Who is Chen Guangcheng?

Chen Guangcheng is a self-taught lawyer whose work exposing forced abortions and sterilizations in Shangdong Province put him at the center of a US-China diplomatic crisis.

Supporters of Chen Guangcheng/AP
Blind activist Chen Guangcheng in a village in China.

The story of Chen Guangcheng is the stuff of which movies are made.

His daring escape from illegal house arrest in rural China took him over a wall, and apparently through a pigsty, some 300 miles from rural Shandong Province to the US Embassy in Beijing, where he was sheltered for six days.

It also created a diplomatic crisis ahead of the US Secretary of State's visit to Beijing.

So who is he?

Mr. Chen has been blind since his youth, and because of that he was illiterate until his 20s, when he enrolled in school. The 40-something father of two has been described as stubborn, idealistic, and unafraid, and he's no stranger to clashes with the local government.

He first started petitioning Chinese authorities in the 1990s to fight a wrongful tax case against disabled people. In 2000, the self-taught lawyer helped shut down a paper factory near his home in Dongshigu, southeast of Beijing, that was poisoning the water supply.

He's best known among international activists for confronting local government officials in Shandong for breaking the law by using forced abortion and sterilization to enforce China's one-child policy.

Originally, Chen was to stay in China and continue to bring attention to human rights issues there. But now fearing for his family's safety, he says he wants to leave China. 

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