Human Rignts Lawyers' Database

Chen Guangcheng (陈光诚)

Last Updated:


Work location
Linyi City Shandong Province


Date of birth


Current status
Settled in United States and currently a visiting scholar at New York University



Chen Guangcheng is an agent ad litem and China human rights activist. He lost his sight due to illness when he was still a child. Chen studied at the Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine from 1998 to 2001. Although he did not receive any professional legal training, he studied legal knowledge by himself, after which he assisted in rights protection of villagers and people with disabilities. Between 1996 and 2005, he had made a couple of attempts to appeal to the authorities and to bring cases to the court. As a result, he is frequently referred to as a “barefoot lawyer”. From 2000 to 2001, Chen initiated and implemented the “Disability Rights Project” at the China Law Society. Later on, he also tried to set up a non-government human rights organization for people with disabilities in Beijing, but was not successful.

At the end of 2005, because of his involvement in the childbirth control case in Linyi, Chen Guangcheng was beaten and was put under house arrest by the Shandong government. The case was widely concerned after it was covered by overseas media. Next year in March, Chen was removed from his house by Linyi officials and had lost contact with the outside world; it was until three months later that his family received the notification about Chen being placed under criminal detention. In August, Chen Guangcheng was prosecuted for “damaging property and organising a mob to disturb traffic”. The case was trialled at the People’s Court of Yinan County, and Chen was sentenced to four years and three months of imprisonment. During the trial, Chen’s lawyer Zhang Lihui and Chen’s wife Yuan Weijing was denied access to the courtroom for the trial, and another lawyer Xu Zhiyong was detained by Yinan County officials under the crime of stealing. The two lawyers temporarily assigned to Chen by the court had not argued in defence of Chen; and the court was in violation of the laws as it had not announced an adjournment after Chen declared his refusal to accept the assigned lawyers. At the end of October, the Linyi Intermediate Court ordered a retrial. Yet, Chen’s sentence was upheld by the Yinan County court later on. Eventually in January 2006, the same intermediate court rejected Chen’s final appeal and upheld his original conviction.

After Chen Guangcheng was released in September 2010, he and his wife and daughter were placed under house arrest at their home in Dongshigu village. Visitors as well as local and overseas media were all forbidden – they were frequently intercepted, beaten, insulted, robbed, or forcibly repatriated. At the end of April 2012, Chen Guangcheng escaped from surveillance with the help of villagers, activist He Peirong and other human rights activists, and entered the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. Later on, after mediation between the U.S. and China governments, on 19th of May, Chen and his family left China for New York. He is currently a visiting scholar at the School of Law at New York University.

Chen Guangcheng has been awarded several prizes, including 2006 Time 100 by Time Magazine, Freedom of Express Award by UK human rights group Index on Censorship (2007), and Ramon Magsaysay Award – Emergent Leadership (2007). He was also awarded the 2012 Human Rights Award by the US human rights group Human Rights First in October 2012.


Rights protection for villagers and people with disabilities


Cases Handled
2005        Linyi childbirth control case
2003        Free metro service in Beijing for non-local visually-impaired persons case
1997        Dongshigu village “two-field system” problem
1996        Linyi taxation exemption for people with disabilities problem