by Michael Brendan Dougherty, Politics Editor at Business Insider and Former Associate Editor of The American Conservative

May 5, 2012 (TSR) – Obviously the story of Chen Guangcheng, a blind activist who fears for his life at the hands of China’s government is compelling.

His solitary work and his disability make him seem doubly courageous and vulnerable while standing against the Chinese government.

But in a nearly 1,900 word article about Guangcheng, the Washington Post reporters never tell readers exactly what Guangcheng protests about the Chinese state.

In another enormous article from the New York Times, the crux of his opposition to the Chinese government isn’t mentioned until paragraph 19.

In the Washington Post’s first major article about Guangcheng this year, he was described simply as a “blind activist lawyer.”

But what is his activism all about?

These articles constantly use terms like “human rights dissident” or “advocate for the disabled” to describe him. But that doesn’t really tell you anything.

The truth is: Guangcheng is an anti-abortion activist. His main opposition to the Chinese government is its “one-child policy” and its forced sterilizations.

Basically he’s pro-life.

The “advocate for the disabled” aspect comes into play when you consider that there is a strong bias towards eliminating unhealthy children in China or preventing “disabled” people from conceiving children.

But if you’re just reading the prestige media or skimming the first couple of paragraphs you probably don’t know that. He’s just some anonymous dissident in a vaguely totalitarian China.

And of course, Guangcheng and his supporters see themselves as advocates of human rights and justice for the disabled. Almost every anti-abortion activist feels that way.

The New York Times helpfully mentions “abortion” in their larger bio of Guangcheng – in paragraph seven.

Of course it is this fact which makes him well-known among certain Christian activists here in the United States. Guangcheng is not himself a Christian, but several Christian pastors in China and in the U.S. have been his biggest supporters. They include people like Bob Fu, president of the China Aid Association, a Texas based activist network.

Now you know.

UPDATE: Some of the comments are blasting us for calling him pro-life, when his main target of opposition is forced sterilizations and forced abortions. And yet, that is exactly what a pro-life person would do in China.  He’s acting just like anti-abortion activists here that tend to focus on late-term abortions, or any other part of the abortion issue that is unpopular.

Guangcheng’s activism against the one-child policy is something nearly all pro-choice American liberals can support. But it is also true that his  most prominent supporters in America are pro-life activists who recognize him as like themselves.


AUTHOR: Michael Brendan Dougherty

Michael Brendan Dougherty is the Politics Editor at Business Insider and  was Associate Editor of The American Conservative. His work has appeared in Politico, The Washington Monthly,, and New York Times Magazine.  In 2009 he won the Phillips Foundation Fellowship to cover the financial crisis.



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