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Blind Lawyer Activist Fled China for U.S. After Two Years of House Arrest

January 30, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
Chen Guangcheng, a blind lawyer and activist, spent two years under house arrest in China before escaping and finding refuge at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. He was eventually granted a visa to travel to the United States to study. Ray Suarez reports on Chen's journey and recent honor of receiving a human rights award.
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JEFFREY BROWN: And finally tonight: a Chinese activist who captured much of the world’s attention while fleeing the country to the United States last year.

Ray Suarez has our story.

RAY SUAREZ: It’s been nine months since Chen Guangcheng put a very public face on the struggle for human rights in China.

The blind lawyer had spent two years under house arrest for denouncing forced abortions and advocating basic rights. Then, last April, he escaped from confinement in his rural village and sought refuge at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, where he stayed for six days. The incident put Chen in the world spotlight and strained diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China.

The 41-year-old dissident said Chinese authorities even threatened his wife and family. But, ultimately, the communist government gave him a visa to come to the U.S. and study at New York University.

CHEN GUANGCHENG, Chinese Activist: I am very grateful for the assistance of the American Embassy and also for receiving a promise from the Chinese government for protection of my rights as a citizen over the long term.

RAY SUAREZ: Yesterday, Chen was honored with a human rights award in Washington. I spoke with him earlier today.