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Social Justice and Law

The blind Chinese civil-rights activist and attorney who protested abuses including alleged forced abortions in his homeland will be the recipient of this year’s Katharine and George Alexander Law Prize from Santa Clara University School of Law.

The award for top lawyers who have used their legal careers to help alleviate injustice and inequity will be presented to Chen Guangcheng, at a ceremony the evening of March 18 at Santa Clara University’s Mayer Theatre. The presentation of the award and a discussion on the future of human rights in China will take place at 7 p.m. Prior to this, a reception will be held at 6 p.m. at the University’s Nobili Hall.

Chen is a Chinese civil rights activist who for years pursued human-rights cases in rural areas of China. Known as the “barefoot lawyer” and self-taught in law, he has advocated for more than 20 years for women's rights, rights for disabled, land rights, and constitutional law and the rule of law.

His 2005 class-action lawsuit against authorities in Linyi, Shandong alleged excessive enforcement of China’s one-child policy. The case landed him under house arrest and he was later sentenced to more than four years in prison. Even after his release he was detained under house arrest and reportedly beaten when his treatment was aired on the Internet.

“Mr. Chen is an outstanding example of how one person can use the power of the law to speak up for those who are suffering,” said Santa Clara University School of Law Dean Donald Polden. “We are proud to honor his work with this year’s Alexander Law Prize.”

In 2012, he escaped house arrest and fled to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. His case received attention from the U.S. State Department, the British Foreign Secretary, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International, each of which issued appeals on his behalf.

He and his family ultimately were granted U.S. visas after negotiations with the Chinese government. Chen now lives with his wife and two children in New York and studies law at New York University.

He received the 2007 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Emergent Leadership; the 2012 Lantos Human Rights Prize; and the 2012 Human Rights Award from Human Rights First. In 2006 he was named to Time magazine’s 100 most influential people.

Members of the public can find out more information and register for the event through law.scu.edu/alexanderprize/index.cfm.

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