Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng said on Tuesday that change in his country was “inevitable” but should be the work of the Chinese themselves rather than be imposed from the outside.
“China will undergo a transformation, this is inevitable and in fact this has already begun,” said Chen, a blind self-taught lawyer who dramatically escaped house arrest last year.
“We cannot wait for democracy, freedom and equality to come from the outside,” he told the Oslo Freedom Forum, an annual gathering of rights activists.
Chen, 41, achieved international prominence for his fight against the harsh measures used to enforce the one-child policy in his country.
Sentenced to four years in prison and placed under house arrest, he fled his village last year and took refuge in the US embassy in Beijing.
After protracted negotiations between China and the United States, he was finally allowed to leave for New York, where he has since lived with his family.
Reading from a statement written in braille, Chen told his audience in Oslo that relatives remaining in China were facing persecution because of his activities and accused Beijing of not living up to its promise to ensure the safety of his family.
He pointed out that more than 200,000 protests were recorded in China every year, while there was also growing mobilisation of dissenting voices on the internet.
“There is nothing to fear from a washed-up ruling power that has lost its moral, ethical and legal foundations,” he said.
“The idea that civil society’s human rights values are not suitable for China is purely a myth that is propagated by the authoritarian regime and its attempt to hold on to power.”
After assuming power in March, Chinese President Xi Jinping said he wanted “to continue to fight for the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics and achieve the dream of a great revival of the Chinese nation”.