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

Gong Min Walk 2008 – Yang’s Speech: The 19th Anniversary commemoration of the massacre at Tiananmen Square – D.C.

Today, I have arrived in the great city of Washington, D.C., the final destination of the GongMin Walk. I can tell you, both from mathematical calculation and experience, Washington DC is 1,408,000 steps from Boston.

When I started this walk in Boston, Washington, D.C. was my goal. But I knew I could only reach Washington by taking one step, followed by another step, followed by another step. So it is with our pro-democracy movement; no matter how great and noble our goal is, no matter how clear it is in our heart and vision, we can only achieve our goal by moving step by step. Tenacity and audacity is the spirit we seek for this larger GongMin Walk towards democracy in China.

More than one hundred years ago, the Chinese people started a GongMin Walk towards democracy. And nineteen years ago, the whole world turned its attention to Tiananmen Square, where hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens took more steps in this GongMin Walk. But nineteen years ago, on this very day, those footsteps were brutally crushed by the tanks of the communist government. Today, we have gathered here to remember those who lost their lives in that brutal massacre.

To remember means to look back, but often times remembering is also a way of looking forward. To remember Tiananmen Square is once again to make ourselves, as well as people all over the world, aware of this simple truth: if a country is to have hope, human rights must be respected and life must be valued. China cannot be an exception.

The steps of the GongMin Walk have never stopped. Tiananmen Mothers bravely opened a website in China only a week ago. I have seen great promise for the future of China based upon the power demonstrated by the Chinese people in their solidarity with earthquake victims. The earthquake and the atrocities of 19 years ago both prove that the free exercise of human rights is not simply the legal basis of citizen’s life; it can be the difference between life and death. We saw this demonstrated by the crushing tanks of Tiananmen and we saw this in the hundreds of schools that collapsed onto their young students because they weren’t built to earthquake code. The protection of these rights for all citizens, therefore, is the first responsibility of any government, and any government that actively denies these rights is not only irresponsible, it is also illegitimate, and illegitimate governments must be fought against and ultimately transformed.

Throughout the ages, many have pondered the question: Can good prevail over evil? It may appear that when good and evil compete on a level battlefield, evil will triumph. But when we rise up to the higher level, the level to the ultimate source of justice, good can be victorious. We must reach higher ground. Consider these words from Second Corinthians:

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.”

Therefore, I would like to make this coming year, from today until the twentieth anniversary of the June 4th Massacre, a year of prayer for the Chinese leaders. For this period of one year, I will not stop traveling in order to make it known to people of faith all over the world that they need to pray for the Chinese leaders, to pray that the Chinese leaders will exercise their power in order to do common good to their citizens, to pray that the Chinese leaders will introduce a system that places limits on their power. I particularly want to ask all people of faith to pray in your local sanctuaries, homes, offices or parks, from 11:00-12:00pm on May 31, 2009, which is the Sunday before June 4th. Globally, we will engage in 24 hours of continuous praying for the leaders of China. The power of these prayers will be felt by China’s leaders. This power needs to be felt by China’s leaders, for the present governing strategy of the Chinese Communist Party is to appeal to the worst instincts in human beings in order to control the Chinese populace and thus strengthen its grip on power.

The process to realize democracy relies on a different set of principles; it is a process which succeeds by appealing to the abundant good in people’s hearts.

Democratization in China is the biggest and a most important challenge of our century. What we are engaged in is a great experiment; our hypothesis is that it is possible that a Chinese political system can be compatible with the good, the fair, and the just. Proving this will take persistent, creative, and tireless efforts on the part of good, fair, and just people all over the world. When I consider the countless who fill our ranks, I am confident we will succeed.

We the Chinese people all want our country to be glorious. To this we say: What is truly glorious is justice, fairness, and the protection of the fundamental rights of every citizen. What is glorious in life is the opportunity to peacefully enjoy all of its facets. What is glorious is the spirit we glorify when we live lives in which we recognize and honor the essential dignity, decency, and humanity of every member of the world’s community.

God bless America. God bless China.

Thank you.

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