Chen Guangcheng (born 12 November 1971) is a Chinese civil rights activist who works on human rights issues in rural areas of the People's Republic of China. Blind from an early age and self-taught in the law, Chen is frequently described as a "barefoot lawyer" who advocates for women's rights and the poor. He is best known for exposing alleged abuses in official family planning policy, often involving claims of violence and forced abortions.
In 2005, he became internationally known for organizing a class-action lawsuit against the city of Linyi in Shandong for excessive enforcement of the one-child policy. As a result of this lawsuit, Chen was placed under house arrest from September 2005 to March 2006, with a formal arrest in June 2006. During his trial, Chen's attorneys were forbidden access to the court, leaving him without a proper defender. On 24 August 2006, Chen was sentenced to four years and three months for "damaging property and organising a mob to disturb traffic".
Chen was released from prison on 8 September 2010 after serving his full sentence, but remained under house arrest or "soft detention" at his home in Dongshigu Village (东师古村). Chen and his wife were reportedly beaten shortly after a human rights group released a video of their home under intense police surveillance on 9 February 2011.
Chen's case received sustained international attention, with the U.S. State Department, the British Foreign Secretary, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International issuing appeals for his release; the latter group designated him a prisoner of conscience. Chen is a 2007 laureate of the Ramon Magsaysay Award and in 2006 was named to the Time 100.
On 22 April 2012, Chen escaped his house arrest and was reported to have fled to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
Chen hails from the small village of Dongshigu, Shandong province, approximately 200km from the city of Jinan. Due to a severe fever, Chen lost his sight at an early age. He was illiterate until 1994 when he was enrolled by Qingdao High School for the Blind and graduated in 1998. In that time, Chen had already begun developing an interest in the law, and enlisted his brothers to read legal texts for him. He then studied in Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine from 1998 to 2001, specializing in acupuncture and massage. After graduation he returned to his home region and found a job as a masseur in the hospital of Yinan county. Nonetheless, he managed to audit law classes, and learned enough to aid his fellow villagers when they sought his assistance.
From : www.wikipedia.org