This biographical article is written like a résumé. (November 2020)
|Born||December 1963 (age 57)|
Santai, Sichuan, China
|Other names||Chen Jinsong (birth name)|
|Education||Hunan University, Sun Yat-sen University, Tongji University, Columbia University|
|Occupation||Author, commentator, activist|
|Known for||Chinese political and international affairs commentary|
Chen Pokong (Chinese: 陳破空; born December 20, 1963), also known as Jinsong Chen (Chinese: 陳勁松), is a Chinese-American columnist, political commentator, author, television pundit and YouTuber. Chen played a key role in nationwide 1989 democracy protests, for which he was imprisoned and subsequently exiled to the United States.
Chen has been a prominent member of the "zi meiti" (zh), a campaign known as ‘self-media’ or ‘self-broadcasting’, which came into prominence in 2017 amongst exiled Chinese dissidents. The phenomenon is categorized by the proliferation of routine and online broadcasts on websites such as YouTube. By 2021, Chen had over 350,000 subscribers.
Chen Pokong (Chinese:陳破空) was born in the Sichuan province of China, Chen is a graduate of Hunan University and a postgraduate of Tongji University. As a postgraduate student in 1985, he submitted a joint letter calling for political reform to former Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Hu Yaobang. As one of the student leaders, Chen then co-organized the massive 1986 Chinese student demonstrations in Shanghai calling for democracy.
Chinese democracy movement
In 1989, Chen initiated and organized a large-scale democracy movement in Guangzhou. After establishing a "democracy salon" in Sun Yat-sen University in January, on April 22, Chen joined Chen Wei, Yu Shiwen and other student leaders in launching student protests in Guangzhou in support of the student protests in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. The nationwide protests for democracy lasted for about two months, during which time Chen was wanted and subsequently arrested by the Chinese government for his leading role in the movement. He then spent the years between 1989 and 1993 in prison and forced labor.
As a political prisoner, Chen was sent to prison or forced labor on two occasions:
- In August 1989, he was arrested for his involvement in democracy activities. He was charged in February 1990 with "carrying out counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement." On March 1, 1991, he was sentenced to three years in prison by the Guangzhou City Intermediate People's Court.
- In October 1993, Chen was sentenced to re-education through forced labor for three years under the charges of "illegally political activities and crossing state borders," a sentence that was carried out without a trial, as is custom with the re-education through forced labor system in China.
Chen had resumed political activities after his release from prison in July 1992 and was wanted by the government by 1993. He fled to Hong Kong and applied for political asylum but was rejected; after being repatriated, he was sent to forced labor.
In a letter to the international community in 1994, Chen alleged that the prisoners in the Guangzhou No. 1 Reeducation-Through-Labor Center were often beaten and "subjected to conditions which amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment." Chen had the letter smuggled out of the camp in the latter half of 1994, which was reported on by international human rights groups. The letter claimed that production quotas force prisoners to work over 14 hours a day, 7 days a week, with only 3 days of holiday per year. It also claimed that heavy labor was performed during the daytime, including the transportation and loading of stones from a quarry to a boat; at night, prisoners were forced to make artificial flowers for export. The food supplied to prisoners by camp authorities was often insufficient and consisted of "coarse rice and rotten vegetables," according to Amnesty International.
Part of Chen's letter said: "Inmates who labour slightly slower are brutally beaten and misused by supervisors and team leaders (themselves inmates). Inmates are often beaten until they are blood-stained all over, collapse or lose consciousness (shortly before I was sent here, one inmate was beaten to death.)... Many inmates, including myself, their hands and feet squashed by big stones, stained with blood and pus, have to labour as usual. As a consequence, many inmates were crippled for life." In his letter, he said the Guangdong No. 1 Reform Through Labor, Quarry 1, Company 9 in Chini Town, Hua County, was the "most vicious," and that he was sent there so the Guangdong authorities could "vent their bitter hatred on me."
In a House Congressional testimony on the subject of Chinese forced labor, Nancy Pelosi characterized Chen's letter as "a compelling appeal for help, relating the terrible tale of ill-treatment and slave labor" in Chinese prison camps. Chen was reportedly the first person to provide the United Nations with evidence that the Chinese government and its agencies used forced labor to manufacture products for sale overseas.
Chen was an assistant professor of economics at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou when the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations began in China. He co-organized the protests and was arrested in 1989. After nearly five years in prison on two separate occasions, Chen was exiled to the United States in 1996. There, he became a visiting scholar at Columbia University, where he obtained an MPA[clarification needed]. Chen later built a career as the principal of a business school located in Manhattan, New York.
At the same time, he has been writing for Chinese pro-reform or pro-democracy publications. He is also an author of a number of books on Chinese political culture and international conflicts, mostly published in Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Chen regularly appears as an analyst on Chinese current affair programs, including Voice of America, Radio Free Asia, New Tang Dynasty Television, SET Taiwan, Radio Los Angeles 1300, Hong Kong Open Magazine, Beijing Spring, and others; speaking at news conferences, panel discussions, and other events; and offering commentary to media. He frequently writes political columns for Radio Free Asia, Hong Kong's Open Magazine, and other publications. In 2007, Chen was awarded the "Prominent News and Culture Award." Chen is a frequent editorial contributor for The Taipei Times. Topics of Chen's analysis include a range of contemporary issues involving modern China and its relationship with the US and the rest of the world. Other topics discussed include human rights, minority issues, official corruption, social instability, economic inequality, military expansion, and cross-strait tension.
Chen was invited by the Oxford Union to join a debate on June 1, 2017. The subject of the debate was "This House Welcomes China's Impact Overseas". As a speaker in opposition, Chen argued that the Chinese government is not interested in benefiting the world but rather its own self-interest.[better source needed]
Chen was invited by the Cambridge Union to join a debate on May 3, 2018. The subject of the debate was "This House Believes The Future Belongs To The East". As a speaker in opposition, Chen argued that China's one-party totalitarian state kills creativity, thus forcing it to steal from the West. He also argued that its Great Firewall stunts the free flow of information, which hinders free trade, and that its rejection of democracy will eventually lead to its downfall.[better source needed]
- If the U.S. and China Go to War: The Battle of the Senkakus (假如中美开战) (2016)
- The Unwelcome Chinese (不受歡迎的中國人) (2015)
- The End of China's Prosperity, The Curse of Tiananmen Massacre 2019.
- My China Story: Crossing the Sea of Terror 2019.
- Money, Spies and Jackie Chan 2018.
- Trump VS Xi: Duel or Deal 2017.
- To know China, Common Sense Doesn't Work 2016.
- 100 Basic Facts about China, 2016.
- All over the World Do Not Know Chinese, 2015.
- Power Struggle behind Red Wall, 2014.
- Japan, US and China, Coming War in Asia, 2014.
- Inside Story of Red Paper Tiger, 2013.
- If U.S.and China Go to War, 2013.
- Zhongnanhai's Thick Black Theory, (aka Machiavelli in Beijing) 2010.
- A Non-governmental White Paper on the June Fourth Massacre, 2009 (co-author).
- One hundred points of common sense about China 2007.
- China's economy: prosperity under a shadow
- Toward the Republic: A Not-So Distant Mirror, 2003.
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- Amnesty International, Chen Pokong (30) and other prisoners at Guangzhou No. 1 Reeducation-Through-Labour CenterAmnesty International information note on Chen Pokong, 7 December 1994, accessed 2 January 2020
- Full text of Chen Pokong's letter, submitted by Nancy Pelosi, Congressional Record Volume 140, Number 143 (Wednesday, October 5, 1994), House, Chinese Forced Labor.
- Chen Pokong's appearances in Voice of America, Chinese edition. Accessed June 30, 2013
- Beijing Spring, Brief of No. 198 Archived 2011-07-27 at the Wayback Machine, November 2009. Accessed 2 January 2020
- Getty Images, Activist Chen Pokong speaks during a news conference, June 4, 2009
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