Washington, D.C. - Speaker Pelosi spoke on the House floor yesterday evening in strong support of H.R. 489, recognizing the 20th anniversary of the suppression of protesters and citizens in and around Tiananmen Square. The House passed the resolution by a vote of 396 to 1. Below are the Speaker's remarks.
The Speaker also released a letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao that she delivered last week in Beijing calling for the release of individuals detained or imprisoned in China. The letter follows her remarks.
“I thank Congressman Levin and Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen for bringing this legislation to the floor. I associate myself with the comments of Mr. Poe and my friend, Mr. Wolf. We have been working on this issue for a very long time in our task force on China, even before Tiananmen.
“Human rights in China is a very, very important issue. China is a very important country. The relationship between our two countries is very important economically, security-wise, culturally, and in every way. But the size of the economy, the size of the country, and the size of the relationship doesn't mean that we shouldn't speak out. I have said that if we don't speak out about our concerns regarding human rights in China and Tibet, then we lose all moral authority to discuss it about any other country in the world.
“Today we come together to support a resolution on the floor of the House of Representatives recognizing that 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Again, I thank my colleagues for bringing this legislation to the floor.
“Twenty years ago, a generation ago, thousands, millions of Chinese students, workers, and citizens assembled in Tiananmen Square and all of the streets leading to it and from it to bravely speak out. It was about promoting more freedom in China in terms of accountability of the government in ending corruption. It was about more transparency and the ability to speak and to assemble. It was about the aspirations of people in a country that they love and their desire to have dialogue with their leaders on the future of China.
“It will be forever seared in our memory what happened next. The People's Liberation Army, the People's Army, was used against the people, crushing demonstrators in Tiananmen Square and crushing dissent throughout China. And so again, Tiananmen Square is the place where many people assembled, but the demonstrations were beyond that and well into Beijing and across the country.
“We remember one of the most enduring images, which actually happened after the crush, after the order was given to clear Tiananmen Square by such and such a time on June 4. A day or two later, a brave man stood before the tank. One of the most enduring images of the 20th century will forever be seared again in the conscience of the world: the picture of the lone man standing before a tank in the street bringing a line of tanks to a halt.
'When the tanks moved, he moved. He even climbed on the tank to communicate to the person in charge of the tank that Beijing was their city and they did not want tanks overtaking it. Today, that spirit of Tiananmen lives in the hearts and minds of those continuing to work for freedom in China and beyond. The heroes had the courage to speak out for freedom.
“There will be other observances of the Berlin Wall coming down throughout Europe in the next weeks and months. And actually, while the Chinese students, workers, and demonstrators used the Goddess of Democracy as the symbol in Tiananmen Square, inspired by our Founders, they, in turn, inspired others throughout Europe and the rest of the world to speak out for freedom. And others did achieve freedom. Unfortunately, the Chinese did not.
“Some of the people arrested at the time of Tiananmen Square are still in prison. We really don't have all of their names, but we do have the names of some prisoners of conscience that I brought to the attention of the Chinese government. In a letter to the President of China, I included some of those, and I want to read them into the record. And I will submit their names and the description of their situation into the record.
“Before I read them all, I want to talk particularly about Liu Xiaobo. Liu Xiaobo is one of those individuals who spoke for freedom. He spent five years in prison and in re-education-through-labor camps for supporting the Tiananmen students and for questioning the one-party system. Late last year, he was again arrested for being one of the organizers of the Charter '08, an online public petition for democracy and the rule of law. About 5,000 people signed it. Imagine the courage of these people to sign such a petition. Liu continues to be held without charges. We call for his immediate and unconditional release.
“Let me read the name of Dr. Wang Bingzhang. He is very famous. There was an article in the paper yesterday about him. Hu Jia, Shi Tao, Chen Guangcheng, Gao Zhisheng, Yan Zhengxue, Pastor Zhang Rongliang, Bangri Chogtrul Rinpoche, and Ronggyal Adrag are being held. Some of these are from Tibet as well. There are others, but I want to submit these names for the record as they are representative of the situation.
“I just had the privilege of visiting China last week. We had magnificent hospitality from the Chinese government, and I am grateful for the opportunity they gave us to hear about their plans for climate change and issues of global concern. It also afforded me the opportunity to speak about human rights in China and Tibet and congressional concern about it to the President, the Premier and the Chairman of the National People's Congress. In terms of our dialogue, congressional and interparliamentary dialogue, I think it was clear from our visit that this concern is bipartisan, and any dialogue we had between our two Congresses would have to include a discussion of human rights.
“When we were there, the first meeting we had was with Bishop Jin of Shanghai to discuss the status of religious freedom in China. He was optimistic about the Catholics that he led in Shanghai having some more freedom and making progress in that regard. And I respect that. But that is not the case for all who wish to exercise their religious freedom in China. And again, China is a country of contradictions. You see progress here, and you see oppression there. Perhaps it is how regions deal with these issues. But the fact is that much more needs to be done in terms of religious freedom.
“I mentioned that we had submitted this letter to the Chinese government. When we were in Hong Kong, we met with Han Dongfang, who was in Tiananmen Square as a bus driver at the time. He gave us his view about what was happening and what opportunities that could be there.
“It is something that is not taught to children. What we learned is that some students in Beijing University did not have any idea of who the man before the tank was. They didn't have any idea. They could not relate to that. It was not part of their knowledge. It didn't trigger anything that they had heard about in China. That is pretty remarkable. But the fact is that the world will never forget, and that image is one that inspires those who aspire to freedom wherever it is in the world.
“I do believe that all countries of the world have to get to a place of more openness, more transparency and more accountability of government. And perhaps the issue we visited the Chinese about, climate change, is one that can open some doors. Environmental justice can help people have clean air and clean water and get answers from their government as to why they do not have it.
“Today, on this floor, and this week we are observing something that is sacred ground when we talk about human rights in the world. It is a remarkable occurrence that will continue to inspire people throughout the world and also inspire those in China who hope for and aspire to freedom.
“Mr. Lantos, our late colleague, introduced me to the Dalai Lama and the issue of human rights in China and Tibet. He was always saying to me: ‘Don't be discouraged; the fight for human rights is a long one.' But who would have thought that 20 years after Tiananmen Square, we would be observing this, that people would still be imprisoned and that we would be submitting names of people who want to be able to speak more freely, to assemble and have more accountability from their government?
“For this and many other reasons, I'm grateful to my colleagues for their leadership in bringing this legislation to the floor. Thank you for that opportunity.
“And with that, Madam Speaker, I want to submit, in full, my letter and the list of prisoners. This is important because they say the worst form of punishment for someone who is a political prisoner is to say that no one remembers that you are here. No one remembers why you are here. So think about that as you are in prison.
“Well, we want them to know that in the Congress of the United States, we do know about them, we do care about them, and that we will continue to call for their freedom.”
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May 27, 2009
The Honorable Hu Jintao
People's Republic of China
Dear President Hu:
I am writing to ask for your assistance in obtaining the release of certain individuals detained or imprisoned in China. It is my understanding that these individuals are prisoners of conscience and they are detained or imprisoned for exercising rights that are guaranteed to them under Chinese law or under international human rights conventions that have been signed or ratified by the Chinese government.
Attached is a list of selected prisoners and brief descriptions of their cases. I look forward to working with you on a positive outcome on these cases and for the welfare of these individuals. Thank you for your consideration of this request.
Speaker of the House
Key Prisoners in China Who Should Be Released
Submitted May 27, 2009
Liu Xiaobo was detained and transported to an undisclosed location in December 2008 without any legal proceeding. He was one of the original signers of Charter 08 that calls for new policies to improve human rights and democracy in China. Liu is reportedly under residential surveillance at a location outside of his residence, in violation of China's Criminal Procedure law. It is my understanding that he has not been allowed to meet with his lawyer or family except for one brief visit with his wife. Under Chinese law, a person under residential surveillance does not need permission to meet with his lawyer.
Dr. Wang Bingzhang was abducted by Chinese authorities in Vietnam in June 2002 and brought to China. He was then convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in solitary confinement in a trial that produced no evidence or witnesses to prove the charges against him. Dr. Wang is an internationally recognized pro-democracy activist and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that Wang's detention is arbitrary. Dr. Wang is a permanent resident of the United States and his sister and daughter are U.S. citizens. He is currently held in Beijiang Prison in Shaoguan, Guangdong province, and suffers from phlebitis and has had three major strokes. At minimum, he should be released on medical parole
Hu Jia was detained in December 2007 and sentenced to 3.5 years in prison in March 2008. The decision to take him into custody seems to have been made after leaders in several Chinese provinces issued a manifesto demanding broader land rights for peasants whose property had been confiscated for development. Hu pleaded not guilty on charges of 'inciting subversion of state power' at his trial.
Shi Tao is a Chinese journalist serving a ten-year prison sentence for sending an email description of a government order prohibiting Chinese media from recognizing the fifteenth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests to a New York-based democracy website. Shi Tao was convicted with email account information provided by Yahoo! China. His lawyer, Guo Guoting, was repeatedly harassed in an effort to prevent him from representing Shi Tao.
Chen Guangcheng, a self-trained legal advocate who tried in June 2005 to investigate reports that officials in Linyi city, Shandong province, had subjected thousands of people to forced abortions, beatings, and compulsory sterilization in order to meet population control targets. Although central government officials agreed that the officials used illegal means, authorities rejected the class-action lawsuit Chen tried to file. Chen was tried on August 24, 2006, and sentenced to four years and three months for “intentional destruction of property” and “gathering people to disturb traffic order.” Chen, who is blind, has reportedly been severely beaten in jail and has gone on a hunger strike to protest the beatings. He is serving his sentence in Linyi Prison.
Gao Zhisheng, founder of a Beijing law firm, has represented numerous activists, religious leaders, and writers. On October 18, 2005, Gao wrote an open letter to Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao, exposing widespread torture against Falun Gong practitioners. On November 4, officials shut down his law firm and began a campaign of harassment against Gao, his family, and associates. Authorities abducted Gao on August 15, 2006 and convicted him on December 22 of “inciting subversion of state power” and subject to a three-year sentence, suspended for five years. After Gao sent an open letter to the U.S. Congress in September 2007, he was taken away by the police for over 50 days, and tortured. Gao disappeared again on January 19, 2009. His current whereabouts are unknown.
Yan Zhengxue, a 63-year old writer and painter, was detained on October 18, 2006, during a police raid on his home in the Jiaojiang district of Taizhou city, Zhejiang province. The Taizhou People's Intermediate Court convicted him on April 13, 2007, of inciting subversion and sentenced him to three years in prison after he attended a conference in the U.S. several years earlier and published on the Internet three articles critical of the Chinese government. Yang's cell mate reportedly attacked him, causing head injuries. Yang's family is concerned about his diminishing physical and mental health due to harsh treatment in prison.
Pastor Zhang Rongliang is a Christian leader who was detained in Zhengzhou city, Henan province, in December 2004 and sentenced in June 2006 to seven years and six months in prison. Authorities charged him with “fraudulently obtaining border-exit documents” and illegally crossing the border in an effort to attend missions conferences. He had been beaten, detained, and harassed a number of times since his conversion to Christianity in 1969. He is reportedly in poor health and suffering from diabetes.
Bangri Chogtrul Rinpoche, a lama who lived as a householder, was convicted of inciting splittism and sentenced to life imprisonment in September 2000. He and his wife managed a children's home in Lhasa. The Lhasa Intermediate People's Court commuted his sentence from life imprisonment to a fixed term of 19 years in July 2003, and then reduced his sentence by an additional year in November 2005. He is serving his sentence, which will be complete on July 30, 2021, in Qushui Prison near Lhasa. He suffers from heart disease and gall stones.
Ronggyal Adrag, a nomad, climbed onto a stage at a horse-racing festival in Litang county, Sichuan province, on August 1, 2007, and shouted slogans calling for the Dalai Lama's return to Tibet, the release of Gedun Choekyi Nyima (the Panchen Lama identified by the Dalai Lama), freedom of religion, and Tibetan independence. The Ganzi Intermediate People's Court sentenced him on November 20, 2007, to eight year's imprisonment for inciting splittism.