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Leaders Call for Release of Wang Bingzhang on Humanitarian Grounds

On the 60th Anniversary of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Congressional and NGO Leaders Say China is Moving in the Wrong Direction on Human Rights

Washington, DC, December 10, 2008 – At an overflowing press conference hosted by Initiatives for China, Congressional and NGO leaders said that China is moving in the wrong direction on Human Rights. In rapid succession Congressman Frank Wolf of Virginia, Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, of Florida, and Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey, spoke of China’s disregard for the principles expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. “On our last trip to China, justbefore the Olympics, Congressman Wolf and I had a scheduled meeting with Christian church leaders canceled and one of the leaders with whom we were to meet was arrested” decried Congressman Smith.

Daughter’s tearful testimony calls for immediate release and honorary citizenship for her father.

Recently returned from China, 19 year old Ti-Anna Wang gave a personal account of a visit with  her father, 63 year old Wang Bingzhang, who is serving a life sentence in a Chinese prison for pro-democracy activities. In an emotional recount, Ti-Anna spoke of her father’s deteriorating mental and physical health. “Each of us had guards behind us and we were separated by a double pane of glass” said Ms. Wang. She said she feared her father was “running out of time” and called on the Chinese government to immediately release him on humanitarian grounds. She also called on everyone in the room to go to and sign a petition for his immediate release. She also called for Congress to bestow Honorary U.S. Citizenship on her father for his lifelong work to bring democracy to his homeland.

Initiatives for China President Dr. Yang says “Chinese government cannot hold a gun to its people forever” In a stirring conclusion to the press conference, Dr. Yang Jianli, Senior Harvard Fellow and President of Initiatives for China said that if anyone thinks that China is moving in the right direction on Human Rights “let them spend a day in Wang Bingzhang’s cell.” He went on to say that he invited anyone to go to Beijing and to exercise any one of the articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and “see what happens.” Holding up a copy of the “Charter 08,” a petition by Chinese citizens calling for democratic reform that is currently gathering thousands of signatures in China, Dr. Yang said that if anyone doubts that Chinese citizens really want Human Rights, “let them see this petition.” He concluded by saying that democracy is coming to China. “A government cannot hold a gun to its peoples’ heads forever,” he said.

Concluding Remarks by Dr. Yang Jianli
Press Conference
The Dr. Wang Bingzhang’s case is a terrible injustice. The time has come to call for his immediate release. Not because his case is more deserving,  but because his case is the most symbolic. Symbolic of the Chinese government’s systematic assault on human dignity. His case is not unique, but rather a reminder that human rights situation in China is not moving in the right direction. The Chinese government is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but its actions show it as the biggest and most deliberate destroyer of Human Rights. For those in the U.S. government or in the academic world who say China’s Human Rights progress is slow but OK, I urge them to spend a day in Dr. Wang’s cell.

I ask them to go to Beijing and stage a peaceful protest and see what happens. I urge them to exercise virtually any right stated in the Declaration and to see what happens. For those in the U.S. government and in academia who say that our fellow Chinese Citizens are not ready for, do not want, or are not concerned about Human Rights,  I ask them to pick up yesterday’s New York Times. As we speak, thousands of our fellow citizens, are signing a petition called “Charter 08”. This petition calls for democratic reforms in China. The Chinese government’s response to this simple act of free speech and citizen concern is not to listen but to arrest. About 48 hours ago, the Chinese government arrested a signer of Charter 08, Dr. Liu Xiaobo, one of the most prominent dissidents in China. A steadfast advocate  of universal values, democracy,freedom, and human rights, Dr. Liu has worked on insightful observations  about  citizenship, and the improvement of Human Rights for more than 20 years and has earned the respect of Chinese citizens as a leader of their aspirations  and social consciousness. It is the fourth time that he has been imprisoned in the past 20 years.

Here is the Charter, you will see its demands are very basic for any society,  which can be called civil, and the signers chose a most peaceful way to epress these demands. But the Chinese government’s modus operandi is to repress the rights of its citizens and persecute the its people,  because its strategic imperative is not to protect its citzens but merely to hold onto power  at the expense of its people. Charter 08 is a wakeup call to the western democracies as well as to the Chinese government. We remain silent at our own peril. A government cannot hold a gun to its citizens forever, it cannot throw everyone in jail. I call on the new administration, to send a signal to China, that its systemic denial of Human Rights can no longer be tolerated. I call on the outgoing administration and the incoming one, to ask the Chinese to demonstrate good faith by releasing Dr. Wang and Dr. Liu. At the same time, we do hope that the Chinese government will take the perspectives and requests contained in Charter 08 seriously and make its response to the citizens in a positive manner.

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