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Advancing a peaceful transition to democracy in China through truth, understanding, citizen power, & cooperative action

CEPOS Freedom Award Acceptance Speech

By: YANG Jianli

April 30,2012, Copenhagen

I am both humbled and invigorated to be honored as the recipient of the 2012 Center for Political Studies Freedom Award.  I understand that this prestigious award recognizes individuals who demonstrate a “principled and steadfast commitment to the values and ideas of individual freedom and basic human rights.”

Although I stand here before you as your honoree, in MY eyes, I see in front of me, the faces of my brothers in China, my fellow freedom fighters in Burma, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, North Korea, Syria, Vietnam and other closed societies around the globe  whose lifework and whose very willingness to shed their life’s blood, each and everyday, make each of them so more deserving of this recognition than I.  It is only with this acknowledgement that I can accept this award.

I am invigorated with the knowledge that I inherit this award from last year’s recipient, Yoani Sánchez, whose amazing courage, despite huge personal costs, gives daily voice to the reality inside one of the world’s most suffocating dictatorships.

And I am truly honored to receive this award from CEPOS who, although young in years, has earned the recognition and respect of much older and bigger sister foundations through its vigorous support of the worldwide struggle for freedom, justice, and human rights.

Your recognition strengthens my commitment to my fallen brothers in Tiananmen Square, to my compatriots including Christians and Falungong practitioners, to my Tibetan, Uyghur and Mongolian brothers and sisters, who suffer mightily, under the unspeakable repression of a government, whose sixty three years of tyranny have taken more lives than the victims of Stalin and Hitler combined. And even today, the repressive power and policies of this government spill over its own borders, to enable the morally bankrupt regimes of Iran, North Korea, Syria, and etc. to sustain.  A government whose disdain for human dignity now openly challenges the very foundations of civilization itself.

Your recognition doubles my resolve to use all my God-given strengths to join with you in our common goal to:

Confront lies with truth

To dissolve tranny with the power of non-violent resistance

And to replace repression and divisiveness through the irresistible strength of compassion and understanding

Though the struggle will be long, the outcome is certain.  The voices of history speak to us over and over again.  From Downing Street in London during the darkest days of World War II, to the dockyards of Gedansk in Poland, to the voices of Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Havel, the Dalai Lama and Aung Sang Suu Kyi, and the writings of Liu Xiaobo and Yoani Sanchez, all demonstrate to us the power of truth and individual courage to triumph over even the mightiest armies of repression.  Though the languages are different, the message is universal:

The lust of power and greed is no match for the thirst for freedom.  It is this universal and unquenchable thirst for freedom that drives humanity forward….away from darkness and into light.

Here I am reminded of Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Match Girl who lit matches to repel the cold and to illuminate the sky. As she drew her last breath, the light from these matches carries her to heavenly love and peace.

As your honoree, and in the name of all the voices for freedom that CEPOS supports around the world, I embrace this award and hold close to my heart, as I promise to light matches for freedom and justice until my very last breath.

Thank you and May God bless us all.

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