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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 York City

Good afternoon and God bless to you all. As some of you know, I have a passing acquaintance with mathematics. So, I can tell you very truthfully that both from theory and experience that New York is 704000 steps from Boston! I cannot begin to tell you the many wonderful people, such as yourselves, who have given me shelter, food, and spiritual encouragement on this GongMin Walk to Washington D.C. This truly has been a spiritual journey as well as a physical one.

So, this afternoon my spirits should be high. However the events of the past week regarding the earthquake centered in Sichuan, China leaves me shocked and worried. Over 8000 of my countrymen are now dead. Tens of Thousands are homeless, and the news, I fear, will only get worse in the coming days.

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

(SILENT PRAYER)

In light of this unfolding tragedy, I will begin my remarks by emphasizing a paragraph from the letter sent to me by His Holiness, The Dalai Lama of Tibet. I quote from this letter:

“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.”

Human rights and democracy are indeed the foundation of a free, dynamic, stable and peaceful society. The issue of human rights is not political. It is not situational. It is not fashionable, something that can be given and taken away by whim. It is the very bond between humans and their Creator. Human rights give us dignity and purpose. The protection of these rights, for all its citizens, is the first responsibility of any government. Any government that does not protect the God given rights of its citizens is irresponsible. Any government that actively denies human and political rights for its citizens cannot have any claim to legitimacy, regardless of it wealth or power.

So my dear friends, human rights are indeed the foundation of life and a civil society.

However, when tragedy strikes, such as the devastating earthquake of this past week, the exercise of human, political, and civil rights is no longer a matter of life. It is the difference between life and death.

In my short life I have seen no greater example of civil and human rights in action than the response of American Citizens to victims of misfortunes and disasters around the world. The American generosity powered by free speech and the ability to freely organize, is democracy in action. In Chinese it is called GongMinLiliang. “Citizen Power”. Just two days ago, as part of the GongMin walk I was welcomed to Bridgeport, Connecticut by Mayor Bill Finch and his staff. I mentioned to him how saddened I was by the earthquake and how in need of assistance my countrymen were. I asked for any help he could provide. With out hesitation, Mayor Finch said he use all appropriate channels to encourage all municipal employees urging them to donate to the Red Cross Disaster Relief fund. Mayor Finch’s office has confirmed this morning that such communications have gone out to all municipal departments.

What a beautiful example of Citizen Power!

So, with great humility I thank May Finch and with a heart filled with hope, I call on this great city of New York and all American citizens from all the great cities of America to please emulate the great citizens of Bridgeport in helping my countrymen at this time of great misfortune. GongMinLiliang!

While my heart is full of hope because of the Citizen Power of America, It is also burdened with sadness because I know, and you are all gathered here today because you know, there are no human rights for Chinese citizens. There are no civil rights for Tibetans. There are no religious rights for Falun Gong Practitioners. In the face of this great tragedy confronting my countrymen, this lack of rights not only deprives Chinese citizen of a life of dignity but it deprives them of life itself.

Common sense and experience tells us that the Chinese government, an autocratic, one party system, with virtually unbridled power; with no system of checks and balances, with no independent judiciary; with no free speech, with no free press is incapable of ensuring that life giving aid, so freely given, will be equitably distributed to those in need. So, I fear that my countrymen will become double victims: Victims of a great natural disaster and victims of a corrupt government.

How can we rely on a government that denies human and civil rights to it citizens in the best of times, to extend such rights in the worst of times? A case in point, it is well-known that government buildings and the homes of party officials are built to withstand severe earthquakes, while the homes of ordinary citizens are not built to the same standards. How many parents have lost their children because of such negligence? We will never know because as the Boston Globe editorial in yesterdays paper said, “If the past is any guide the Chinese government will be loathe to permit a critical examination of the causes.”

Since the earthquake struck, I have walked over 100 miles with this question on my mind. How can we help the Chinese government do the right thing? What must the Chinese government do to ensure that humanitarian aid from both the world and Chinese taxpayers gets to those in need?

The answer is GongMinLiliang. I therefore call on the Chinese government and the donor governments and humanitarian relief agencies to work together, in the spirit of openness and cooperation to get as much aid to those with the greatest need in the quickest amount of time. Specifically, the following must occur is this is to happen:

Firstly, 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 early June and to focus on mobilizing all available resources toward relieving the great suffering of its citizens. GongMinLiliang. Citizen Power!

Secondly, 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 hijacked by corrupt government officials and their agents. 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 world community and the Chinese taxpayers will be used for its intended purposes and reaches the hapless people for whom it is intended. Gong Min Li liang. Citizen Power.

Thirdly, 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 and 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. Gong Min Li Liang.

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 my countrymen will be relieved quickly and with love and not greed. Gong Min Li Liang.

I pray that my brothers and sisters suffering under this great misfortune will be relieved quickly and with compassion by the awakening of Citizen Power. Gong Min Li Liang.

My brothers and sisters I pray that citizen power will come to all of us. I pray that it will bind us together as friends, as brothers and sisters, living under the blue sky of a free China, speaking freely, worshiping freely, respecting our mutual dignity, and seeking our own chosen path to happiness. For this I pray. For this I walk. For this I will not rest until I will embrace you all in a Tiananmen Square that is free. For this I pray. Gong Min Li liang.

Thank you.

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