Three Organizations Salute Chinese Human Rights Activist

Lantos Foundation, Catholic University, and Witherspoon Institute Applaud New Memoir by Chen Guangcheng

Leaders at the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, The Catholic University of America, and the Witherspoon Institute offered their congratulations today to Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng on the publication of his new memoir, The Barefoot Lawyer, released earlier this month by Henry Holt. The official launch of his book in Washington is scheduled for March 19 at the National Press Club

Chen has been affiliated with all three institutions since fall 2013.

The Barefoot Lawyer relates the events of Chen’s life, from his childhood to his struggles against the Chinese government. Blind since infancy, Chen became a self-trained “barefoot lawyer” who advocates for disabled persons and the interests of poor villagers in rural China, and against the brutal tactics used to enforce the state’s one-child policy, which include forced abortions and sterilizations.

As a result of his efforts, Chen was imprisoned for four years and illegally subjected to house arrest, before he eventually escaped on foot to the American embassy in Beijing. After his story made international news, Chen found asylum in the United States.

“Chen Guangcheng’s story is one of immense personal courage and conviction as well as a chilling reminder of the outrageous abuse and persecution endured by those who dare to advocate for fundamental human rights and justice in China,” said Katrina Lantos Swett, president of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice. “Mr. Chen’s book will open the eyes of readers to some disturbing and inconvenient truths about China’s treatment of its brave reformers. This ‘blind and barefoot’ hero sees clearly and walks unafraid,” added Lantos Swett.

“This important book makes clear not only Chen's personal bravery against oppression, but it also reveals the systemic failure of human rights progress in China. Powerful and eye-opening book!” said Stephen Schneck, director of The Catholic University of America’s Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies.

“The Barefoot Lawyer is must reading for all who are concerned for the future of human rights and the rule of law, in China and everywhere else. It is a story that can make us all braver people,” said Matthew Franck, director of the Center on Religion and the Constitution, the Witherspoon Institute.

Since the fall of 2013, Chen Guangcheng has been a visiting fellow of Catholic University’s Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies, a distinguished senior fellow in human rights of the Witherspoon Institute and a senior distinguished advisor to the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice.  He has continued his activism on behalf of religious freedom, self-government for the people of Hong Kong, and the basic rights of the Chinese people. 

An author discussion and book signing for The Barefoot Lawyer is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 19 at the National Press Club (NPC). Lantos Swett, Schneck, and Franck are scheduled to attend the event. For more information about the NPC event, visit For more information about Chen’s affiliation with Catholic University, contact Mary McCarthy Hines in the Office of Public Affairs at or 202-319-5600.