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

Gong Min Walk 2008 – Dr. Yang Jianli’s Speech in New Haven City Hall Press Conference

In a speech given at a press conference at City Hall, New Haven, CT, Dr. Yang Jianli calls for a democratic system of checks and balances to monitor earthquake aid. He outlines 4 specific actions.

May 14, 2008

Dear Friends,

I cannot begin to tell you the many wonderful people who have given me shelter, food, and spiritual encouragement on this GongMin Walk from Boston to Washington D.C. This truly has been a spiritual journey as well as a physical one.

I am walking with deep love for my homeland and my compatriots. The events of the past 48 hours regarding the earthquake centered in Sichuan, China leaves me shocked and worried. Over 12,000 of my countrymen are now dead. Tens of Thousands are homeless, and the news, I fear, will only get worse in the coming days. My heart is out with them.

Please join me in a moment of profound silence as we convey our pain to our Creator and ask for his mercy upon the victims of this great misfortune.

I was going to begin my talk today by reading a letter I received from His Holiness, the Dalai Lama of Tibet. Instead I will read just a paragraph:

“China today is an emerging world power. The international community has acted wisely by making efforts to bring her into the mainstream of the world economy. But economic integration alone is not sufficient. China needs human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. These values are the foundation of a free, dynamic, stable, and peaceful society. Such a society would also offer far greater economic freedom, security, and other advantages to all citizens of the People’s Republic of China.”

These wise words from His Holiness are the basis of what I want to share with you today.

First of all I call on President Bush as leader of the most powerful democracy on earth and on the United States Congress, as the duly elected representatives of the American People to call on the generosity of the American citizen to donate to the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. I also humbly ask all of you who might be inclined to donate to Initiatives for China, to go to our website, www.initiativesforchina and click on the link to the Red Cross and make a donation to the Red Cross instead. In my short life I have seen no greater example of democracy in action than the response of American Citizens to victims of misfortunes and disasters. Please exercise that great generosity on behalf of my fallen countrymen.

Secondly, I call on the U.S. Government to encourage the Chinese Government to cancel the Olympic Torch Relay that is scheduled to pass through Sichuan in June and to mobilize all available resources toward relieving the great suffering of its citizens.

Thirdly, based on common sense and past experience, disaster relief funds without a system of checks and balances, can and will be misused, and misdirected to benefit the corrupt and only add to the misery of the unfortunate. A democracy that freely and generously gives cannot allow its generosity to be subverted by the corruption inherent in a one party system with no checks and balances. I therefore plead with President Bush and the US Congress to work with the Chinese government to set up a system of citizen run controls that ensure the generosity of the American government, the American taxpayer as well as donations from Chinese taxpayers and people from all over are used for its intended purposes and reaches the hapless people for whom it is intended.

Fourthly, again based upon common sense and past experience, no system of controls will be effective without the oversight of a free and unhindered press and the free speech of citizens. I therefore call on President Bush and the U.S. Congress to urge the Chinese Government to engage in a grand gesture in the name of the victims of this terrible tragedy to lift all restraint on the press. To tear down the Great Firewall that controls the flow of information over the internet. Let the people. Let the citizens of China be the eyes and ears that ensure the great generosity of people from all the world goes to those with the greatest need and not the greatest greed.

These are common sense actions that will insure that the suffering caused by this great tragedy will not be compounded by the built in flaws of unregulated power accountable only to itself.

These actions will also demonstrate to the Chinese Government and to my fellow Chinese Citizens that there is a better way of governance. These actions will not only bring the greatest amount of relief to the earthquake victims but will demonstrate for all to see that free citizens, exercising free speech, and enjoying a free press, living without fear, are the basic ingredients for a truly just society. This is the opportunity to show democracy in action. To demonstrate the power of individual citizens to produce a greater good. This is the opportunity for the Chinese government to truly demonstrate its commitment to human rights and learn that democracy is not to be feared but to be embraced.

I pray that the wisdom of citizen power be visited upon the leaders of china so the misery of the earthquake victims is relieved quickly and with love and not greed.

Please pray with me for moment for the victims, and their families, for my fellow citizens, and for the leaders of China that their great power be used for the common good of all its citizens. For this let’s pray to God.

Thank you.

Yang Jianli

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