Yang Jianli

Dr. Yang Jianli's Speech, Candle Light Vigil Commemorating the 29th Anniversary of 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre

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.

Dr. Yang Jianli, Recipient of Lantos Foundation Front Line Fund Grant, Receives Morris B. Abram Human Rights Award

The Lantos Foundation congratulates UN Watch for its decision to honor Dr. Yang Jianli with theMorris B. Abram Human Rights Award. “We applaud UN Watch for choosing Dr. Yang, a man of extraordinary integrity and intelligence, to be this year’s recipient of the Morris B. Abram Human Rights Award,” said Lantos Foundation President Katrina Lantos Swett. "Jianli is a courageous human rights defender who has risked his life and eloquently raises his voice for human rights and justice for his country and the people of China. Dr. Yang represents the very finest of those Chinese patriots who are working for a China in which human rights and fundamental freedoms are protected, not trampled upon. The Lantos Foundation is proud to have supported Jianli’s work through our Front Line Fund, and we are confident this most recent honor will help to further his important work.”

"Tonight, I respectfully ask each of you, in your mind’s eye, to look across the bridge created by Morris Abram between the world struggles against the horrors of the Holocaust and against today’s assault on human rights.  Look over that bridge spanning more than seven decades. Look across to the victims of the Holocaust, to the 65 million victims of WWII..."

Click here for more from Dr. Yang's memorable acceptance speech.