The Washington Oxi Day Foundation announced that the recipient of the 2012 Oxi Day Award will be Chinese dissident and human rights activist Chen Guangcheng. Guancheng will be honored for the courage he showed -- in the spirit of Oxi Day -- to promote democratic values and fundamental rights in China. Last year's recipient of the Oxi Day Award was Jamel Bettaib, one of the five young men in Tunisia credited with starting the Arab Spring.
Blind since a young age and a self-taught in law, Guangcheng has become one of China's best-known political dissidents. He has represented hundreds of Chinese villagers in rights-violation cases against the Chinese state and has been an outspoken advocate for human rights and rule of law in China. Following his daring escape from house arrest in April 2012 and intervention by the highest levels of American government, Guangcheng was granted a visa to come to the United States where he is currently studying at New York University's School of Law and continues to speak out against human rights abuses in China.
Guancheng has received numerous awards and honors for his activism. In 2006, he was named to Time Magazine's 100 influential people list and in 2007 received the Ramon Magsaysay Award (considered the Nobel Prize of Asia). Guancheng was nominated for the Oxi Day Award by Carl Gershman, President of the National Endowment for Democracy, who will be introducing him at the Oxi Day Awards banquet.
The Oxi Day Award is inspired by the David vs. Goliath story of Greece's actions during World War II and the incredible courage displayed by the Greek people. The Greeks inflicted a fatal wound on Hitler's forces at a crucial moment in WWII and inspired the world with their bravery and courage.
This award will be presented at the Washington Oxi Day Celebration black tie dinner on Thursday, October 25 at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel in Washington, DC before hundreds of America's top policy makers and opinion leaders. Participants will include policymakers from the White House, State Department, Defense Department, US Congress, top US think tanks and human rights groups, leaders and Ambassadors from numerous countries involved in WWII, as well as Greek-American leaders from across the country and WWII veterans.
Also presented on this evening will be the 2012 Oxi Day Battle of Crete Award, which will honor a woman who took courageous action to protect and promote freedom and democracy. The recipient will be announced shortly.
Despite losing his sight as a child, Guangcheng's legal vision has made him one of China's most prominent human rights defenders. Guangcheng achieved international prominence in 2005 when he filed a class action lawsuit against the government on behalf of women who were forced to undergo illegal abortions and sterilizations by local officials under the country's one child policy. This case attracted international attention and led to his later arrest by Chinese authorities on questionable charges. After serving four years in prison, Guangcheng was freed and shortly thereafter placed under house arrest.
In April, assisted by friends and activists, Guangcheng scaled the security walls surrounding his home, sneaked past the security guards, and successfully escaped his house arrest. Aided by a network of activists who helped him elude capture, Guancheng made his way to Beijing where he sought refuge at the American Embassy. After weeks of tense negotiations between the US and Chinese government and the intervention of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, China agreed to grant Guangcheng a visa to study in the United States, along with his wife Yuan Weijing and their children. He is currently studying at New York University's School of Law.
For more information about the event and the Washington Oxi Day Foundation, visit www.OxiDayFoundation.org.