Crowd at Chinese Embassy Demands Answers : Lantos Foundation & Uyghur National Movement Seek Contact with Disappeared Uyghurs

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WASHINGTON, DC – Yesterday afternoon, the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights & Justice and the Uyghur National Movement, along with a number of Uyghur rights NGOs, joined members of the local Uyghur community in front of the Chinese Embassy seeking answers about and contact with missing family members likely detained in the Xinjiang region’s notorious “re-education camps”.

In a cruel attempt to silence internationally engaged activists and journalists, authorities have been ruthless in their attempts to capture and detain family members of prominent Uyghurs currently living and working in the United States. Included are the relatives of six Radio Free Asia journalists based in Washington, DC and more than 30 family members of exiled Uyghur leader, Rebiya Kadeer.

“Collectively punishing the families of anyone who speaks out, including my own family, has become the norm”, said Ms. Kadeer, who attended.  “However, the Chinese government now appears to be practicing collective punishment over the entire Uyghur people, sending hundreds of thousands to so-called "re-education camps," which could be termed concentration camps. The world must stand up and demand that China release all the prisoners in the camps being held without charge simply because they are Uyghur."

Lantos Foundation President Katrina Lantos Swett said, “I am proud to stand with Rebiya Kadeer and other members of the Uyghur community to demand contact with their families in China. The Chinese government’s brutal crackdown is cruel and uncalled for, and the US government must stand up and call these “re-education camps” what they are – another attempt to brainwash, intimidate, and imprison a proud and peaceful ethnic minority.”

Letters from local DC family members were collected during the event and left at the Chinese Embassy for delivery to the missing victims. Lantos Swett concluded by saying, “The disappearance of these prisoners has not gone unnoticed. Loving and dedicated family members in the US are fighting for their release and well-being. These individuals should know they are remembered, loved, and defended on a daily basis.”    

Lantos Foundation Recognizes Yom HaShoah in Concord, NH

Earlier this week, our Chair, Annette Lantos, and President, Katrina Lantos Swett, were welcomed at Temple Beth Jacob in Concord, NH to commemorate Yom HaShoah. During the Greater Concord Interfaith Council's annual Holocaust Service of Remembrance, Katrina, the daughter of two Holocaust survivors, shared stories of her mother's survival, as well as glimpses into her father's experience. The service also included candle lighting in memory of the six million Jews who perished, poetry, and music.

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JOSHUA: TEENAGER VS. SUPERPOWER. Documentary & Discussion

JOSHUA: TEENAGER VS. SUPERPOWER. Documentary & Discussion - Wednesday, April 4th - 7 PM. Red River Theatres, Concord, NH.

At this particular moment in our history, the depiction in this documentary of a fiercely optimistic teenager who successfully rallies thousands of his peers to bring about government change is stunning. While the cause Joshua and his peers continue to fight for is different from the concerns we have in our country, the example of civil disobedience in pursuit of government change is a timely one to which we can all relate. Following the film a discussion with well-known pro-democracy activist Lianchao Han and film producer Andrew Duncan was held.

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Budapest Honors Native Son Tom Lantos with a Lasting Tribute

Contact:

Katrina Lantos Swett
President
info@lantosfoundation.org
(603) 226-3636

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONCORD, NH - On the occasion of what would have been Congressman Tom Lantos' 90th birthday, his native city of Budapest dedicated a statue in his honor on Tom Lantos Street in the 13th District of the city. The event was the initiative of the Honorable József Tóth and was attended by Hungarian officials, Lantos Family members, and many of Tom’s friends and admirers. 

In response to the event, Mrs. Annette Lantos, widow of the late Congressman, released the following statement:

“It is hard to fathom that my beloved Tom has been gone for 10 years now. I know he would be deeply touched and grateful for this magnificent tribute in Budapest, a city he loved and returned to often during his lifetime. More importantly, I know how deeply moved he would be by all of the vital human rights work accomplished in his name, through the Lantos Foundation, through the continued human rights focus in the US Congress led by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, and in Hungary through the Tom Lantos Institute.

Alongside these points of pride, he would also be gravely concerned about the state of global human rights. Despite the best efforts of a few dedicated human rights heroes in our government and in the international community, the abuses of basic human rights, religious freedom, and democracy continue to erode so many corners of the world. As the only Holocaust survivor ever elected to Congress, his voice would be both poignant and powerful and he would not stand for silence in the face of these outrages. Tom would be robustly defending the rights of persecuted communities from the Tibetans and Uighur’s of China to the Kurds of Afrin and so must we.

Seeing my husband immortalized in his beloved Hungary only re-energizes my passion and desire to continue his work and further his legacy. As he so often said, “The veneer of civilization is paper thin. We are its guardians, and we can never rest.””

Lantos Foundation Statement on Afrin Attack

The Lantos Foundation calls on the United States and the greater international community to stand with the brave Kurdish people of Afrin as they suffer under a brutal and unwarranted attack from President Erdogan of Turkey. The Kurds are brave allies who stood shoulder to shoulder with us in the fight against ISIS, and their major crime in Erdogan’s eyes is simply their existence as a progressive society that lies too close to Turkey’s border for his liking. Civilized nations cannot stand idly by as Turkey and Russia conspire to destroy the homes and lives of Syrian Kurds who want nothing more than to live freely and peacefully.  These unprovoked attacks are clear violations of human rights, democratic values, and international norms.  We firmly stand in solidarity with our Kurdish allies.

Current and Past Chairs of USCIRF Release Letter of Solidarity with Iranian People

Chairs of USCIRF Release Letter of Solidarity with Iranian People
Call on US Government to Support Protesters
 

Contacts:

Katrina Lantos Swett
President, Lantos Foundation
info@lantosfoundation.org
(603) 545-4430

Robert P. George
McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University
and Herbert W. Vaughan Senior Fellow, Witherspoon Institute
rgeorge@princeton.edu
(609) 258-3270

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - A bi-partisan group of past Chairs together with the current Chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today published an open letter to the people of Iran praising their courage and expressing solidarity with them. In addition, they call on the US government to support the protesters in Iran and to send a clear signal that human rights and the Iranian government’s treatment of dissidents will be at the top of the agenda in any future dealings between the US and Iran.

The letter also urges governments and businesses to actively thwart Iran’s efforts at internet censorship and calls on the US government to robustly fund internet freedom technologies to keep access open to the internet and social media platforms.

The letter, signed by a broad bi-partisan group of academic, religious and human rights leaders reads in part “We are inspired by your bravery. We stand with you and call on our own government and governments and peoples throughout the world to support you.”

The letter is published in response to nearly a week of demonstrations across Iran that began as a protest against high food prices and rampant unemployment but has broadened into a political movement demanding leadership changes and greater freedom and human rights. The government has responded with violence- over 20 protesters have been killed and hundreds have been arrested.

The full text of the letter is printed below.
 

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January 4, 2018

To the people of Iran:

We are Americans each of whom has chaired the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. Each of us has, moreover, publicly advocated for the freedom of prisoners of conscience and persecuted people of all faiths and beliefs in the Islamic Republic.

In that capacity, we have pressed the United States government to give priority to the rights and freedoms of persecuted Iranians in America’s dealings with the regime in Tehran.

Today we write to express solidarity and support for your courageous efforts to restore your Nation’s dignity and put an end to the abuses and deprivation which the people of Iran have suffered. We are inspired by your bravery. We stand with you and call on our own government and governments and peoples throughout the world to support you.

Governments and business firms who are in sympathy with the people of Iran and their aspirations to national dignity and freedom can, for example, assist in thwarting censorship and the efforts of the Tehran regime to shut down social media platforms, such as WhatsApp, by which the Iranian people  can communicate with one another and with foreign journalists freely. Keeping open the corridors of communication through which information flows in all directions is vital. To that end, we call for robust funding by our government of technologies that will enable Iranians and others in closed societies safely and freely to access the internet and social media platforms.

What’s more, human rights organizations, international journalists, as well as governments and their embassies can assist the cause of Iranian freedom and self-determination by documenting and publicizing human rights offenses—detentions, beatings, murders—committed by the Tehran authorities against peaceful protestors. It is important for the world and for the people of Iran to be apprised in a timely manner of offenses that the government will commit and, indeed, is already committing.

A clear signal should be sent  that human rights issues—above all the regime’s treatment of dissidents—will be at the top of the agenda in any state-to-state negotiation, be it diplomatic or economic.

When Iranians rose up against their oppressors in 2009, too few supported them in a sustained and meaningful way. Please be assured that in 2018 we are doing everything we can to ensure your freedoms.

We pray that your courageous efforts will lead swiftly to the realization of your aspirations, which we heartily endorse, for a free, peaceful, and prosperous Iran.

Signers

Elliott Abrams
Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
USCIRF Chair, 2000-2001

Preeta Bansal
CEO, Social Emergence Corporation and Visiting Scholar, MIT Media Lab
USCIRF Chair, 2004-2005

Felice D. Gaer
Director, Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights
USCIRF Chair, 2002-2003, 2006-2007, and 2008-2009

Robert P. George
McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University
and Herbert W. Vaughan Senior Fellow, Witherspoon Institute
USCIRF Chairman, 2013-2014 and 2015-2016

Leonard Leo
Executive Vice President, Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy
USCIRF Chair, 2009-2010, 2010-2011, and 2011-2012

Daniel Mark
Assistant Professor of Political Science, Villanova University
and Visiting Fellow, University of Notre Dame
USCIRF Chairman, 2017-2018

Thomas J. Reese, S.J.
Senior Analyst, Religion News Service
USCIRF Chair, 2016-2017

Ambassador Rabbi David Saperstein
Senior Fellow, Georgetown University’s Berkley Center on Religion, Peace and Foreign Policy and the Foreign Service School’s Center for Jewish Civilization
USCIRF Chair, 1999-2000

Katrina Lantos Swett
President, Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice
USCIRF Chair, 2012-2013 and 2014-2015

Michael K. Young
President, Texas A&M University
USCIRF Chair, 2001-2002 and 2003-2004

 

(Affiliations are for purposes of identification.)

2018 Lantos Human Rights Prize to be Awarded to Joshua Wong

The Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice is proud to announce that our highest honor, the Lantos Human Rights Prize, will be awarded in 2018 to Joshua Wong, a charismatic leader of the Hong Kong movement for democracy and human rights.

Joshua Wong has received worldwide recognition and admiration as the teenager who dared to take on China in a fight for the democratic future of his beloved Hong Kong. Named by both Time Magazine and Fortune to their lists of the most influential leaders in the world, Joshua has become a target for persecution and imprisonment as a result of his determination to fight for a free future for Hong Kong. Part of Joshua’s story was chronicled in “Joshua: Teenager vs Superpower” which won the Audience Award for World Cinema Documentary at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival and is currently available on Netflix.

In recent years, China has been slowly tightening the noose on political, educational, and cultural institutions in Hong Kong despite a treaty commitment to allow Hong Kong to maintain its independent and democratic system while legally part of China.

At the age of only 14, Joshua founded the Scholarism movement to fight against the introduction of a program of communist indoctrination in the Hong Kong school system. Against all odds, Mr. Wong’s tiny group of activists swelled to over 100,000 peaceful protestors, galvanized in large measure by Joshua’s personal passion and his electrifying oratory.

After achieving an improbable victory in the fight for educational integrity in Hong Kong, Mr. Wong became a key leader in the democratic Umbrella movement and one of the founders of the Demosisto Party which advocates for Hong Kong’s autonomy and right to self-determination. Joshua is now facing likely imprisonment for his charismatic leadership of these movements.

Lantos Foundation President Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett said in a statement regarding the 2018 Lantos Prize:

“Joshua Wong, despite his youth, has shown remarkable clarity of vision in fighting against China’s encroaching stranglehold on Hong Kong and its institutions. Few have been willing to take on the aggressive Chinese Goliath, but this young “David” has stepped forward to engage in this battle with uncommon courage and idealism. The Lantos Foundation is proud to honor Joshua, and we call on the government of Hong Kong to allow him to travel to the US Congress to receive this well-deserved award.”

Upon learning of his selection for the Lantos Prize, Mr. Wong issued the following statement:

“It is a true honor to be awarded the 2018 Lantos Prize. By the time of the award ceremony, I will probably be back behind bars for protesting against Beijing’s authoritarian regime. Alas, civil disobedience has never been risk free but one must fight for what one believes in. Rest assured these challenges have only made me and my fellow activists stronger in our beliefs and more courageous in our convictions. It is an honor for me to accept this prestigious Lantos Prize in the name of the millions of Hongkongers who decided to stand up against the false façade of democracy and to take their destiny into their own hands.”

The Keeper - A Podcast Brought To You By The Lantos Foundation

 
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The Lantos Foundation's podcast, The Keeper, was launched in 2017. Hosted by our own President, Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, The Keeper features in depth conversations about some of the most pressing matters of justice in our world and welcomes some of the most important human rights leaders of our time as guests. 

We take our name from Congressman Lantos’ personal conviction, fully lived out in his own life, that we have a moral and ethical obligation to be our brother and sister’s keeper. This guiding principle led Congressman Lantos to found the Congressional Human Rights Caucus and use his eloquence, leadership, and personal passion to advocate fiercely on behalf of those whose human rights were being trampled in every corner of the world.

The Keeper is available for download on Apple Podcasts.


 

 

The First Annual Lantos Rule of Law Lecture

The Lantos Foundation has launched is a new, exciting annual event – the Lantos Rule of Law Lecture. Our inaugural address was delivered by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a prominent businessman who became Russia’s most notable prisoner of conscience from 2003-2013. The first annual Lantos Rule of Law Lecture took place at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington DC on October 10th. 

Congressman Lantos had an enormous amount of respect and admiration for Johns Hopkins SAIS as one of the great centers of scholarship and debate about international affairs. It is a source of great pride for the Lantos Foundation to have the inaugural Lantos Lecture at this distinguished institution and we feel it truly brings us full circle. Tom had a personal relationship with Mikhail and deeply respected his determination to confront the corruption and political intimidation in Russia despite the evident risks such a principled course of conduct posed. He flew to Moscow at the time of Mr. Khodorkovsky’s first trial to protest the pre-determined verdict of “guilty” from a corrupt legal system that unjustly imprisoned Mikhail for nearly a decade. The combination of Mikhail’s powerful story, his continued efforts to improve the conditions of millions of Russians under Putin’s abusive and undemocratic rule, and Washington’s investigation of Russia’s illegal efforts at interfering in the recent Presidential election, will undoubtedly make this a unique and fascinating event.

Once head of Russian oil giant YUKOS, Khodorkovsky was arrested on false charges of tax evasion and fraud in 2003, after publically criticizing the endemic corruption in Russian President Vladmir Putin’s government. After a farcical trial, he was sentenced to fourteen years in prison.  Khodorkovsky was declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, and finally released in December 2013. In 2014, the Hague Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled that the Russian Government had violated international law by taking YUKOS from its shareholders, for political purposes, described as a “full assault on Yukos and its beneficial owners in order to bankrupt Yukos and appropriate its assets while, at the same time, removing Mr. Khodorkovsky from the political arena.” Mikhail Khodorkovsky is the founder of the Open Russia movement. Today, he advocates an alternative vision for his country: a strong and just state, committed to observing human rights, free and fair elections, and the rule of law.