The Barefoot Lawyer

A Memoir

Publisher: Allen Lane
It was like a scene out of a thriller: one night in April 2012, China’s most famous political activist—a blind, self-taught lawyer—climbed over the wall of his heavily guarded home and escaped. For days, his whereabouts remained unknown; after he turned up at the American embassy in Beijing, a furious round of high-level negotiations finally led to his release and a new life in the United States.  

Chen Guangcheng is a unique figure on the world stage, but his story is even more remarkable than we knew. The son of a poor farmer in rural China, blinded by illness when he was an infant, Chen was fortunate to survive a difficult childhood. But despite his disability, he was determined to educate himself and fight for the rights of his country’s poor, especially a legion of women who had endured forced sterilizations under the hated “one child” policy. Repeatedly harassed, beaten, and imprisoned by Chinese authorities, Chen was ultimately placed under house arrest. After a year of fruitless protest and increasing danger, he evaded his captors and fled to freedom.  

Both a riveting memoir and a revealing portrait of modern China, this passionate book tells the story of a man who has never accepted limits and always believed in the power of the human spirit to overcome any obstacle.

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CHAPTER ONE

A Child Apart

I cup my hands together, cradling a hard-boiled egg my mother has given me. It’s still warm. I am three or four years old and rarely given my own egg, so I hold off as long as I can before eating it. Wandering outside, I find the millstones where we grind our food, feeling for...

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