CNS PHOTO | YURI GRIPAS, REUTERS

Members of the Christian Defense Coalition pray outside the White House in support of Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng May 4.

May 14, 2012

As Chinese and U.S. diplomats sought a resolution to the diplomatic crisis surrounding Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng, many Chinese-Americans turned their attention to the nature of Chen's dissent.

Chen has focused attention to the country's forced abortion and sterilization practices, leading to a crackdown by the government on his movement and prohibitions on contact with foreigners and the media.

Chen Guangcheng

The prominence of the self-taught, blind lawyer rose when he escaped from house arrest in Shandong province April 22 and arrived at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing several days later.

The U.S. sought assurances that he would be released from house arrest and that he and his family would not be harmed.

Chen told reporters police were in his home waving clubs in front of his wife.

"Chen Guangcheng is not just a dissident. In fact, he did not even advocate against the central government. He is a folk hero in China," Chai Ling, founder and president of All Girls Allowed, told a U.S. congressional hearing in Washington May 3.

"He's a defender of women, children and the poor. Chen has worked tirelessly on behalf of women who face forced abortion and sterilization at the hands of officials who should be protecting their citizens' rights."