Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng has not been in the United States long, but he's making the most of his time here by writing an op-ed essay that The New York Times has published in both English and Chinese.
The essay itself — titled "How China Flouts Its Laws" — contains the usual recounting of China's problems with the rule of law, with Chen's own story serving as a primary example. He includes a brief recounting of his ordeal of false prosecution and illegal house arrest, as well as the harsh treatment suffered by his family members; including a nephew who is now charged with murder after stabbing three plain-closed security "thugs" who broke into his house.
The thrust of the essay, however, is Chen's chief complaint that "China does not lack laws, but the rule of law." He points out that the country does have hard-won legal restrictions against "arbitrary detention, arrest and prosecution," but that they are openly flouted by government officials who offer no real protection to citizens. This should not be news to anyone who has followed the Chen story, but it's an important distinction to make when discussing China's human rights record and the tragedy of those forced to live under its arbitrary and abusive government.
The most interesting part of the story is not the essay itself, but that the Times chose to publish it both in English and in its original Chinese version. Chen's move to America and his freedom to publish in such a widely read forum is as much a rebuke to the Chinese government, as it is a message to the paper's American readers. Online censorship will still make it difficult to spread among the people of China, but the symbolism of the choice makes for a powerful statement.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.