"I can’t help but feel that Lantos would be saddened to see the dire situation facing Hong Kong in the aftermath of the 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement in which I and so many others participated."
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.
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.”
Concord, NH - The Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice announced today the launch of the 2016 Solidarity Sabbath, which focuses on the Chinese government’s harsh repression of freedom of religion, conscience, and belief. They are calling on individuals and faith communities around the world to devote the weekend of May 20-22, 2016 to highlight the strength and bravery of Chinese citizens who courageously live out their faith despite threats of harassment, imprisonment, and torture.
“While the Chinese government officially sanctions five religions, it does so with strict Communist Party oversight. Individuals and faith communities who follow their consciences outside the control of the Chinese Communist Party risk imprisonment, torture, or worse,” said Katrina Lantos Swett, President of the Lantos Foundation. “Without pressure from the global community and the political leadership of free nations, hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens will continue to be denied the most fundamental of human rights. Furthermore, religious freedom, tolerance, and respect are vital for the economic and social well-being of nations and their people.”
Individuals are encouraged to visit SolidaritySabbath.org to learn more about the absence of religious freedom in China. There are three ways they can participate: (1) encourage their respective faith communities to focus on the lack of religious freedom in China during the weekend of May 20-22, (2) sign the Solidarity Sabbath petition urging governments to put greater pressure on the Chinese government, and (3) reach out to one of the 2016 Solidarity Sabbath partner organizations to support their work on behalf of people in China. These partners include China Aid, Initiatives for China, the International Campaign for Tibet, the Chen Guangcheng Foundation, All Girls Allowed, and the Uyghur Human Rights Project.
The Solidarity Sabbath is an annual initiative of the Lantos Foundation that supports the fundamental human right of freedom of religion, conscience, and belief. During the inaugural Solidarity Sabbath in 2015, leaders across Europe and North America joined together to combat the spread of anti-Semitism. The Lantos Foundation for Human Rights & Justice is a non-profit focused on protecting fundamental human rights, promoting the rule of law, encouraging corporate responsibility with respect to human rights, and advancing the legacy and work of the late Congressman Tom Lantos.
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