The blind dissident who dramatically escaped Chinese house arrest in 2012 and shed light on human rights abuses in the country has urged former US president George W. Bush to put more pressure on Beijing.

Chen Guangcheng on Wednesday met the former US leader at a forum of the George W. Bush Institute’s Freedom Collection in Texas, where he brought China’s human rights issues back to center stage.

Chen said the US should consider human rights a “foundation of diplomacy and not just part of diplomacy”.

“I think the United States should stand firm on the principle of human rights and not compromise for the sake of business relationships,” Chen said after the webcast forum.

He also said he was not hopeful that China’s new leader, President Xi Jinping, would bring about changes, reports AFP.

“For China to truly change, there must be grassroots movement about the rule of law and understanding democracy. It’s not to expect one savior-leader to change China,” he said.

Chen became the center of a diplomatic row between the US and China after he escaped from house arrest and sought the safety of the US embassy for fear of being persecuted.

A self-taught lawyer, he campaigned against forced abortions or sterilizations under China’s strict implementation of its one-child policy.