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The Barefoot Lawyer: A Blind Man's Fight for Justice and Freedom in China

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An electrifying memoir by the blind Chinese activist who inspired millions with the story of his fight for justice and his belief in the cause of freedom It was like a scene out of a thriller: one morning in April 2012, China's most famous political activist—a blind, self-taught lawyer—climbed over the wall of his heavily guarded home and escaped. Days later, he turned up a An electrifying memoir by the blind Chinese activist who inspired millions with the story of his fight for justice and his belief in the cause of freedom It was like a scene out of a thriller: one morning in April 2012, China's most famous political activist—a blind, self-taught lawyer—climbed over the wall of his heavily guarded home and escaped. Days later, he turned up at the American embassy in Beijing, and only a furious round of high-level negotiations made it possible for him to leave China and begin a new life in the United States. Chen Guangcheng is a unique figure on the world stage, but his story is even more remarkable than anyone knew. The son of a poor farmer in rural China, blinded by illness when he was an infant, Chen was fortunate to survive a difficult childhood. But despite his disability, he was determined to educate himself and fight for the rights of his country's poor, especially a legion of women who had endured forced sterilizations and abortions under the hated "one child" policy. Repeatedly harassed, beaten, and imprisoned by Chinese authorities, Chen was ultimately placed under house arrest. After nearly two years of increasing danger, he evaded his captors and fled to freedom. Both a riveting memoir and a revealing portrait of modern China, The Barefoot Lawyer tells the story of a man who has never accepted limits and always believed in the power of the human spirit to overcome any obstacle.


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An electrifying memoir by the blind Chinese activist who inspired millions with the story of his fight for justice and his belief in the cause of freedom It was like a scene out of a thriller: one morning in April 2012, China's most famous political activist—a blind, self-taught lawyer—climbed over the wall of his heavily guarded home and escaped. Days later, he turned up a An electrifying memoir by the blind Chinese activist who inspired millions with the story of his fight for justice and his belief in the cause of freedom It was like a scene out of a thriller: one morning in April 2012, China's most famous political activist—a blind, self-taught lawyer—climbed over the wall of his heavily guarded home and escaped. Days later, he turned up at the American embassy in Beijing, and only a furious round of high-level negotiations made it possible for him to leave China and begin a new life in the United States. Chen Guangcheng is a unique figure on the world stage, but his story is even more remarkable than anyone knew. The son of a poor farmer in rural China, blinded by illness when he was an infant, Chen was fortunate to survive a difficult childhood. But despite his disability, he was determined to educate himself and fight for the rights of his country's poor, especially a legion of women who had endured forced sterilizations and abortions under the hated "one child" policy. Repeatedly harassed, beaten, and imprisoned by Chinese authorities, Chen was ultimately placed under house arrest. After nearly two years of increasing danger, he evaded his captors and fled to freedom. Both a riveting memoir and a revealing portrait of modern China, The Barefoot Lawyer tells the story of a man who has never accepted limits and always believed in the power of the human spirit to overcome any obstacle.

30 review for The Barefoot Lawyer: A Blind Man's Fight for Justice and Freedom in China

  1. 5 out of 5

    Horace Derwent

    盲人律師 不屈的人權鬥士 陳光誠 in 2012, an e-pal told me that when christian bale tried to visit chen during his participating in shooting of 金陵十三钗 The Flower of War (2011), bale got beaten by some ruffians hired by the local authority which took chen in custody within his home and bale said "why can't i just meet a free citizen?" i wasn't sure if it was real, but i guessed, just a guess, it was real but those motherfuckers eating loads of shit and fucking pigs every mortal day are which i'm so damn sure of (to be 盲人律師 不屈的人權鬥士 陳光誠 in 2012, an e-pal told me that when christian bale tried to visit chen during his participating in shooting of 金陵十三钗 The Flower of War (2011), bale got beaten by some ruffians hired by the local authority which took chen in custody within his home and bale said "why can't i just meet a free citizen?" i wasn't sure if it was real, but i guessed, just a guess, it was real but those motherfuckers eating loads of shit and fucking pigs every mortal day are which i'm so damn sure of (to be continued)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Melinda

    Chen Guangcheng is a man full of drive, determination, fighting for the basic human rights of others, he is quite an inspiration, an unsung hero. Undeterred by the consequences of his government or politicians he takes on hard-hitting issues – rights for the disabled, polluted water, forced sterilization and abortions. Chen Guangcheng provides the reader with his challenging background, despite his blindness he finds a way to compensate and make use of his other gifts with steely determination an Chen Guangcheng is a man full of drive, determination, fighting for the basic human rights of others, he is quite an inspiration, an unsung hero. Undeterred by the consequences of his government or politicians he takes on hard-hitting issues – rights for the disabled, polluted water, forced sterilization and abortions. Chen Guangcheng provides the reader with his challenging background, despite his blindness he finds a way to compensate and make use of his other gifts with steely determination and grit to fight for justice. Suffering prison for four torturous years for his activism accompanied by beatings, unimaginable conditions and general cruelty he survives. His mettle tested once again as he endures years of house arrest where he makes a heroic escape ready to continue his battle for justice to all. An enthralling read from the first page. One man’s story of a successful fight for justice no matter the trials and tribulations faced proving your voice can make a huge difference in improving issues along with your quality of life.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Russell

    I started this book earlier this week thinking I'd read it off and on over the next couple of weeks when I had time as I usually do... but I couldn't do it. I basically tore through it in a weekend perhaps the to point of irresponsibly neglecting to do other things this weekend because it's such an engrossing read. It kind of makes me feel like an asshole for not having the strength of character to go out and do good instead of frittering away my days chiefly worrying about my own little life. No I started this book earlier this week thinking I'd read it off and on over the next couple of weeks when I had time as I usually do... but I couldn't do it. I basically tore through it in a weekend perhaps the to point of irresponsibly neglecting to do other things this weekend because it's such an engrossing read. It kind of makes me feel like an asshole for not having the strength of character to go out and do good instead of frittering away my days chiefly worrying about my own little life. Nonetheless the book is a fascinating read. The escape stuff reads like a thriller, there's lots of amusing anecdotes to keep it from being one horror story after another. I found the part where he macguyvers a phone charger together out of trash to be especially fun.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Marcus Tay

    I am a fan of Chinese culture and history so I know all about the atrocities of the cultural revolution and the one child policy. What really spooked me was that from this book, I learnt similar atrocities were still happening as late as 2006 - personally of importance to me as I stayed in China from 2006 to 2007, unaware to all these of course. All those slogans that I saw on the villages walls as I sped past on trains were not of a distant past but happening at this period. The fact that I sto I am a fan of Chinese culture and history so I know all about the atrocities of the cultural revolution and the one child policy. What really spooked me was that from this book, I learnt similar atrocities were still happening as late as 2006 - personally of importance to me as I stayed in China from 2006 to 2007, unaware to all these of course. All those slogans that I saw on the villages walls as I sped past on trains were not of a distant past but happening at this period. The fact that I stood reading the first chapter in a bookshop says a lot about how amazing it is is for a blind person to escape rings and rings of security guards. If nothing, this first chapter is reason enough for you pick up the book as an action movie. The rest of the chapters simply serve as a teacher to the abuses by the China Communist Party and the dogged persistence of Chen guang cheng to not bow down to any of his circumstances. I wonder at how he pays his bills though, especially his early days before he get his funding and when both husband and wife are involved in lawsuits for the unrepresented. Perhaps, the ending makes the entire tale more believable was that Chen Guang Cheng was critical of the U.S. Government that took him in. How the U.S. Government gave in to practical trade pressures, and forced chen Guang cheng to leave the U.S. Embassy. Read the first chapter to be entertained by adrenaline, read the rest of the book to be inspired.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Eveline Chao

    This was INCREDIBLE. Which was a complete surprise for me! I got this mostly out of a vague sense of moral obligation, and assumed that it would be really didactic and polemical. I also assumed it wouldn't be very well written, I think because I've read a bunch of mediocre ghostwritten memoirs by famous people or their relatives, & was stereotyping based on that. But I ended up reading this in, like, two breathless days with my mouth hanging open the entire time. The jacket describes it as "elec This was INCREDIBLE. Which was a complete surprise for me! I got this mostly out of a vague sense of moral obligation, and assumed that it would be really didactic and polemical. I also assumed it wouldn't be very well written, I think because I've read a bunch of mediocre ghostwritten memoirs by famous people or their relatives, & was stereotyping based on that. But I ended up reading this in, like, two breathless days with my mouth hanging open the entire time. The jacket describes it as "electrifying" and that's a really accurate word for it. The writing is really good, from just a straight-up storytelling perspective it's told incredibly well, and it's incredibly tense and suspenseful, like the best of any fictional spy or crime thriller. It opens in the middle of Chen's escape from house arrest, shifts backwards to his childhood, and then moves forward linearly from there. It's PACKED with all sorts of amazing, vivid, sometimes very strange and gothic details. For example, not only was Chen under house arrest with all these thugs guarding his house, but when he escaped, he had to avoid attracting the attention of...his neighbor's mentally disabled son who the family kept locked behind a barred window, who would stand at the window yelling for his mother all day. What?! There's even a photo of the man in the book, looking out from behind bars into a dirt yard with a goat pen to the side. The descriptions of village politics are reminiscent of so many Chinese novels set in the countryside during the Cultural Revolution, only it's REAL, and still happening in the late 90s and well into the 2000s, so scenes where, like, a village party secretary curses out a blind man for 27 straight days through the village loudspeaker for refusing to pay illegal taxes, are almost even more unbelievable than when when you read those kind of things in fiction. It's a real reminder of how reality can be so much stranger than fiction. There are also lots of wonderful visceral details that succinctly show China's development through the narrow lens of this one village. For example, Chen remembers when his village first got electricity, and how that changed village life; the first time a neighbor got a TV (Chen would get yelled at for joining the crowd of people watching TV because other villagers would complain he couldn't even see it anyway); the first time Chen took a bus; and the first time he tasted a banana, and couldn't help eating two at once. His father brought the remaining two bananas back to his mother who had never seen one before. And finally, I thought I knew a lot about Chen Guangcheng, but I came away from this having discovered that he is a million times more of a badass than I realized. The book gave me a real sense of how full of fight he is, almost seemingly by nature, even when in reality he was ill or malnourished or injured. You really see how his sense of outrage and obstinateness in the face of situations where, like, 99% of people would have backed down was there from the very beginning in him, from childhood on up. The book draws a strong line of connection from him being a blind child who other kids would try to trip because they found it funny, with all the adults standing around not saying anything; to him going to a college for the blind and finding that they were supposed to just accept mistreatment because they were disabled (Chen quickly attracts the ire of the school for calling media attention to the beating of a classmate by a drunk teacher); to proactively going out and finding funding and resources to build a well in his village, where people were getting sick due to polluted water from a nearby factory; to defending disabled people in court; and finally to trying to defend victims of forced sterilization and getting put in prison for 4-5 years and then being brought straight from there to house arrest, and fighting back every step of the way. There are a lot of moments where he says things like, "I decided to go on a hunger strike" as if that's the most natural thing in the world to do, and so many moments where he shows his total willingness to be in harm's way. Sometimes these lead to wonderful moments of deadpan comedy, like this one passage that made me laugh: "We didn't go out again to test whether Linyi's transportation system was supporting the Protection Law. For one thing, it was extremely uncomfortable to be yelled at in front of other passengers, even with the law on our side. For another..." Which reminds me of the final thing I loved about this book - despite being such a grim story in so many ways, it's full of humor. Though sometimes, because the telling is so deadpan, it's hard to tell whether it's intentional. A few standouts: - A total aside when Chen goes to a courthouse to force them to give administrative acknowledgment that they had received his complaint, where he says, "oddly, the lounge was decorated with handcuffs and police truncheons." - A description of how the men assigned to abuse him would sometimes get bored and fall into conversation amongst themselves about their insurance policies and whether they should boycott Japanese products. - Chen's daughter telling him that "Batman" had tried to visit him (Christian Bale) - The several times when he points out in a bemused tone how all these dangerous people seemed to be so worked up about one simple blind man. And also, I really loved this one total moment of badassery when the local authorities have beaten him and his wife while he's under house arrest (while the official news is that he's been freed from prison), and they take away all his electronics so he can't communicate with the outside world, and he STILL manages to record a video about his condition and put it online by MacGyvering an old AA battery charger that he finds in, like, a mulch pile or something, and using that with some scrap metal his mom finds, and some 20-year-old keyrings, to charge an old cell phone that he had hidden somewhere in the outhouse or yard or something. Anyway this is way too long now so in conclusion: this was amazing and everyone should read it!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    I want to first say that I won this book through the Good First Reads program. I am a student of Mandarin Chinese, and was very interested by this book since I yearn to know more about daily life in China. I was instantly drawn into the book since the moment I read the prologue. The prologue resembled a scene from a movie since Guangcheng so vividly described each moment of his attempted escape from his house arrest. He recalled ever detail of the day of his escape that I felt the suspense as he I want to first say that I won this book through the Good First Reads program. I am a student of Mandarin Chinese, and was very interested by this book since I yearn to know more about daily life in China. I was instantly drawn into the book since the moment I read the prologue. The prologue resembled a scene from a movie since Guangcheng so vividly described each moment of his attempted escape from his house arrest. He recalled ever detail of the day of his escape that I felt the suspense as he escaped from his house and tried to climb down the roof of the house without making a sound. I like it how the prologue cuts off half way through his escape and then starts with Chapter 1, where he begins to tell us about his early life and childhood. The major thing I like about this book is that Guangcheng describes everything with copious detail, and this book flows so smoothly that you feel as if Guangcheng is having a conversation with you. For example, he recounts each step of his life with such detail that I felt as if I were there beside him as he climbed trees as a little boy, with his brother's aid and I felt as if I were one of his fellow villagers taking part in his wedding celebrations. Also, I like how he never once makes the readers pity his blindness. Instead, he tells us everything like it is, and really describes how he strove to fight for the rights of his fellow Chinese. His book really is an eye-opener because he exposes China's political corruption at every level. I highly recommend this book to all those who were touched by Guangcheng's escape to the USA in 2012, or to anyone who is interested in reading a first-hand account of how life in China is like for the disabled and for the poor peasants. This book definitely won't disappoint you at all.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    The Barefoot Lawyer tells the story of Chen Guancheng, the Chinese human rights lawyer who made headlines in April 2012. I remember hearing about his story at the time but I didn't follow it closely. In his memoir, Chen tells the heart wrenching story of his childhood struggles with poverty and blindness. He worked hard to overcome the prejudice that Chinese society has against the disabled. He campaigned for better rights for the disabled with some success. But it was his campaign against force The Barefoot Lawyer tells the story of Chen Guancheng, the Chinese human rights lawyer who made headlines in April 2012. I remember hearing about his story at the time but I didn't follow it closely. In his memoir, Chen tells the heart wrenching story of his childhood struggles with poverty and blindness. He worked hard to overcome the prejudice that Chinese society has against the disabled. He campaigned for better rights for the disabled with some success. But it was his campaign against forced abortions and sterilizations that made him a thorn in the side of the Communist Party. He was sent to prison for four years on false charges. Upon his release he was put under house arrest with his family. After years of torment and abuse he finally made the daring escape that eventually led him to the United States. I was appalled but the way Chinese government treats its people. But even more upsetting was how he was treated at the American Embassy. It seemed like the officials didn't realize how dangerous it was for him anywhere in China. I was glad to hear that he was able to move to America and start a new life for himself and his family. I hope that he will be able to continue his work on human rights. I recommend this book to anyone with an interest in China, human rights, or world affairs. It's not an easy book to read, I had to put it aside several times because the things he talks about are so upsetting. But people need to know what goes on in China.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    Remember the blind political activist who escaped from China a few years ago? If you casually heard the story on the news at the time, you probably thought Hillary Clinton and the State Dept heroically rescued him. But according to Chen Guancheng's own words, his real journey was much more complicated and even more odds-defying. That a blind boy from poor, rural Shangdong overcame his condition and circumstances to get a college degree is remarkable. That he challenged the corrupt Chinese legal Remember the blind political activist who escaped from China a few years ago? If you casually heard the story on the news at the time, you probably thought Hillary Clinton and the State Dept heroically rescued him. But according to Chen Guancheng's own words, his real journey was much more complicated and even more odds-defying. That a blind boy from poor, rural Shangdong overcame his condition and circumstances to get a college degree is remarkable. That he challenged the corrupt Chinese legal and political system, repeatedly and successfully, and survived years of prison and house arrest is astonishing. And that he escaped his village and his country, while still blind, hunted by soldiers, and without an organized support network other than a few people with which to exchange text message, is nothing short of miraculous. Forget Matt Murdock. Chen Guancheng is the true Daredevil.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rob Barker

    This is such an interesting read, albeit horrific! Chen is a truly amazing human being who deserves to have his story heard. Highly recommended.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Charles Berteau

    The unbelievable story of Chen Guangcheng, the blind legal activist whose flight from house arrest to the US Embassy in 2012 briefly captured the world's attention. This guy's story is simply incredible. Blind from childhood in a rural society that largely writes off the disabled; self-taught until 18; ceaseless advocate for human welfare despite the devastating mental and physical toll on himself and his family. He started as an advocate for the rights of the disabled before turning his attentio The unbelievable story of Chen Guangcheng, the blind legal activist whose flight from house arrest to the US Embassy in 2012 briefly captured the world's attention. This guy's story is simply incredible. Blind from childhood in a rural society that largely writes off the disabled; self-taught until 18; ceaseless advocate for human welfare despite the devastating mental and physical toll on himself and his family. He started as an advocate for the rights of the disabled before turning his attention to the abuses of the one child policy (forced abortions, etc). Throughout his life, he has maintained a ceaseless devotion to focusing on the rule of law in a country where the party is not beholden to its own laws. Imprisoned for years, subject to brutal house arrest after - the story of his one-man escape from his village (alone, blind, crawling with a broken foot, past a heavy guard presence) is in itself an incredible story. Truly inspirational. Two things stick with me: 1) Behind the facade of its incredible growth and it's unarguable recent economic success , it's important to remember that China is a brutal dictatorship. The routine corruption and abuse that Mr. Chen documents is stunning, and continues to this day with recent crackdowns on activists under the Xi Jinping presidency. Let us not be fooled: the veneer of government civility is very thin in China, to this day, especially in rural areas. 2) The attention of the free people of the world, however fleeting, has real impact. Several times in the Chen saga, outside attention on his plight made a difference even deep inside China. Even at the end, the US was ready to compromise its principles and turn Chen back over to the Chinese government (indeed had done so), but grassroots pressure kept the political attention very high, and in the end Chen and his family were allowed out. Overall, an outstanding read and an awe-inspiring story. The human spirit runs incredibly strong in some people. Mr. Chen continues to be a tireless advocate for freedoms in China, and after reading his story, one concludes that the leaders in China must truly quiver at this prospect.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Dom

    This is Outstanding. Few books keep my monkeybrain glued. This one most certainly did. Guangcheng's sensitivity translates into his writing style and how he discovered and perceives the world. Quite a clash, when his life of pursuing the rule of law, respect and empathy clashes with a reality of modern China. This book is beautiful, brutal yet invigorating and should be read by anyone with an interest in adding an important aspect to the understanding of modern China. America: small government, bi This is Outstanding. Few books keep my monkeybrain glued. This one most certainly did. Guangcheng's sensitivity translates into his writing style and how he discovered and perceives the world. Quite a clash, when his life of pursuing the rule of law, respect and empathy clashes with a reality of modern China. This book is beautiful, brutal yet invigorating and should be read by anyone with an interest in adding an important aspect to the understanding of modern China. America: small government, big society impression. Cash-poor. Caijing, the pusher. Communism aka unrealistic, empty propaganda. Context, the fertilizer or killer. Economy rights, the utilitarian beast. Face, to melt foreigners. Feel to be real. #Going into the light. Guakao danwei for NGO.. Insist on dignity in prison, Mandela style. Media, the lifeline. Metastazising Cultural Revolution. Monopolistic, collectivist landlord. Ms Wilson and personal autonomy. Natural understanding via experiences. Neighbour instrumentalized against Neighbour. Netizen vocabulary. Party of hooligans. Petty petition system. PR laws. Propaganda and education. Radio Free Asia. Resist and persist. Shandong. Shotgun Mr Gadget. Smoke screen of economic triumph. Stone colliding with egg. US wavers but holds. Two Whatever policies after 1976. Village slogans. Weiquan, we can. Wei renmin, fuxx you.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nick Woodall

    Absolutely, without a doubt, one of the most important books on China to come out in a decade. I'm a Sinophile, and I love reading about China. I have actually visited there many times as well, so when I read a good book on China, I want everyone to know about it. Chen is to be considered a hero by the Chinese people, but not the communist government of China. This book really helps you understand how China works, and that the Party is all-powerful, all-knowing, and ruthless in its crackdown of Absolutely, without a doubt, one of the most important books on China to come out in a decade. I'm a Sinophile, and I love reading about China. I have actually visited there many times as well, so when I read a good book on China, I want everyone to know about it. Chen is to be considered a hero by the Chinese people, but not the communist government of China. This book really helps you understand how China works, and that the Party is all-powerful, all-knowing, and ruthless in its crackdown of it's own citizens to keep itself in power. It reads like a novel, but it is startling truth!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    I found Chen Guangcheng's story a few year back absolutely riveting. When I saw he had a memoir out, I thought it would be interesting to skim this book about his story, but I can't skim it--it is so well done. I am reading it slowly and savoring a fascinating look at China in the late 20th and early 21st century. In some ways it reminds me of Red Scarf Girl, but happening in almost real time. Fascinating. I'm especially drawn to his perseverance.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    Anyone who has any misconceptions that the communist government of China is a warm and fuzzy appealing leadership will learn the truth from this book. The "constitutional" government is only a sham for the brutal totalitarian party dictatorship that has no boundaries in their mistreatment of its citizens; the goal always to make sure they stay in power. The people of China are victimized to no end and have always been under successions of communist leaders.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

    Thoroughly enjoyed this book! Exposes the brutality of the Chinese government towards their people as seen through this man's experience and that of his family's. Also gives more detail about the brutal way the one child policy is enforced. It's an amazing exploration of how he dealt with his blindness and empowered himself and others with his strength and determination. Don't miss this one.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tuscany Bernier

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I really loved this biography! He overcame so much adversity and is still struggling today because of the Chinese government. He has a unique story that can not be ignored or forgotten. I hope he enjoys his time in the United States now, but I'm sure it's nothing like China. I'm also curious about little details, like I wish I know what Hillary Clinton said to him in the car.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Bettie

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-ch... http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-ch...

  18. 5 out of 5

    Betsy

    Chen's story is amazing. I was riveted throughout the entire book, and grateful for his first hand account of the injustice he (and countless others) experience(d) in China. My kids saw the book and asked about the guy wearing sunglasses. I described him to them as a man like Martin Luther King, Jr. And I think that is kind of fitting. Chen championed for the rights of the disabled and those who were subjugated. He did so even at the expense of his well-being. It's one thing to "know" there are i Chen's story is amazing. I was riveted throughout the entire book, and grateful for his first hand account of the injustice he (and countless others) experience(d) in China. My kids saw the book and asked about the guy wearing sunglasses. I described him to them as a man like Martin Luther King, Jr. And I think that is kind of fitting. Chen championed for the rights of the disabled and those who were subjugated. He did so even at the expense of his well-being. It's one thing to "know" there are injustices transpiring in the world, but it's another to hear the first hand stories of brutality and injustice. I am grateful to Chen for telling his story so that more can be enlightened as to how people are still being oppressed for speaking out on behalf of those who have no voice. I would consider this book a must-read. My review feels like it falls short, and doesn't do the author justice...but I will wrap things up by saying Chen's story is compelling, and leaves me feeling like "we" need to do more...but also wondering what can we can do from a continent away. Maybe the first step is just opening the dialogue.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    This was an excellent book. This activist/amateur lawyer really starts life out with obstacles since he is blind in China. However, when he decides to pursue an education, the real barriers in China start to appear, and he slowly begins to fight for his rights and the rights of others. He learns that China's laws look good on paper, but that the Communist Party controls all aspects of life in China, and that he has to use the media and the internet to shame people and the party into granting con This was an excellent book. This activist/amateur lawyer really starts life out with obstacles since he is blind in China. However, when he decides to pursue an education, the real barriers in China start to appear, and he slowly begins to fight for his rights and the rights of others. He learns that China's laws look good on paper, but that the Communist Party controls all aspects of life in China, and that he has to use the media and the internet to shame people and the party into granting concessions. He eventually begins to fight the one-child policy and other rights abuses, all before he gets into trouble and then thrown in prison. Eventually he is "released" but ends up in a house arrest in his home. He manages to escape to the United States, but it's a nail-biting attempt as he bravely leaves his home while it is under close watch.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I picked this up because I'm thinking of becoming a lawyer and am also at high-ish risk for various conditions that can lead to blindness; I wanted to be encouraged by reading about a blind lawyer (not realizing that he's not technically a lawyer). But my takeaways from this book have very little to do with Chen's blindness: I'm struck more by his audacity and tenacity in demanding that the Chinese government behave itself. Of course, there is only so much one man can do, and this man- more to t I picked this up because I'm thinking of becoming a lawyer and am also at high-ish risk for various conditions that can lead to blindness; I wanted to be encouraged by reading about a blind lawyer (not realizing that he's not technically a lawyer). But my takeaways from this book have very little to do with Chen's blindness: I'm struck more by his audacity and tenacity in demanding that the Chinese government behave itself. Of course, there is only so much one man can do, and this man- more to the point, he and a community of brave, like-minded activists- has not yet managed to make China into a democratic and just country (or even a semblance of one, like the US). But if everyone shared his idealism and persistence we'd live in a much better world. Inspiring stuff.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jenn

    I lived in China for 10 months and have read many similar books about how the people of China were treated so I thought this would be more of the same—the difference is that the story does not take place during the Cultural Revolution or the Great Leap Forward—this takes place during the 21st century! The story begins a little awkwardly with the narrating and time switching back and forth but once into the story it is fairly well-written. I would say this is an important story for everyone to re I lived in China for 10 months and have read many similar books about how the people of China were treated so I thought this would be more of the same—the difference is that the story does not take place during the Cultural Revolution or the Great Leap Forward—this takes place during the 21st century! The story begins a little awkwardly with the narrating and time switching back and forth but once into the story it is fairly well-written. I would say this is an important story for everyone to read in order to be informed of what is going on in other parts of the world (China) and how we can be involved in encouraging a change in human rights.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Nas

    Wow, just wow. What a phenomenal book! Truly amazing what one man must go to in order to fight for basic human rights for the sake of the greater community. At times it's unbelievable that this is a true story, and the atrocities that one must suffer when fighting for justice. At times this book really reads like a thriller and some parts such as his escape is just insane given that Chen is blind. Reads really well and gives you great insight into oppressive regime. Highly recommend this book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Klatchiancoffee

    Chinese dissident Chen Guancheng's determination to change his life's course despite his physical disability, grinding poverty, and the cultural stigma against differently-abled persons is inspiring in itself but what makes his personal story shine is his capacity to extend himself to commit to social causes even while grappling with his own extreme challenges.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Olivia Conceicao

    the writing style is nothing fancy but the appeal of this book lies in the author's sincerity, frustration and hopefulness. it makes me wonder about the true horrors that befall the lower echelons of society in communist china; at the same time, it makes me appreciate my status as a middle-class citizen in a democracy.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    In addition to being a fascinating, must-read slice of history, this is also a really well written memoir. I found myself noting frequently how difficult it must have been to pull this story together and how well crafted, powerful, and evocative it is.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Bobby

    Outstanding book! Follows the challenges and hardships this Chinese activist and dissident endures while holding his government accountable for human rights abuses. It's a fascinating overview of China today and one man and his family's struggle in the home country they love so much.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mboconnor31

    Fabulous read about the struggles of the disabled and basic human rights in modern China. Learned a lot about their way of life and political system, which is ruthless when you try to change it outside of proper and authorized Communist channels.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Matt Simpson

    Required reading for understanding China and its regime’s approach to freedom. Incredible story that transcends disability. Should give any western reader a heightened appreciation for freedoms and our lively civil discourse.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Naoe Kanata

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. One of the greatest Chinese in our age, whose story is so touching that I even want to cry when he finally got to the US embassy. Wish his family all the best in the future. Highly recommend to those who want to learn about the crime and evilness of CPC.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    Eye-opening and extremely disturbing. I'm ashamed that I had no idea about the depth of human rights violations occurring.

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