Lantos Foundation to Honor Chinese Activist Chen Guangcheng with Annual Human Rights Prize

WASHINGTON – Chen Guangcheng, the blind Chinese legal activist, will be honored by the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice as the 2012 recipient of the Lantos Human Rights Prize, the organization’s highest honor, for his tireless work promoting human rights and the rule of law in China. The award ceremony will take place in Washington, D.C. in January 2013.

“I am humbled to receive this important honor that is named after Tom Lantos, a legendary human rights hero,” said Chen Guangcheng. “I have dedicated my life to being a voice for the millions of my fellow countrymen standing up for their basic human rights. By raising the profile of this struggle, the Lantos Foundation brings the attention of the world where it is needed most.”

“Chen Guangcheng embodies the fight for human rights in China on so many different fronts – environmentalism, property rights, justice for those with disabilities, and women’s rights,” said Katrina Lantos Swett, President of the Lantos Foundation. “Chen is the ultimate example of a courageous David facing down the Goliath of the Chinese state armed only with the smooth stones of justice and truth. This self-taught lawyer came from humble beginnings and took on the fights that affected his family, then his community, and finally the whole of China. Chen and his family have paid, and continue to pay, a high price for his bravery and his resolve. I know my father would have been proud to honor this important figure in China’s continuing fight for human rights and justice.”

In April 2012, Chen, a blind self-taught lawyer, dramatically escaped house arrest in China and fled to the U.S. Embassy. He and his immediate family left China and currently reside in New York City where he is a Scholar in Residence at NYU. He is best known for a 2005 class action lawsuit against officials of the Shandong Province for abuses related to enforcement of China’s one-child policy. The lawsuit exposed official abuse of thousands of people who were subjected to late-term forced abortion, mandatory sterilization, and late-night beatings. Chen also worked to stop environmental damage and end land-use policies that illegally enriched officials. In 2005, he was placed under house arrest for seven months, was disappeared for three months, then arrested and sentenced to jail for four years and three months. In September of 2010 he was released from prison but continued to be illegally detained at home, during which time he suffered inhumane and cruel treatment, until his escape earlier this year.

The Lantos Foundation established the Lantos Human Rights Prize in 2009 to honor and bring attention to heroes of the human rights movement. It is awarded annually to an individual or organization that best exemplifies the Foundation’s mission, namely to be a vital voice standing up for the values of decency, dignity, freedom, and justice in every corner of the world. The prize also serves to commemorate the late Congressman Tom Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor ever elected to the U.S. Congress and a prominent advocate for human rights during his nearly three decades as a U.S. Representative. Former recipients of the Lantos Prize include His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel and Rwandan humanitarian Paul Rusesabagina.

Additional information about the time and location of the awards ceremony honoring Chen Guangcheng will be announced closer to the event.