October 31, 2017 6:20 pm JST
Interview

Activist calls for Japan's involvement in China human rights

Chen Guangcheng claims that situation is worsening in his home country

Blind Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng

TOKYO -- Chinese blind activist Chen Guangcheng, who famously escaped house arrest in 2012 and fled to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and subsequently moved to the U.S., has urged Japan to get more involved in resolving what he calls a "worsening" human rights situation in his native country.

In an interview with The Nikkei in Tokyo this week, during his first visit to Japan, Chen argued that a more proactive stance would help change the perception of Japan among Chinese people.

Q: What is your view on the current human rights situation in China?

A: The situation has been getting worse over the past few years. The Communist Party is tightening its grip over every aspect of our society, putting intellectuals and lawyers under house arrest and restricting their movement.

During the party's recently-held national congress, people had to line up to go through safety checks on the Beijing subway. I have never seen a situation like that before.

The party is controlling people, rather than serving them.

However, many people have now come to harbor a level of distrust toward the party's approach, so I believe there is a high chance of change happening in China in the future.

Q: During the congress, the party stressed it would govern in accordance with the rule of law. What is your take on that?

A: The law that the party lays emphasis on is one that they establish themselves for their own benefit. It has no benefit for the public whatsoever. It has completely different nuances from the law valued by liberal countries.

The party congress can be summarized into only two points: how the party will distribute power and how it will rule over the people and nothing else.

Q: About five years have passed since you left China for the U.S. What do you have planned for the future?

A: I constantly check whether the rights of people in China are being protected and whether human rights abuses are taking place through various media. In particular, I have been monitoring freedom of speech on the internet.

I will pursue research into human rights issues and promote information at universities and research institutes in the U.S. as well as at an organization that I established in 2016.

Q: What role do you expect Japan to play?

A: Japan is not only one of the world's biggest economies, but also one of its human rights champions.

At present, however, I feel that Japan has not actively expressed its opinions about human rights issues around the world or cooperated in resolving these issues.

I think that Japan, as a world power, has a responsibility to get involved in human rights issues. I suspect that concerning itself in the human rights situation in China, for example, would help change the impression that Japan has historically given to Chinese people into a positive one.

Interviewed by Nikkei staff writer Takashi Kawakami

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