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

President Obama: We Are All Citizens of the World

Speech at the Rally Opposing China’s Membership on the UN Human Rights Council, 

In Front of the UN Headquarters  – Nov. 5, 2013 

Mr. President Obama: We Are All Citizens of the World.

by Jim Glanzer

 

There are many notable people here. Yang Jianli, I thank you, above all. I will always support you in these causes.

There is one illustrious person who is not here today. He should be.  President Barack Obama, I address this to you, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient like Liu Xiaobo. You were, with your prize, presumed to be a citizen of the world.

In June of this year, Lix Xia, a dear friend with whom I have exchanged letters and ideas about art and photography and poetry – she, the artist and wife of Xiaobo – sent an open letter to China’s President. She wrote:

President Xi Jin Ping:

I am Liu Xia, a citizen of the People’s Republic of China. I have been under house arrest and have lost all my personal freedoms since October 2010. No one has told me any reasons for detaining me. I have thought about it over and over. Perhaps in this country it is a “crime” for me to be Liu Xiaobo’s wife.

I think the prison sentence of my brother Liu Hui, which was handed down on June 9, 2013, is totally unjust. I doubt whether the judicial authorities or even any other part of the public authority system really administered his case properly.

Under existing law, we should see justice from the state’s power instead of ruthless crackdowns and violence; all events that erase individual rights are tragic and cast a dark shadow over the aura of a state power’s legitimacy.

Justice in criminal trials can only be manifested in actual cases. I cannot imagine justice – what we are hoping for – will be realized through disrespecting and disregarding the rights of the accused.

Mr. Chairman, the China Dream that you speak of must be realized through every citizen.  I hope the China Dream doesn’t turn us as individuals into “China Nightmares.”

Today is the traditional Chinese Duanwu Festival (the Dragon Boat Festival). Can you ever imagine how our family is feeling during these celebrations?

She signed the letter: Liu Xia, Citizen

 

President Obama. I am a citizen of the United States of America. I can only repeat today the words of my friend.  Only she can speak for herself. And I cannot speak for her husband, Liu Xiaobo – I do not have nearly the intellectual tools or the wit to recreate his presence here today.

But I can speak as an American who cannot stand in silence while the Chinese Communist Party stamps its muddy boots on the rights of free-thinking friends in Beijing or Shanghai or Jinzhou and then, with the same feet, races to seek the world’s acceptance as a “leader” in the field of human rights. If this weren’t actually happening this week, it would be laughable.

I can speak on behalf of fellow Chinese and American citizens who seethe when we see our compatriots, Liu Xianbin and others, repeatedly imprisoned for years just for holding fast to their convictions, for believing in democracy, freedom of association, freedom of thought, and civil liberties.

Beyond that, I can speak as a member of civilized society both here and abroad – we object to the treatment of democracy’s leading thinkers, Tianna’s father Wang Bingzhang and others, those illegally kidnapped and thrown into prison by the Chinese Communists or sent to rot in unknown locations, held in solitary confinement, or tortured, or electrocuted or disappeared inside of China’s black jails.

One month after seeing her open appeal to Xi Jin Ping, I sent another of my letters to my friend in Beijing. It began:

Dear Liu Xia. There is tragic irony in my writing to you today, July 4th, America’s Independence Day – to you, who suffer through detention at home.  It is without question that my independence and your liberty are indelibly linked. Where there is no liberty, there can be no independence to celebrate.

 

Liberty is difficult to achieve when an obnoxious, self-righteous government feels justified in using detention, prison, threats, torture, or worse against its politically-minded citizens and, in particular, against their extended families.  In its attempts to block any civilized path toward creating a rational government, China’s Communists add to their long list of crimes against the Chinese people – and the rest of humanity – by taking hostages among the family members of citizens whose politics they find disagreeable.  There are few states that do this and fewer that commit such heinous acts so habitually: Iran and North Korea come to mind… 

Your family has been victimized by the Party and by its paid thugs far more than most and for far too long. Your home detention and the recent false arrest and unjust imprisonment of your brother Liu Hui (劉暉) are only the most recent examples of this.

Retribution toward activists’ families has become a main instrument of the Party’s toolkit for dealing with dissent. This is a practical way to allow the Party to continue to rule without being forced to try in court and then, perhaps, convict the remainder of the Chinese population for treason.  You and your family are not alone in suffering from this despicable practice.

Case one. Human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng (高智晟) was disappeared into China’s jail system in 2006, but not before Chinese security guards planted themselves in his apartment building, then forced his wife and family to keep their apartment’s lights on, then  forced them to keep their doors open 24 hours a day, and then harassed Gao’s daughter daily on the way to and from school.  Liu Nian Chun and Chu Hai Lan, the translators of my  letters to you,  they may have the stoic temperament required to some day make peace with their former tormentors. I never will. I am not that noble.

Case two – dissidents’ family members denied jobs. Case three – activists’ parents  whose social security payments are cut off for no reason other than guilt by association with their own children.  Case four – withdrawal of access to schools, or education or other institutions.  Zhang Lin, the prominent rights activist  (张林)  whose 10-year-old daughter was even denied access to grade school.  More and more petty bureaucratic revenge. 

The Party makes a specialty of  first easing conditions on activists and their families ahead of important meetings with Western leaders, and then reverting back to viciousness once those meetings are concluded. 

When it suits the Party to avoid conflict with civilized governments, magical things start happening.  Consider dissident human rights lawyer Zheng Enchong (郑恩宠).  Party leaders boasted about the abuse visited on Zheng and his family. Yu Zhengsheng (俞正声), the Chairman of the Party’s Standing Committeee (中国人民政治协商会议全国委员会主席),  said: “We couldn’t beat Zheng Enchong and Ni Yulan (倪玉兰) with legal knowledge, but we could deprive them of their jobs.  So we stopped claiming that they disclosed national secrets and began to use political means to make them unemployable.”  

True, Zheng was freed after 7 years of home detention -but  just 6 days before Xi Jin Ping (习近平) held his June meeting with Barack Obama (贝拉克·奥巴马).  

Excuse me…? Did I read my own letter correctly…? Let me interrupt my own writing at this point to ask a simple question:

Is this the same Chinese government that now wants to take a seat on the UN’s Human Rights Council…?  China, a country that routinely redefines human rights as excluding any political rights… ?

The imprisoners of Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo for writing seven sentences that the government disliked… ?

The detainers of Xiaobo’s wife Liu Xia without charge and without even the decency of a public acknowledgement that she remains under house arrest…?

The kidnappers of Wang Bingzhang from Vietnam, outside of any accepted international law…?

The serial jailers of Liu Xianbin without cause… ?

The disappearers and torturers of Gao Zhisheng…?

The vindictive retaliators against activists’ families… ?

The deprivers of  activists’ livelihoods…?

And, yes, the murderers of the blind and deaf Li Wangyang who, somehow, despite his disabilities still managed to supposedly “hang himself” in a hospital room in Shaoyang all while his feet were still squarely on the ground …?

I could go on and on and on with case after case after case of abuse. But this is the by-product of a state, so terrified of its own population, that it spends more on domestic surveillance and so-called “stability maintenance” than it does on outward looking national defense.  It’s made me re-think where the “home of the brave” is really located.

President Obama. In March 2006, the UN established the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva with the express purpose of – and I quote from its founding resolution –  “promoting universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction of any kind and in a fair and equal manner.”

That resolution also said the Council “should address situations of violations of human rights, including gross and systematic violations.”

President Obama, when did you stop seeing gross and systematic violations of human rights in China…?

Can you not see the plight of our fellow democrats imprisoned and beaten and electrocuted and tortured in China’s jails, or see their families being systematically harassed and denied and placed in extra-legal home detentions…?

Do you see anything in the Council’s mandate that would suggest inviting one of the world’s leading abusers of its own citizens to sit on such a UN Human Rights Council…?

Your predecessor had the good sense to boycott the UN Human Rights Council in 2007 because it’s mission had become deeply contorted by the revenge agendas of some of the UN’s most illiberal members. It was you who decided to re-engage with the Council because you thought you could make it relevant again.

Yes, you may make the Council relevant, but it will be relevant in the entirely wrong way.

China has become in this century a militarized kleptocracy, a gross and systematic violator of its citizens’ most basic human rights.  Does any leader of any free nation really believe that letting their UN representative vote to give China a seat at the Council’s table will somehow help the Council fulfill its mandate…? That it is in the interest of human rights…? No one who cares to be a citizen of a civilized world would want their country’s leader or his representatives to do this.

My name is Jim Glanzer.  I am a citizen of the United States of America. And we – all of us – here today are citizens of the world.

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