, China holds $1.1 trillion of our debt, and since our government needs more money to keep spending, we’d best not tick our creditors off.

After all, it can’t really be all as bad as they say, right? Those 2008 Olympics looked pretty nice. If it were that bad, we’d hear something about it, right?

Voices like Mr. Chen’s are crying out. Most have been silenced. Who knows how long Mr. Chen’s will go on before it too is silenced.

What can you and I do? Well, the first thing is to get educated about the real nature of the Chinese government. This is something I wish the State Department had read before they so foolishly cast Mr. Chen back to the wolves.

Second, check your labels. If it says “Made in China” (which seems to be about 99% of the stuff these days), see if you can find an alternative. Until China really is free.

Third, call your Senators and Congresspersons. They have plenty of lobbyists and corporations knocking on their door because they want “in” on China’s “market” of 1.3 billion people. What these companies don’t realize is that the free market of China is not free.

Fourth, consider supporting organizations like China Aid which provides a voice for the persecuted.

Fifth, if you are a praying person, pray for the safety of Mr. Chen and so many others who are being persecuted for standing up for what’s right. And give thanks that you live in a country where you’re allowed to say–and read–things like this.

In my next post, I’ll go back to writing about gifts and cool stuff. But for now, I hope you’ll pardon me while I let this off my chest. Thanks for reading.


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