Among the RNC speakers tonight, Chen Guangcheng’s name stands out. He is the first exiled Chinese dissident to speak at a US presidential convention and his presence is perhaps another sign that China has become a major foreign policy issue in this US election.
Chen is expected to criticize Beijing’s human rights record and approve of President Trump’s tough Chinese policies.
Chen, a self-educated, blind legal activist from an early age, rose to prominence for speaking out against China’s harsh family planning policies.
In 2012, it sparked a diplomatic crisis between the United States and China. Against all odds, he managed a dramatic escape from house arrest in Shandong to the United States embassy in Beijing, and subsequently obtained asylum in America.
Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is believed to have played a key role in negotiations with Beijing over Chen’s fate, a narrative Chen has contradicted. Since the 2016 election, Chen has become a supporter of Trump.
Trump’s Chinese policies have contributed to tensions between Washington and Beijing, while simultaneously attracting support from people angry with Beijing, including dozens of high-profile Chinese dissidents abroad like Chen.