Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Remarks of Yang Jianli

The following fifteen minutes of remarks were given by Dr. Yang Jianli, a Chinese dissident newly free in America after five years as a political prisoner, at a press conference on Capitol Hill, Tuesday August 21, 2007. Yang was flanked by his family, by three U.S. officials, and by Jared Genser, the President of Freedom Now / organizer of the presser.


Yang Jianli: Ladies and gentlemen, my dear friends, it is heartening to be able again to stand on this great land as a free man, freely expressing my thoughts and ideas before you. Five years and four months: this moment has not come easily. There's no way to know how many good hearted people have put their efforts to secure my release and my safe return to the United States; how many prayers have been said; how many wishes have been made; and, how many tears have been shed.

At this emotional moment, my heart is filled with thanksgiving. While it is impossible to thank everyone by name now, and I look forward to giving proper thanks to people individually, in person and in good time --there are a few people that I would be remiss if I didn't thank publicly now. It is most appropriate for me to begin with the U.S. Congress. As I stand today in this great democratic institution, I thank its members for their genuine concern, compassion, and perseverence to secure my freedom and family reunion.

My family could not have not been luckier than to have chosen to live in Brookline, Massachusetts, and to happen to have been represented by Congressman Barney Frank. His support to my family and his relentless work has been the backbone of the effort to secure my release. Thank you, Congressman Barney Frank.

In addition, Chairman Chris Cox, prior to leaving the Congress, spent many years --and Chairman Congressman Lantos spent many years-- all from the very beginning, working to secure my release. Thank you, Chairman Cox. Thank you, Chairman Lantos.

I feel deeply indebted to the Bush administration. President Bush, Secretary Rice, Secretary Paulson, Ambassador Rant, and so many others for their tireless work on the front line, which has brought this day to fruition.

Standing with me today also is my dear friend Jared Genser, President of Freedom Now, who has supported my family since the very beginning. He brought my case before the United Nations which prepared the vital and necessary groundwork for this entire endeavor. He pressed the Bush administration and the U.S. Congress to care about my imprisonment. He fought for five long years without one minute of wavering. Just like I knew from within myself that this day would come, he too on the outside was just as resolute in his determination. My special thanks to you, my dear friend Jared. And also to Jerome Cohen as well, who could not be here today but who was a tremendous support to my family.

My gratitude to all of you in the media for publicizing my case, which in turn created enormous support around the world. Thank you all.

And to human rights groups worldwide and my colleagues from the Chinese community, I thank them for their constant and unflagging support.

I also cannot express enough my profound affection and appreciation to my entire family. Without their love, devotion, support, and understanding, I would not have been able to survive these difficult years. My family are here, my wife and my son -- Christina and Aaron -- and my mother. Mother, mom: thank you. And my sister, Junghua[sp?], and my sister Junguo[sp?], and my nephew Daniel. Thank you all.

But my rock, my source of strength, and the person who helped me get through these many years is my devoted wife, Christina. No one, when they get married, quite knows what will be required when they take their wedding vows. I know that was certainly the case with us, and especially for her.

I have only begun to understand --most since my release-- what a vital leadership role she played in this entire effort. Her grace and dignity and her unflagging dedication to get me home inspired countless people to put in an extra effort on my behalf. Without her summoning the inner strength required to persevere, I would not be home today. Christina, I love you, I am blessed, and so proud that you are my wife.

In five years and four months, I have lived a lifetime since I left home in April, 2002 to observe labor unrest in the northeastern China. While I never would have wished for the pain for my family, we all now truly understand that through adversity comes strength.

I am here today, stronger than I have ever been; more determined than I ever thought possible; more convinced that the one party system in China is fatally flawed. And deeply heartened by the knowledge --especially after the four months I spent in Beijing since my release-- that the democratization process in China is irreversible.

While the Chinese Communist Party may choose to fight this process every step of the way, it shouldn't. The Chinese people are increasingly demanding accountability from their government. They want to know that the resources being invested and spent are being used wisely, efficiently and without corruption, fraud, waste, or abuse. They want transparency and good governance. They want to know that their government has their best interests in mind. And most important, they are enducated enough that they want a say in directing how those resources are invested and spent.

One only need to understand that there are literally tens of thousands of protests in China every year to see that the Chinese government is sitting on a powder keg, as frustration with the one party system mounts. The Chinese government claims that what's required is stability to deliver on its promise to the people, and that it needs to control people's lives. But, the tighter the grip onto power, the more difficulty they will have in holding on. If a thirsty man plunges his fist into a bucket of water to get a drink, and then pulls it out, he will have nothing. It is only by extending an open hand into the bucket that he can get the drink he requires. So too it is with the Chinese government.

While counterintuitive for those who are too convinced of the righteousness of their cause, it is only by opening up their hands and trusting the wisdom of its own people that China can reach its full potential.

The answer to China's major challenges is not suppressing the countless protests across the country for fear they will spiral out of control. But rather, it is to acknowledge that they are a symptom of a broader, deeper, and more fundamental problem: that the people do not believe that their government has their best interests in mind. It is only by embracing public debate and placing more power to make the decisions that affect people's lives into the hands of the Chinese people that the Chinese government has the opportunity to relieve the tremendous pressure it is under. And by making these decisions, inevitably China will also play a more responsible, and less self centered, role on the world stage.

Information is power. And with the internet, mobile phones, text messaging, education, trade, and greater travel abroad, the Chinese people have had a taste of freedom. And they like what they see. The Chinese government has a fundamental decision to make. It can swim against the tidal wave, or it can surf it in to shore. I believe that inevitably, we will see vibrant democracy take root in China. And my time in prison only reaffirmed and strengthened my resolve to continue this struggle.

First, as I hope you will understand, I need to take the time to rest and be with my family for the time being. There is so much more that I have to say, but with the freedom to express my views, I will have the time to do that in the right way.

Again, my profound thanks for your years of support. Knowing from inside my cell how much was being done on the outside gave me the strength to persevere.

Thank you all. God bless America. God bless China. Thank you all.

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