We applaud the commendable efforts of Benedict Rogers to publicize the harassment he, his family, and his neighbors have faced from China in response to his efforts to ensure freedom, human rights, and rule of law in Hong Kong. Reading his tales of anonymous letters containing veiled threats, the danger faced by those who dare to challenge the absolute power of the Chinese government is laid bare. As you read, please pause to consider how much worse it must be on a daily basis for Hong Kong based youth activists like Joshua Wong. If this level of harassment is happening to an established British citizen, then we can only imagine the pressure on Hong Kongers themselves. Joshua’s continued democracy work in the face of obvious threats from the Chinese government is exactly why he was chosen to receive the 10th Annual Tom Lantos Human Rights Prize later this year in Washington, DC.
Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, I am honored and humbled to stand together with you tonight to remember our brothers and sisters who were killed in the Tiananmen Massacre.
In the spring of 1989, college students in China led a movement calling for freedom and democracy. They asked for more transparency and less corruption from their government. Their peaceful protest soon gained widespread support, attracting intellectuals, journalists, and labor leaders. Millions of people in Beijing joined them, and almost all classes of Chinese society-from all over China-sympathized with their aims.
On the night of June 3, 1989, PLA tanks and troops swept into the square and opened fire on students.
Tiananmen was an event that changed my life and the lives of many others. I was at Tiananmen when the tanks rolled in. I had been studying Mathematics at the UC Berkeley when I went back to China to join the student movement. On June 4, I saw my countrymen crushed beneath tank treads and felled by machine-gun fire. I was among the lucky who survived and escaped. I managed to avoid arrest and return to the United States.
Since that day, I have committed my life to fighting for a China that will not ride roughshod over the fundamental human rights of its people.
The demonstrations of 1989 were an expression of a spirit that has always been present in the people of China-a spirit that is present in all of humanity. The struggle that began in Tiananmen Square 29 years ago continues today. It gave birth to an era of the rise of human rights consciousness among the Chinese people. For the first time in history, the Chinese government faced massive international criticism for its human rights record. Rising dissent at home and pressure from abroad have together helped bring about significant developments in the area of human rights, though much work remains to be done.
Tonight I ask you to help ensure that the spirit of June 4 continues to change China. The noble souls of the Chinese people who died in the crackdown are not yet fully honored-not because so many are unknown, but because the goals of their sacrifice are still suppressed by the CCP regime. Those of us here know that honoring our fallen brothers and sisters with words alone falls terribly short if we do not bring those words to life by honoring them equally with deeds worthy of their sacrifice. We must persist in our efforts to replace lies with truth, atrocity with humanity, and tyranny with democracy. Let us stand together with those many many individuals in China who bravely put themselves forward as obstacles against the forces of autocracy. Their fight is our fight, and we need only repay their courage with our love, support, and unified engagement to see their victory through to its rightful end: a just and free China.
"Today, the world received word that the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Liu Xiaobo was released from Chinese prison. What should have been an occasion of joy and celebration is instead a somber moment of reflection. It is reported that this brave human rights activist is suffering from terminal liver cancer. Following just a few days after the tragic death of Otto Warmbier at the hands of a brutal North Korean government, it is a stark reminder of the cruel indifference of regimes that maliciously and regularly trample on the most basic human rights.
Liu Xiaobo was an eloquent advocate for democracy and human rights in China. He received the highest recognition the world can bestow when he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2010 - the first Chinese citizen to be so honored. I was privileged to be there in Oslo for the ceremony when he received the Prize but sadly, Liu was languishing in a Chinese jail and the ceremony took place around his empty chair. Even his wife, Liu Xia was forbidden to travel to Norway to receive the prize for her husband and she has lived in complete isolation under house arrest for the past 7 years.
There is no celebration at the release of this brave human rights hero. Only condemnation for a regime that despite its wealth, power, and size, shows itself to be a moral midget when it comes to honoring the fundamental rights of its citizens. We pray that Liu Xiaobo and his wife will be comforted in the knowledge that his courageous example is an inspiration to people around the world who are fighting for a more just and decent world. Our prayers are with him and the Chinese people on whose behalf he has made such a great sacrifice."
Advance the Freedom of Religion, Conscience, and Belief
Religious and spiritual believers in today’s China are being persecuted in ways not seen since Mao's Cultural Revolution 40 years ago. On the weekend of May 20-22, 2016, religious and spiritual communities around the world will join together in the 2016 Solidarity Sabbath to highlight the strength and bravery of Chinese citizens who courageously live out their faith despite threats of harassment, imprisonment, and even torture by the ruling Communist Party.
Freedom of religion, conscience, and belief is a vital human rights issue for all global citizens, and you have a chance to help highlight the plight of the millions of Chinese denied this basic entitlement. Whether it is encouraging your faith community’s leadership to participate in the Solidarity Sabbath or petitioning your government to take part, there are so many ways to make a difference.
Learn more at SolidaritySabbath.org
"Since July 10, Chinese authorities have been detaining human rights lawyers and activists in unprecedented numbers. An estimated 250 have been taken into custody. Police and thugs are grabbing people from their homes and offices, and even from restaurants, without warning or rationale. They are being interrogated, threatened and accused of fabricated crimes. Many are being held without access to family, friends, legal representation, or any other semblance of due process under the law."
Lantos Foundation, Catholic University, and Witherspoon Institute Applaud New Memoir by Chen Guangcheng
Leaders at the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, The Catholic University of America, and the Witherspoon Institute offered their congratulations today to Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng on the publication of his new memoir, The Barefoot Lawyer, released earlier this month by Henry Holt. The official launch of his book in Washington is scheduled for March 19 at the National Press Club
Chen has been affiliated with all three institutions since fall 2013.
The Barefoot Lawyer relates the events of Chen’s life, from his childhood to his struggles against the Chinese government. Blind since infancy, Chen became a self-trained “barefoot lawyer” who advocates for disabled persons and the interests of poor villagers in rural China, and against the brutal tactics used to enforce the state’s one-child policy, which include forced abortions and sterilizations.
As a result of his efforts, Chen was imprisoned for four years and illegally subjected to house arrest, before he eventually escaped on foot to the American embassy in Beijing. After his story made international news, Chen found asylum in the United States.
“Chen Guangcheng’s story is one of immense personal courage and conviction as well as a chilling reminder of the outrageous abuse and persecution endured by those who dare to advocate for fundamental human rights and justice in China,” said Katrina Lantos Swett, president of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice. “Mr. Chen’s book will open the eyes of readers to some disturbing and inconvenient truths about China’s treatment of its brave reformers. This ‘blind and barefoot’ hero sees clearly and walks unafraid,” added Lantos Swett.
“This important book makes clear not only Chen's personal bravery against oppression, but it also reveals the systemic failure of human rights progress in China. Powerful and eye-opening book!” said Stephen Schneck, director of The Catholic University of America’s Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies.
“The Barefoot Lawyer is must reading for all who are concerned for the future of human rights and the rule of law, in China and everywhere else. It is a story that can make us all braver people,” said Matthew Franck, director of the Center on Religion and the Constitution, the Witherspoon Institute.
Since the fall of 2013, Chen Guangcheng has been a visiting fellow of Catholic University’s Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies, a distinguished senior fellow in human rights of the Witherspoon Institute and a senior distinguished advisor to the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice. He has continued his activism on behalf of religious freedom, self-government for the people of Hong Kong, and the basic rights of the Chinese people.
An author discussion and book signing for The Barefoot Lawyer is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 19 at the National Press Club (NPC). Lantos Swett, Schneck, and Franck are scheduled to attend the event. For more information about the NPC event, visit press.org/events/guangcheng. For more information about Chen’s affiliation with Catholic University, contact Mary McCarthy Hines in the Office of Public Affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-319-5600.
Statement from Lantos Foundation Senior Advisor on internet freedom and human rights for people with disabilities, Chen Guangcheng:
"I am writing on behalf of Chen Guangcheng, who wishes to make known the death of human rights activist and lawyer Cao Shunli. She died while in government custody, after taking part in peaceful protests in Beijing, related to the drafting of the Human Rights Report in which the government prepares and delivers a report to the UN on its human rights situation. UN requirements dictate that the process be open to the public for comment and participation, but in China the work went on behind closed doors.
Cao Shunli was detained in September of 2013 when she was preparing to board a flight to Switzerland to take part "in human rights training on UN mechanisms," as Front Line Defenders reports. Only much later did her family learn about her whereabouts, at which point many human rights defenders and lawyers urged her to hire a lawyer and sign the proper paperwork. Unfortunately, she and her family were told by the security police that she shouldn't hire a lawyer, that they were just holding her until after the UN human rights conference regarding China's participation in the UNHRC last October was over. Soon after the conference, however, her family was given an official notice of arrest, at which point she was placed in a detention center.
For some time there had been news of her illness in custody, but her family's pleas to allow her to receive proper medical attention were ignored.
Then, around February 20th 2014, she was suddenly taken to hospital, but as a last and desperate measure. At that point, she was put on a ventilator in the ICU, where no one beside hospital staff was allowed to enter. Many supporters came to the hospital to protest outside, but were taken into custody.
As of today, Chen Guangcheng reports that her family and her lawyer was notified just this morning of her serious condition, but by the time they got to the hospital they found she had already died. They reported her body was covered with bruises, leading them to believe that she had been the victim of torture before her death. They were prevented from changing her clothes, as is Chinese custom, by guards in and outside her room. The family suspects that the authorities were worried that they would see yet more evidence of torture on her body. Later, her body was taken away, and no one is sure of the whereabouts.
This tragedy at the hands of the Chinese authorities is emblematic of the cruel and arbitrary measures that are used against innocent, law-abiding citizens in China. In fighting to bring clarity and transparency to the Chinese human rights situation through the UN, Cao Shunli was working on behalf of all people. The community of nations on whose behalf she was working should take pause to remember her, and should stand together to bring her case to justice. Those who murder with impunity should be held accountable."
Chinese Dissident to be Senior Advisor on Internet Freedom and Human Rights for People with Disabilities
The Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice was enormously proud to award Chen Guangcheng the 2012 Lantos Prize – our Foundation’s highest honor.
This distinguished award is presented each year to a global figure who has shown extraordinary courage and leadership in the struggle for human rights. Mr. Chen was a particularly worthy recipient of the Lantos Prize. In the face of threats, persecution, and imprisonment, Guangcheng has demonstrated truly remarkable tenacity. His advocacy has spanned the spectrum of human rights concerns in China - encompassing the rights of persons with disabilities, environmental protection, women’s rights, democracy promotion, and internet freedom.
Like our founder, the late Congressman Tom Lantos, the breadth of Mr. Chen's human rights leadership, and the fearless way he has taken on critical human rights causes, regardless of the odds is admirable.
These two men share another quality in common-fierce independence. Anyone who knew Tom Lantos understood that he was always his own man. These brave human rights leaders are kindred spirits. Congressman Lantos never hesitated to make common cause with his colleagues of the right and the left when it was in defense of human rights. Tom Lantos passionately believed that the fight for human rights transcends the more prosaic political battles that occupy so much of our attention and rather than let ideological differences derail his advocacy for universal rights, he viewed human rights work as an opportunity to bring people together on the common ground of our shared values. Chen Guangcheng embodies a similar spirit of independence and inclusion.
While Chen Guangcheng has become an icon of the global human rights movement, he is also an active leader and voice on behalf of literally tens of millions of Chinese citizens who are seeking to exercise the most basic freedoms of speech, conscience, assembly, and self-government. The Lantos Foundation is grateful that he has had the opportunity to pursue his work through NYU and we welcome his decision to continue this work at Catholic University and the Witherspoon Institute. We are also pleased to announce that Mr. Chen will bring his expertise and deep understanding to the Lantos Foundation where he will join us as a Distinguished Senior Advisor focused on Internet freedom and human rights for people with disabilities. We would also like to announce that later this fall Guangcheng will be a guest lecturer at the Rudman Center for Justice, Leadership and Public Policy at the UNH School of Law. We look forward to this and future collaborations.
Chen calls on U.S. to continue fighting for democracy, human rights and free speech in fourth annual presentation of the human rights prize
WASHINGTON – Blind Chinese legal activist Chen Guangcheng called on the United States to remain steadfast in its support of democracy, human rights and free speech at a ceremony today awarding him the 2012 Tom Lantos Human Rights Prize held at the U.S. Capitol complex. The award is the highest honor of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice and was given to Chen for his tireless work promoting human rights and the rule of law in China.
“As for the United States government, I urge you to continue unwaveringly from your basic principles of democracy, human rights and freedom of speech,” said Chen at the ceremony. “You must not give in an inch or offer the smallest compromise when it comes to these basic principles. Even though the United States now sees a softening of its economy, and it is clearly difficult to shift attention away from issues of finance and the economy, remember that placing undue value on material life will cause a deficit in spiritual life. You must establish a long-term plan for human rights, and not compromise on it, ever.”
Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, President of the Lantos Foundation added, “Chen Guangcheng’s work standing up for the rule of law in China has been an inspiration to people from around the world. Today, we honor Chen’s contribution to the global struggle for human rights and his resolve in the face of China’s brutal crackdown on him and his family. The Tom Lantos Human Rights Prize was established to continue my father’s lifelong efforts to lift up defenders of human rights and shine an international spotlight on those who would tear them down. Chen Guangcheng embodies that fierce resolve to continue fighting for the values of decency, dignity, freedom and justice we hold so dear.”
Chen’s remarks were delivered in Mandarin and read in English by actor, social activist and member of the Lantos Foundation Advisory Board Richard Gere. Chen was joined on stage by his wife Yuan Weijing and Mrs. Annette Lantos, Chairman of the Lantos Foundation and Widow of Rep. Tom Lantos.
In April 2012, Chen, a blind self-taught lawyer, dramatically escaped house arrest in China and fled to the U.S. Embassy. He and his immediate family left China and currently reside in New York City, where he is a Scholar in Residence at New York University. Though he has worked for causes including environmentalism, property rights, and justice for those with disabilities, Chen is best known for a 2005 class action lawsuit against officials of the Shandong Province for abuses related to enforcement of China’s one-child policy. As an outspoken critic of the Chinese government, Chen spent years in jail and under illegal detainment at home before escaping.
The Lantos Foundation established the Tom Lantos Human Rights Prize in 2009 to honor and bring attention to heroes of the human rights movement. It is awarded annually to an individual or organization that best exemplifies the Foundation’s mission, namely to be a vital voice standing up for the values of decency, dignity, freedom and justice in every corner of the world. The prize also serves to commemorate the late Congressman Tom Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor ever elected to the U.S. Congress and a prominent advocate for human rights during his nearly three decades as a U.S. Representative. Former recipients of the Lantos Prize include His Holiness the Dalai Lama (2009), Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel (2010), and Rwandan humanitarian Paul Rusesabagina (2011).
Chen Guangcheng’s remarks as prepared for delivery in English are below:
Hello. I am truly honored to be standing here today, as the recipient of this highest honor in the name of the great human rights defender, Congressman Tom Lantos. Such an honor brings me much encouragement and fills me with emotion. Although this award is being given to me, Chen Guangcheng, I feel that it is a strong validation of everyone working to defend human rights, social justice, and universal values.
Both Congressman Lantos and I share the experience of escaping evil. In June of last year when I heard that I was being given this award, I felt a profound resonance in my heart with Mr. Lantos. The shared experience in evil's lair made us both understand the necessity of taking immediate action in the face of wrongdoing. Who can know how many seekers of justice and human rights will suffer persecution, destruction, or even death at the hands of dictators if we are idle even for just one moment. We must not only remember the atrocities of the fascists, but also recognize that today authoritarianism is firmly entrenched, and that the barbarism of the authoritarian system is the greatest threat to civilized societies. Employing every method available, authoritarian governments will do their utmost to stop the mouths and bind the spirits of good-willed people.
We must be clear: dictatorships are inherently in opposition to democracy and freedom. They are opposed to constitutionalism and the rule of law, and will monopolize all power for their own benefit. They can ravage you at will; if you resist, they will make you a criminal. If you protest, they will make you their enemy. This system starkly and inherently contradicts democratic institutions. If you approach them with dialogue and reason in the hope that they will give up some of their authoritarian power, you will in effect become an accomplice to their work.
Despite my misfortunes, I have been lucky. For many years I have suffered inhumane persecution by the Party authorities; but I have also been blessed with the attention, care and kindness from people around the world. Last May, with the help of so many individuals, I was able to come to the US with my family. We have been warmly welcomed and cared for by the American people, and I would like to express my deepest thanks to all of you for your concern and support. I will remember this always. I would also like to thank the many brave friends who came from far and near to make their way to my village, Dongshigu. Your fearlessness is the crystallization of human conscience. I cannot thank each of you individually in your presence, but I will nonetheless be eternally grateful to you.
Today, I and my immediate family are free in body; but in mind we cannot be free, because so many of my compatriots - including many family members - are still living under the evils of the authoritarian system. For instance, local party authorities are making my nephew pay the price for my escape. At this time he has already been sent to the very jail where I spent so many years, and our family and lawyers have not been allowed to see him. Many others share similar experiences. There is the Beijing lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who is still in prison in Xinjiang, in northwest China. Even during his probation he was disappeared and tortured. Unimaginably, on the day his probation was up, he was put back in prison and is not allowed regular family visits. And there is the journalist Qi Chonghuai who was jailed for his outspokenness. Just when he had almost completed his prison term, his sentence was extended, and his family continues to live under conditions of extreme duress, threats and terror. Liu Xiaobo's wife, Liu Xia, has been living under house arrest for more than two years. The Mongolian writer Ha Da served 17 years in prison. Two years ago his term was finished, but he is still being illegally detained. And of course there are countless petitioners from all over the country who are detained, beaten, or held in black jails, suffering wrongdoing, injury, and trumped up charges. These are not isolated cases of injustice, but represent a reality in China today: legal protection and justice do not exist or are only very rarely available for most citizens.
Human rights reform is inseparable from political reform. However, under the leadership of the party, simply speaking about human rights is no easy task; and of course, defending human rights is even more difficult. But social progress does not come from those in power, whether or not they wish it to be the case. China will see a transformation. How do we encourage this transformation?
I believe the most important thing is to shift our attention from the leadership to the people. To support their activities in moving towards a society that respects human rights, the people need to feel encouraged. That is why international attention is so important, especially because of the following three points. First, international concern validates the often difficult work of social justice. Second, if the media illuminates the activities of the so-called "black hands" who punish those who seek justice, their actions are likely to be less extreme. Third, media reports disseminate information that can lead to an awakening of the populace, and cause more and more people to demand their rights and demand protection of their rights under the law.
That is why I am happy to take this opportunity to mention some Chinese human rights workers. In the past few years there have been countless human rights warriors working for social justice who have dared to say "no" in the face of evil. There are some you will have heard of, like Ai Weiwei, Liu Xiaobo, and Hu Jiao, and many others you may not be familiar with, such as Liu Ping, Zhu Chengzhi, Chen Xi, Liu Guohui, and Li Bifeng. These people, as well as innumerable netizens, have all suffered varying levels of unceasing oppression and persecution for their actions in the cause of righteousness.
A few days ago, petitioners Li Guohui and Wei Lan as well as six other women from my home town who had traveled to Beijing were kidnapped and beaten by thugs working for the Shandong provincial office in Beijing. One of them, Qin Yuling was severely beaten around the face, and others sustained varying levels of injury. Last Friday, a student from Hainan, Dong Zhengzheng went to see my aged mother who was just coming back from the hospital. Just as she was about to leave, her father called her on the phone to tell her that the police had arrived at his house. He said she must go immediately to the public security, otherwise her student status would be jeopardized. Recently, many friends and neighbors who I have been in touch with by phone have been taken into custody by the authorities for questioning. They have been threatened, and made to describe what our conversations have been about. Even foreign journalists are not immune. A Reuter's journalist who has interviewed me was contacted by the foreign ministry and threatened. They told the reporter that Chen Guangcheng is an American spy. We cannot keep silent in the face of these phenomena. It is my sincere hope that in mentioning these people you will come to know them and understand their circumstances, and try to help them in their times of trouble.
As for the United States government, I urge you to continue unwaveringly from your basic principles of democracy, human rights, and freedom of speech. You must not give in an inch or offer the smallest compromise when it comes to these basic principles. Even though the United States now sees a softening of its economy, and it is clearly difficult to shift attention away from issues of finance and the economy, remember that placing undue value on material life will cause a deficit in spiritual life. You must establish a long-term plan for human rights, and not compromise on it, ever. What's more, the American people have a responsibility in human rights, because you are able to force the government to live up to its promises. You have freedom of speech and the right to fair elections: you should use these rights to encourage your government to fulfill its responsibilities. If you find it difficult to choose a candidate based solely on economic policies, you can vote according to their human rights record. If a politician cares about human rights, it's likely he or she will care about your well-being. Will a government that cares only about money govern responsibly? Even though the Chinese government will do anything to persecute those who stand up for human rights, fortunately, history shows clearly and unfailingly that aggression and violence cannot destroy the truth, and cannot eliminate what is good and kind in human nature. Moreover, as a Chinese saying describes, "If you carry the hearts and minds of the people, you will carry all below heaven." The government should take note of this: there has never been a dynasty that was able to achieve longevity through forceful oppression. In China in the last few years there have been more than 200,000 protests every year, covering every issue imaginable. More and more people are overcoming their fear to take action. The waves of citizens who have traveled to my village is the best example.
I sincerely hope that everyone - petitioners, human rights workers, civil rights groups, national governments, and especially the United States government - will come together to encourage progress in human rights. There should be no compromise, even if there are large business interests at stake - dignity, freedom and justice are more important. In 2011, the actor Christian Bale went to Dongshigu Village to find me. We were not able to see each other, and he knew he might hurt his own career, but he went anyway. He earned the respect of the Chinese people and people around the world not just as celebrity but a truly decent human being. An individual, an organization, a government, are all the same: as long as you are doing the right thing, you will be respected and validated by the people, and be enriched in both tangible and intangible ways. In many ways it is the intangible riches that are the hardest to come by.
In this key moment of transformation in China, international pressure is extremely important. However, the Chinese sons and daughters back home need to understand that although others can help us, we need to be the main actors in this effort. Democracy, freedom, and justice don't just happen: we must strive for them through action. Last year Myanmar lifted the ban on political parties, and last Friday it abolished media censorship. What the people in Myanmar do, we can do, too. Each of us has something to contribute. As long as we work together as one to overcome fear, we will unquestionably be able to free the nation from bondage. We need to bring to an end this period of history during which the Communist authority maintains a monopoly on power and enslaves the people through a leadership of thieves, and establish a truly civil society. Anything is possible in this world. The strength and potential of all of us are boundless. Please believe in yourselves. Let's work together to make this world a better place!