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Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom

Chen Guangcheng

For more than 25 years, Chen Guangcheng has exposed the reality of human rights in China, defending those who have had no voice. Born in China during the country’s violent Cultural Revolution, Chen went blind before his first birthday which made him a member of one of China’s most discriminated-against groups: the disabled. He taught himself law and started raising concerns and petitions about the treatment of China’s disabled population. Chen’s fight expanded to land rights, corruption, and China’s one-child policy.His activism and willingness to challenge the authorities got him arrested. He was sentenced to four years in prison in 2006. After his release in 2010, Chen was put under house arrest. In 2012, Chen made a daring escape and journey to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing where he sought asylum. The U.S. government negotiated with the Chinese Communist Party for Chen’s release, and succeeded. He was deemed a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International and listed as one of TIME’s 100 most influential people in the world. Chen Guangcheng’s memoir The Barefoot Lawyer: A Blind Man’s Fight for Justice and Freedom in China was published in 2015.