Thank you all very much for your wonderful welcome.
Nineteen years ago, Chinese students, workers and citizens marched in peace in Tiananmen Square. They raised the Goddess of Democracy in the image of our own Statue of Liberty. They quoted America's Founding Fathers. We remember with sadness and outrage how the Chinese government unleashed an army on its own people.
One of the most enduring images of the twentieth century will forever be seared into our conscience. The picture of the lone man standing in the street and bringing a line of tanks to a grinding halt -- that image has been seared into our conscience. That massacre of the demonstrators in Tiananmen Square challenged our conscience and the conscience of the world.
Thank you, Carl Gershman, for your leadership as President of the National Endowment for Democracy. You referenced that privilege that you gave to me -- to bestow your award of the National Endowment for Democracy on two of the heroes of the Democracy in China movement. It was a great privilege for me. That that award is a smaller version of the Goddess of Democracy is an overwhelming image. I have that same statue in the Speaker's office. Any visitor to the Speaker's office will see among the very few artifacts I have in my office the importance of that great symbol of democracy there.
I am proud to be here today with so many heroes and advocates of human rights in China and Tibet. I thank the Reverend Gordon Schultz for his reference to our visit to China in the early 1990s where we spoke out in association with those that have spoken out for Democracy in China. We're also joined today by Dr. Yang Jianli, a Tiananmen Square activist of 1989 who spent five years in prison because of his criticism of the Chinese government. We're also joined by Rebiya Kadeer, a champion of human rights of the Uyghur people who had to endure five years of notoriously harsh prison conditions for her activism. Thank you for your tireless efforts and unquantifiable sacrifices for the cause of freedom and human rights in China.
As we pay tribute to the brave souls of Tiananmen Square, we also offer our deepest condolences to the thousands of victims and their families of the earthquake struck in China last month. I hope that it's a comfort to those affected by this terrible tragedy that so many people throughout the world are thinking of them and praying for them at this sad time. And in remembrance of all those that lost their lives, let us observe a moment of silence.
In the spirit of standing with the Chinese people in this moment of grief, it is in that spirit that we stand here today and pay tribute to the martyrs of Tiananmen Square. Today we remember the heroes of Tiananmen and call for the release of all political prisoners in China -- all political prisoners in China.
I'd like to read the names of some of the other prisoners: Hu Jia, who was recently sentenced recently for speaking out on the link between human rights and the Olympics; Shi Tao, sentenced to ten years in prison for reporting on the 15-year anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre; Chen Guangcheng, a blind lawyer and advocate who exposed the truth about human rights violations; the 11th Panchen Lama, who was kidnapped as a young boy; Alim and Ablikim Abdureyim, the sons of Rebiya Kadeer who have been imprisoned, harassed and intimidated by Chinese authorities.
People who have been imprisoned for their political or religious beliefs say that the greatest and most terrible torment to them is that their captors tell them that nobody remembers them -- that they are forgotten by the outside world, so why don't they just confess and get it over with. We don't want that excruciating form of torture to ever take hold among political prisoners anywhere. To the extent that we know the names in China, we will continue to recite them in public, whether in places such as this, or on the floor of the Congress of the United States. While we may not be able to read all of the names all of the time, they are all in our thoughts, our prayers, and our hopes so that one day they may be free.
The spirit of Tiananmen Square endures and inspires in China and in the rest of the world something special. But for many of you that I have worked with over the years and some more recently, can you imagine that 19 years have gone by? Remember when they told us at the time that engagement was going to lead to democratic freedoms and plurality in China? That we shouldn't be worried about trade, because trade would lead to peaceful evolution, which is in fact considered an evil in China. At the time that we were going to use the leverage of trade in order to release the prisoners of Tiananmen Square -- that was a modest goal.
At that time, we had about a $3 billion trade deficit with China. As we continued the debate over the next couple of years, that grew to a $5 billion a year trade deficit with China. We were told that this commercial relationship was not only going to lead to better commercial relationships with the United States, but it was going to lead to political mobilization in China. Nineteen years later, the trade deficit is not $5 billion a year, but $5 billion a week. China took the opportunity to continue to bar market access for U.S. products into China, to continue its piracy of our intellectual property, and the list goes on.
'Oh, that's OK,' people said, 'When they join the WTO everything will be better.'
It simply hasn't happened. But if we want to make that commercial decision for our country, we certainly did not make it for American workers, and we certainly did not make it for Chinese workers. Who will benefit? We were told that if we engaged, China would modify its behavior in supporting rogue regimes around the world. And now look who has a better friend in the UN than Iran, who has China as its friend. Who has a better friend in the UN for Sudan than China?
This has not improved the security of the world, the freedom of expression in China, nor has it improved the commercial relationship between the U.S. and China.
But what we're here to talk about here today is human rights in China. I want to thank all of you for keeping the flame of that torch alive all these many years. Let us hope that if we continue to do this and in the following years after the Olympics and whatever openness that brings to China, that we continue to observe the anniversary of Tiananmen Square. We will have made some progress; we will see something different happening in China -- for the people there, the people in Tibet, and the security of the world.
I said when I was in Dharamsala to see the Dalai Lama, he said, 'Tashi delek [hello].' Let America continue to speak out for human rights in China and in Tibet. Unless we do that we will have lost all moral authority to speak out for human rights anyplace in the world.
I appreciate the kind words of appreciation for the leadership that some of us have provided on this. I'm pleased to hear that Congressman Chris Smith was here earlier -- this is bipartisan, we work in a bipartisan way -- Democrats and Republicans together. [Applause.]
I appreciate that and I thank you for that, but I am here to say thank you to all of you, many of you that have risked your lives, many of you whose families risked their lives, all of you who care deeply for human rights in China and Tibet and therefore the entire world.
Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to spend time with you today.