Did the students in Tiananmen Square act in vein? Commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests, renowned human rights activist Chen Guangcheng joined AEI’s Arthur Brooks for a revealing discussion on the evolution of free society in China. Brooks asserted that annual events marking the anniversary, and the fact that activists like Chen carry on the students’ cause, reveal that the spark lit in 1989 still burns.
Delivering public remarks for the first time in English, Chen showed his determination to share the hope and tragedy that has defined the quest for human rights in China. Chen noted that ending rampant corruption and profiteering among government officials should be the goal of not only the Chinese people but also of reformers worldwide. According to Chen, “A corrupt regime is a threat to us all, and not just economically and militarily. It is a threat to our very human culture, our human civilization, and our universal human values.”
In the ensuing dialogue, Chen and Brooks discussed the one-child policy, specifically how Chinese authorities use the profits of economic growth to suppress their people, and how average citizens can help break down the “great firewall” of China. Brooks closed the event by noting that “expanding human liberty is the only way to give the most people the best life.” He likewise warned that Tiananmen could be repeated unless we all remember our moral responsibilities as human beings.
Twenty-five years after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, the democratic aspirations of student protesters in China are no closer to fruition, remaining firmly at odds with the new “China dream” espoused by President Xi Jinping. The recent arrest of prominent human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, whose clients included artist Ai Weiwei, is only the latest indicator of the increasingly inhospitable environment in which China’s dissidents find themselves.
On the eve of the massacre’s 25th anniversary, AEI will welcome prominent activist Chen Guangcheng, a self-taught lawyer and champion of victims of the one-child policy. In a conversation with AEI President Arthur Brooks, Chen will describe the human rights situation in China; speak to the evolution of free society, rule of law, and democracy; and discuss ways to enhance public understanding of the moral foundation of free societies.
Arthur C. Brooks, AEI
Chen Guangcheng, Witherspoon Institute
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Arthur C. Brooks is the president of AEI and the Beth and Ravenel Curry Scholar in Free Enterprise. Until January 1, 2009, he was the Louis A. Bantle Professor of Business and Government Policy at Syracuse University. He is the author of 10 books and many articles on topics ranging from the economics of the arts to applied mathematics. His books include “The Road to Freedom: How to Win the Fight for Free Enterprise” (Basic Books, 2012), “Social Entrepreneurship” (Prentice Hall, 2008), and “Who Really Cares” (Basic Books, 2006). Before pursuing his work in public policy, Brooks spent 12 years as a professional French hornist with the City Orchestra of Barcelona and other ensembles.
Chen Guangcheng is a distinguished senior fellow in human rights at the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution. He also is a professor at the Catholic University of America and a senior distinguished adviser to the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice. Self-taught in law, Chen has been a persistent voice for freedom, human dignity, and the rule of law in China. His activism on behalf of the disabled and victims of the Chinese government’s violent enforcement of its one-child policy resulted in his house arrest until his escape in 2012, whereupon he came to the United States.