Jennifer Chou has a fantastic article on the growing Chinese civil rights movement at
The Weekly Standard.
She describes the growing realization of the Chinese population that they are citizens and have (or more properly, should have) certain legal and civil protections. The fact that they don't today often leads to sometimes violent civil protests. Lots of them. Chinese lawyers such as Chen Guangcheng are at the forefront of the movement to file legal actions against the government in support of these people's issues, but often wind up being harassed and imprisoned themselves by local officials and/or criminal elements in league with them.
"Chen Guangcheng's case highlights some of the problems facing China today: a judicial system that lacks due process and an increasingly murky, and at times violent, alliance between local bureaucrats and criminal elements. Even more important, Chen's case underscores one of the most significant developments in China in recent years: the emergence of rights consciousness at the grassroots level. People across all sectors of society are becoming increasingly conscious of the fact that they are citizens, ostensibly with legal rights and protections, and they have grown increasingly vocal in asserting these rights."
One can only hope that these brave souls continue their efforts and someday succeed in reforming the legal system of the world's most populous nation. An economically succesful China
with Western-style political freedoms would be among the most significant events of recent history, fully meeting, finally, the aborted expectations that so many hoped for in the events of 1989. Let Freedom Ring!