Chen Pokong

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Chen Pokong
Chinese: 陳破空
BornDecember 1963 (age 57)
Other namesChen Jinsong (birth name)
EducationHunan University, Sun Yat-sen University, Tongji University, Columbia University
OccupationAuthor, commentator, activist
Known forChinese political and international affairs commentary

Chen Pokong (Chinese: 陳破空; born December 20, 1963),[1] 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 attended Columbia University as a visiting scholar in 1996 and later obtained a master's degree of MPA.[clarification needed].

Chen has been providing commentary for Radio Free Asia[2] since 1997, and regularly appears on Voice of America's weekly Pros and Cons show.[3]

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.[4]

Early life[edit]

Chen Pokong (Chinese:陳破空) was born in the Sichuan province of China,[5] 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[edit]

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.[6] 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.[7]

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.[7]

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.[7]

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."[7] 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."[8]

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.[8] 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.[5]


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.[6]

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,[9] Hong Kong Open Magazine, Beijing Spring,[10] and others; speaking at news conferences,[11][12] panel discussions,[13] and other events;[14] and offering commentary to media.[15] 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."[16] Chen is a frequent editorial contributor for The Taipei Times.[17][18][19][20][21][22] 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.[23][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.[24][better source needed]


  • If the U.S. and China Go to War: The Battle of the Senkakus (假如中美开战) (2016)[25][26]
  • The Unwelcome Chinese (不受歡迎的中國人) (2015)[27][28]
  • The End of China's Prosperity, The Curse of Tiananmen Massacre 2019.[29]
  • My China Story: Crossing the Sea of Terror 2019.[30]
  • Money, Spies and Jackie Chan 2018.[31]
  • Trump VS Xi: Duel or Deal 2017.[32][33]
  • To know China, Common Sense Doesn't Work 2016.[34]
  • 100 Basic Facts about China, 2016.[35]
  • All over the World Do Not Know Chinese, 2015.[36]
  • Power Struggle behind Red Wall, 2014.[37]
  • Japan, US and China, Coming War in Asia, 2014.[38]
  • Inside Story of Red Paper Tiger, 2013.[39]
  • If U.S.and China Go to War, 2013.[40]
  • Zhongnanhai's Thick Black Theory, (aka Machiavelli in Beijing) 2010.[41]
  • A Non-governmental White Paper on the June Fourth Massacre, 2009 (co-author).[42]
  • One hundred points of common sense about China 2007.[43]
  • China's economy: prosperity under a shadow
  • Toward the Republic: A Not-So Distant Mirror, 2003.[44]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Congress, The Library of. "LC Linked Data Service: Authorities and Vocabularies (Library of Congress)". Retrieved 2020-11-24.
  2. ^ "Chen Pokong's Column". Radio Free Asia. Retrieved 2020-11-14.
  3. ^ "焦点对话". 美国之音 (in Chinese).
  4. ^ Jie, Chen (2019-12-27). The Overseas Chinese Democracy Movement: Assessing China's Only Open Political Opposition. Edward Elgar Publishing. ISBN 978-1-78471-103-0.
  5. ^ a b Tzou, Jing-wen (2008-10-23). "INTERVIEW: Chinese dissident urges caution on cross-strait ties - Taipei Times". Taipei Times. Retrieved 2020-11-10.
  6. ^ a b Wong, Grace (2019-11-09). "A Democracy Dream from the South: Interviewing Chen Pokong". Medium. Retrieved 2020-11-10.
  7. ^ a b c d 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
  8. ^ a b 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.
  9. ^ Chen Pokong's appearances in Voice of America, Chinese edition. Accessed June 30, 2013
  10. ^ Beijing Spring, Brief of No. 198 Archived 2011-07-27 at the Wayback Machine, November 2009. Accessed 2 January 2020
  11. ^ Getty Images, Activist Chen Pokong speaks during a news conference, June 4, 2009
  12. ^ Human Rights in China, 17 prominent Chinese dissidents living in exile in the U.S. - demand the right to return to China, October 12, 1997
  13. ^ International Tibet Network, Implications of the Gongmeng Report on Tibet, June 25, 2009. Accessed 2 January 2020
  14. ^ PEN America, Bringing Down The Great Firewall Of China - Chen Pokong, 2008. Accessed 2 January 2020
  15. ^ Louisa Lim, "China Leader's Absence Could Spell Political Trouble", National Public Radio, September 14, 2012. Accessed 2 January 2020
  16. ^ Chen Pokong biography and commentary, Radio Free Asia. Accessed June 30, 2013
  17. ^ "China's expansion, risky trajectory - Taipei Times". 23 December 2013. Retrieved 2016-01-19.
  18. ^ "Selective anticorruption in China - Taipei Times". 2014-01-28. Retrieved 2020-11-11.
  19. ^ "Strong chain to contain dictatorship - Taipei Times". 9 November 2013. Retrieved 2016-01-19.
  20. ^ "Dissidents warn 'Beijing Model' could harm Taiwan - Taipei Times". 31 January 2010. Retrieved 2016-01-19.
  21. ^ "Chinese dissident urges Taiwan to push democracy - Taipei Times". 23 November 2012. Retrieved 2016-01-19.
  22. ^ "Activist pessimistic on reform in China - Taipei Times". 25 November 2012. Retrieved 2016-01-19.
  23. ^ "We Should NOT Welcome China's Impact Overseas | Chen Pokong | Part 6 of 8 - YouTube". Retrieved 2020-11-10.
  24. ^ Pokong, Chen (May 27, 2018). "There is no China threat, only a CCP threat. It is a threat shared by..." Retrieved 2020-11-10.
  25. ^ "If the US and China Go to War". The National Interest. 27 May 2016. Retrieved 2016-05-27.
  26. ^ "If the US and China Go to War". The National Interest. 28 May 2016. Retrieved 2016-05-28.
  27. ^ "田園書屋". Retrieved 2016-01-19.
  28. ^ Martin-Liao, Tienchi (October 28, 2016). "The Unwelcome Chinese - by Tienchi Martin-Liao". Retrieved 2016-10-28.
  29. ^ そして幻想の中国繁栄30年が終わる―誰も知らない「天安門事件」の呪縛. ASIN 4828421025.
  30. ^ My China Story: Crossing the Sea of Terror. 29 August 2019.
  31. ^ カネとスパイとジャッキー・チェン. ASIN 4828420053.
  32. ^ "米中激突:戦争か取引か". 文藝春秋. Retrieved 2017-07-20.
  33. ^ "川普對決習近平". 博客來. Retrieved 2017-06-20.
  34. ^ "Japan Business Sha". Business Sha. Retrieved 2016-12-15.
  35. ^ "博大出版社". 博客來. Retrieved 2016-04-13.
  36. ^ "全世界都不了解中國人". 博客來. Retrieved 2016-01-19.
  37. ^ "赤い中国の黒い権力者たち|幻冬舎ルネッサンス". Retrieved 2016-01-19.
  38. ^ "文春新書『日米中アジア開戦』陳 破空 山田智美訳 | 新書 - 文藝春秋BOOKS". 文藝春秋BOOKS (in Japanese). Retrieved 2016-01-19.
  39. ^ "赤い中国消滅|書籍詳細|扶桑社". Retrieved 2016-01-19.
  40. ^ "香港二樓書店 > 假如中美開戰:二十一世紀的戰爭". Retrieved 2016-01-19.
  41. ^ "中南海厚黑學 - 香港書城網上書店 Hong Kong Book City". Retrieved 2016-01-19.
  42. ^ Feiyang Bookhouse, A Non-governmental White Paper on the June Fourth Massacre, 2009
  43. ^ "《关于中国的一百个常识》 - 禁书网". Retrieved 2016-01-19.
  44. ^ Chen, Pokong (October 2003). "Toward the Republic: A Not-So Distant Mirror" (PDF). Human Rights in China.