Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng will speak at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday to endorse US President Donald Trump for re-election, indicating increasing efforts by the party to portray the Democrats as too weak on Beijing.
Chen’s scheduled appearance was announced by the Trump campaign, describing him as a victim of persecution by Chinese authorities « for exposing the depravity of the Chinese Communist Party ».
Chen, a legal activist who campaigned for the rights of workers and farmers, left China with the help of American diplomats in 2012, after he had escaped house arrest and taken refuge at the US embassy.
Chinese state media at the time launched a vitriolic attack against then-US ambassador Gary Locke over the affair, calling him a « guide dog » for assisting Chen, who is visually impaired. Beijing said the US’ actions violated Chinese law and constituted interference in China’s affairs.
But Chen is a divisive figure not only in China. Among the overseas dissident community, he has faced criticism for espousing right-wing views that many other activists consider to be antithetical to the fight for human rights in China.
On Monday, he tweeted a video of a pro-Trump protester defacing a Black Lives Matter mural in New York and shouting at people to take off their masks. He posted the video along with the caption: « Freedom ».
Despite fleeing China with the help of diplomats in the Obama administration – notably then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton – Chen has become a fervent supporter of the Trump administration, accusing past administrations of pursuing a strategy of appeasement with Beijing.
Chen did not respond to a request for comment other than to confirm his appearance at the convention.
Teng Biao, an exiled human rights lawyer who previously represented Chen while still in China and who describes himself as a friend, said he was « stunned » by Chen’s decision to appear at the convention.
« For Chinese human rights defenders, there is zero logical consistency to supporting Trump, » said the New Jersey-based Teng.
Trump had no interest in pushing for human rights and democracy in China, Teng continued, pointing to accusations made by former national security adviser John Bolton that the US leader had privately encouraged Chinese President Xi Jinping to build internment camps for Muslims in China’s northwest.
« I am a good friend and [former] lawyer of [Chen’s], » he continued. « [But] I completely oppose what he is doing. »
This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2020 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.
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