Friday, June 14, 2013

Oslo Freedom Forum 2013 Challenging Power: Voices from Cuba and China

Oslo Freedom Forum Logo

"When I was 14, I was at a barrio meeting, organized by the Cuban communist party. The delegate was saying that "we should be grateful with the revolution for the food they sell us monthly through the rationing card." I got back to him complaining that "5 pounds of rice and 10 ounces of beans were not enough to live." Days later I was convicted for pre-criminal social dangerousness, along with 196 other teenagers in the region. I was sentenced to a year and a half of forced labor in a government sugar cane plantation. My story was never published in the media." -Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez, Oslo Freedom Forum 2013

Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez

Reporting from an Island Prison

Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez is a Cuban independent journalist and founder of the Hablemos Press news agency. He currently directs the agency, the same group for which journalist and former prisoner of conscience Calixto Martinez reported before his arrest in 2012. In 2005, Guerra was arrested while on hunger strike to protest the Cuban government’s harassment of independent journalists. Guerra was sentenced to a year and ten months in prison for “public disorderliness." He was released in 2007, and has continued with his work as a journalist, despite ongoing beatings, harassment, and detentions.

 Two years ago on this day, my family and I were living under house arrest and brutal torment. One year ago, we were at the hospital in Beijing, extremely anxious and fearful. Today, I stand here freely, speaking before you. Although we have no sure answers about what the future will bring next year on this day or perhaps years from now, one thing is sure: the wheel of history turns unhindered, whether the oppressors will it or not. ... However, these truths are immutable: all authoritarian regimes crumble and all empires founder in the tides of history. -Chen Guangcheng, Oslo Freedom Forum 2013

Chen Guangcheng

China's Inevitable Transformation

Chen Guangcheng is a blind Chinese civil rights activist who has worked on human rights issues in rural areas of China. A self-taught legal worker, Chen faced a series of prison sentences and periods of house arrest after organizing a landmark class-action lawsuit in 2005 against Chinese authorities for excessive enforcement—including forced sterilizations and abortions—of the country’s one-child policy. After a trial in which his attorneys were prevented from entering the court, Chen was charged with “damaging property and organizing a mob to disturb traffic" in retaliation for his advocacy. In April 2012, Chen escaped from house arrest and fled to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. He now lives with his family in the U.S. and is a visiting scholar at the New York University School of Law.

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