October 21, 2013
Dr. Geoffrey W. Marcy
Professor of Astronomy
University of California at Berkeley
417 Campbell Hall
Berkeley CA 94720
Dear Dr. Marcy,
We write to you as dissidents, activists and advocates who collectively have spent years seeking to shine a bright light on the grave human rights abuses of the Chinese government. Some of us have spent time in Chinese labor camps, others of us have family members presently imprisoned or under house arrest, or forced into exile, in a misguided effort by the Chinese government to silence us.
We long for a day when all the people in the People’s Republic of China, including Chinese, Tibetans and Uyghurs, are truly free. Sadly, that day has not yet come.
You were recently quoted in a piece which ran in The Guardian newspaper regarding an upcoming NASA conference and, more specifically, the statutory restrictions prohibiting NASA from engaging in bilateral activities with the Chinese government. We think these restrictions are advisable given the direct involvement of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the Chinese space program. The PLA is responsible for the unjust detention, abuse and even killing of countless individuals who have advocated for freedom of speech and religion in China.
We agree on the value of and need for scientific cooperation between the United States and China, both in the pursuit of science, and in nurturing relationships that could reduce the potential for conflict. If the fruits of this science are to be enjoyed by researchers and by humanity at large, scientists and academics must able to cooperate in an environment of trust, fairness and common endeavor. While individual Chinese scientists may share these ideals, we do not believe that the Chinese government allows for such an environment.
An article in the October 16 edition of the Wall Street Journal highlights the case of Xia Yeliang, an economics professor at the prestigious Peking University who was praised for breaking ‘new ground in U.S.-Sino cooperation.’ Dr. Xia was recently dismissed for exercising free speech. His case is not isolated. The fact is that the promotion of science and learning is consistently subordinated to the political interests of the Chinese regime. Moreover, there are ever-present concerns about the theft of American intellectual property by Chinese entities with the active support of the government.
We believe that as a Nobel Prize nominee you are uniquely positioned to advocate for individuals of academic accomplishment like Liu Xiaobo, the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner and a noted political prisoner who to this day languishes in a Chinese prison having been denied the opportunity to receive his award. Those who have been nominated for this prestigious award have a responsibility to advocate for their colleagues who have been imprisoned for speaking out. Further, it is not uncommon for American scientists to participate in conferences in China that are hosted and paid for by the autocratic Chinese government—the very same government whose abuses we’ve already outlined. Imagine how impactful it would be if these same scientists used this platform to press for fundamental change in China.
We respectfully urge you to take a leadership role in the American academic and scientific community in elevating the importance of basic human rights in China and elsewhere, grounded in unyielding respect for human dignity, and in the pursuit of freedom of inquiry and scientific cooperation. For these notions are foundational to the unfettered expression of ideas and the truest expression of academic freedom.
Thank you for your consideration of this request. Liu Xiaobo’s voice has been quieted but his story bears telling. Will you join us?
Mr. Bhuchung K Tsering
Interim President, International Campaign for Tibet
Executive Director, Laogai Research Foundation.
President, World Uyghur Congress
Founder and President, China Aid Association
Chairman, Overseas Chinese Democracy Coalition
Executive Director, Wei Jingsheng Foundation
Mr. Chen Guangcheng
Distinguished Senior Fellow in Human Rights at the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution of the Witherspoon Institute; Visiting Fellow of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at Catholic University of America; Senior Distinguished Advisor to the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice