WASHINGTON D.C. MAY 18, 2012
A few days from now the well-known Chinese blind rights activist, Chen Guangcheng, will arrive in the U.S. to start his new life as a free man, well, free in the sense that he will no longer be under house arrest, constant harassment and physical abuse by the authorities. I admire him, congratulate him and wish him the best in the U.S. This outcome seems to be agreeable to all parties: first Chen himself, the U.S. government, and even the Chinese government. But let's look at it carefully. Chen Guangcheng made the choice to come to the U.S. because he had to flee from his home, and into a third country's embassy; only then could he escape from being tortured and persecuted. His coming to the U.S. should only be seen as temporary, and a compromise. I am sure he wishes to go back to China with freedom and dignity as soon as possible.
The Chinese government, working together with the U.S. State Department, worked out a deal to exile another dissident, and the Chinese government called this an isolated incident. But what about Liu Xia? What about Gao Zhisheng? What about Feng Zhenghu? What about Hu Jia? And what about my aging parents? Are all of these "isolated incidents"?
We, the dissident community, express our gratitude to the United States government, particularly the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. But let me emphasize something here: the suppression and persecution of dissent in China has reached an unprecedented level, and the U.S., as the leader of the western democracies' China policy over the last twenty years should share some blame for that. When business interest overshadowed the principle of human rights and other universal values, the US adopted a policy to de-link trade from human rights, arguing that a market economy will eventually lead to democracy. Well, it hasn't. American officials go to Beijing with the hope of signing an investment agreement, and during that visit they may raise the question of human rights because of pressure back home from the congress or the media, but they never demand an answer. Imagine what kind of message it sends to China. I believe this situation contributed directly to the type of treatment Chen Guangcheng received and also contributed to the fact that my parents are prohibited from traveling abroad.
I am Wu'er Kaixi. I am a Chinese political dissident. I have been living in exile for 23 years since I had to flee China for my role as a leader of the Tiananmen Student Movement in 1989. I am still on the Chinese government's 21 most-wanted student leaders list. Today, I am turning myself in to Chinese Embassy, and I demand my arrest and extradition back to China. This is consistent with action I took on June 3, 2009, in Macau; and June 4, 2010, in Tokyo. In both cases I was detained and arrested by local authorities.
I take this action for two main reasons:
First, a rather tragic one: I haven't seen my parents for 23 years. The Chinese government has prohibited them from traveling abroad. My father, who is 76 years old, and my mother, who is 70, are no longer young and healthy; and are going to get any younger or healthier. Not being able to see their son is punishment of an innocent party because they have done nothing, rather, it is solely because of my political disagreement with the regime. Needless to say, this is barbaric and cruel behavior by the Chinese government that should be condemned by all. For me, I bear more pain than anger.
In the last few years I have tried many different approaches to solve this problem, even begging the very same group of thugs who put me on the most wanted list, persecuted my fellow dissidents, and still harassing those who share the same belief with me, and holding my parents hostage. Feeling humiliated and disappointed, I have given up on those attempts.
Giving up on those attempts is painful. In the last 23 years, this situation has taken a tremendous toll on my parents' health. My father has suffered two severe heart attacks, both time barely surviving; and my mother suffered a stroke in 1989, the year I fled China, and recently suffered another stroke. It is unbearable to contemplate the idea that I may never see them again, and to imagine the moment I may receive a call of bad news from home, but the situation has pushed me to the point to do so more and more often.
To some people, my turning myself in to the Chinese authorities may seem silly. Well, on the matter of seeing my parents, begging the Chinese authority to become compassionate, or hoping the world can raise their concern on human rights issue in China seems to me to be sillier. It seems I have a better chance of seeing my aging parents during a prison visit. How sad and devastating this might be for my parents is beyond my imagination.
Now, I hope this act of mine can remind the world that the Chinese government is holding my parents as hostage as a way to punish me; such act violates all human rights treaties it has signed; it is against the values of all mankind including Chinese; it is against humanity; it is even against Chinese law. Most certainly, it deserves condemnation and criticism from the world.
The second reason, I do this to challenge the Chinese government to have a "dialogue" with me on the matter of the Tiananmen massacre, on the basic idea of right and wrong.
"Dui-Hua" translated as "Dialogue", was one of the main slogans we shouted out 23 years ago in Tiananmen. We meant "counter talk." We wanted a political reform where the relation between the government and people are equal counterparts to begin with, not rulers and its subjects. Our belief in democracy was probably too simple and naïve; but our understanding of our rights were clear and fundamental.
The Tiananmen student movement act as the first tile of the domino effect and that triggered one of the most important campaign of the last century, democracy versus communist totalitarian. Immediately following China, Poland, Czech, Romania, East Germany and Soviet Union, the world won that war. We are very proud to be the first to strike in such a glorious victory; we are very saddened that we lost on our own battle field. It ended in China with troops and tanks clearing the square and the streets of Beijing, with a blood bath, that a couple of week from now, will be exactly 23 years ago.
The Chinese government's defense, and I hear it on many other occasions too, is that it is a necessity for the development. The word "development" has been the main theme, the dogma of Chinese propaganda the last 23 years. And the Chinese government has skyscrapers in Shanghai, a strong consumer market, and astonishing double digit economic growth to support their claim.
Well, these are developments indeed, and we want development too. That was the very reason we marched out of our campuses, took to the streets of Beijing, and occupied Tiananmen Square. However, there is a big piece missing in today's China. That missing piece disqualifies China from being a modern developed country. That missing piece is freedom.
Together with my fellow classmates, we fought for freedom 23 years ago, for that we paid a very high price. Hundreds if not thousands paid with their life, even more paid with their own freedom with years in prisons. I lost the freedom to return home for 23 years, and have been cast away in the world of "freedom". My understanding of freedom and my political beliefs have matured during these years of exile.
I am no longer a naïve 23 year-old college boy, and my understanding of China's situation has deepened and my belief in freedom has strengthened. We are not living in an ideal world, even in those countries we know as free countries. Freedom needs to be fought for constantly, but there, people had their faith in freedom. Freedom is not only a standard of political debate, a guideline of social behavior, it is a genuine possibility!
Unfortunately, we can still not say that in China! Hope for freedom, equality, justice and dignity based on those foundations is completely out of reach for the Chinese people, they are almost giving up hope! A society without freedom is not a civilized society, a country without dignity is not a "developed" country, and a nation with no hope is not a great nation.
23 years has passed. When I left China, I was 21 years old. Today, I repeat my slogan to Chinese authorities: "Duihua!" Even if this has to take place in a court room, in the form of an indictment and a plea.
The price for freedom is always high, has always been, and will always be. Let my small act today be a footnote with the following message: There will always be people like us willing to pay that price!