Wei Jingsheng Foundation News and Article Release Issue: A921-W601



Release Date: February 20, 2016



Topic: Robert L. Bernstein Acceptance Speech of the "Human Rights and Freedom Defender" by the Wei Jingsheng Foundation



Original Language Version: English (Chinese version at the end)



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Robert L. Bernstein Acceptance Speech of the "Human Rights and Freedom Defender" by the Wei Jingsheng Foundation

February 11, 2016


I want to thank Wei Jingsheng for presenting me with this award. If ever a situation should be reversed, it is this one. I and all of us should be giving Wei an award. He is the world's symbol of a human being dedicating his entire life-not just a piece of it-trying, with amazing skill and perseverance to bring the advantages of free speech, perhaps the most important human right, to his beloved China.


One of the high points of my life was when I went to meet with Wei in Beijing in 1994 when he was in between prison sentences. Shortly thereafter, he made me his literary agent and told me I would receive his prison letters. He was confident that the prison authorities, who had confiscated his writings, would give them back to him. Why should they do that? Because when they were ready to release him, he simply told them he wouldn't leave the prison without his writing!


He made me feel so important as we rode through Beijing in a taxi as he looked back and said, "You must be important. I usually have one car following me, now there are two, you must have your own!"


Here is one line from these amazing letters. Try to imagine a man serving a 14-year prison sentence, a lot of it in solitary confinement, handing a letter to the prison authorities to be delivered to the paramount leader of China right after the Tiananmen Square military crackdown in 1989. The letter starts as follows:

"Dear Deng Xiaoping, So, now that you've successfully carried out a military coup to deal with a group of unarmed and politically inexperienced students and citizens, how do you feel?"

That was later followed by:

"Going down in infamy for carrying out a military coup doesn't sound too good to you, does it?"


While it is always a good feeling to be thought well of for trying to help a brave man like Wei achieve his goals, one can hardly feel good as a human rights advocate in having made a difference in the human rights progress in China. We have made little difference in trying to end the long and cruel sentences of Chinese trying to bring free speech and rule of law to their country.


As of today, February 11, 2016, Liu Xiaobo, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, is in his 8th year in prison, for "inciting subversion of state power." His wife is under very strict house arrest for no apparent reason except that she is his wife; his brother-in-law has also been sentenced to 11 years in prison. Since Liu's sentencing, a veritable tsunami of sentences has followed. First against writers and intellectuals whose families were then persecuted, next came the assault on the legal profession that started in July of last year. Over 300 lawyers and activists have been harassed, many have been charged with "incitement" or "subversion," some were simply disappeared.


I remember when several years ago I was in the office of Human Rights in China when Sharon Hom, its longtime remarkable Executive Director, introduced me to the wife and 2 young children of Gao Zhisheng, one of China's leading right defense lawyers who was imprisoned, disappeared, and tortured multiple times for taking on the wrong cases. They had just arrived in the United States. I said to his son, "You must learn English! I'm a book publisher and I'll send you some books." He said, "I have to remember Chinese so that I can speak to my father." The years have passed. Gao was released from prison in August 2014 but has been under virtual house arrest ever since. In other words, he is far from being free. Torture and other abuses have taken great physical toll on him-and he has lost many teeth. It is a sobering thought, wondering when his young son will see his father again.


It is well known that human rights advocates always feel businesses are not vigilant enough in pushing for rule of law. Two weeks ago, on January 29, 2016, I received an article written by Michael Posner, longtime director of Human Rights First, now a Professor and co-director of the Center for Business and Human Rights at the NYU Stern School of Business. It was headlined: "China's disappearing billionaire effect is an alarming trend." Its opening lines were: "The recent and dramatic upheaval in the Chinese economy has shaken many Western investors and signaled greater business risks in the Middle Kingdom. Though it has received far less attention, another more ominous sign of trouble is the 'disappearance' of senior executives from at least 34 Chinese companies over the last year." In the article, it goes on to describe the government's new wave of repression on businesses.


As a book publisher, the final act for me was the disappearance of a publisher and several booksellers, not in Beijing, but in Hong Kong. The message is loud and clear: First the writers and intellectuals, then the lawyers, now the business leaders and booksellers. The Chinese government has united us all. China, without the rule of law, is a very dangerous world power. Wei Jingsheng has been warning us for years. I thank him for the award he is giving to Nancy Pelosi and myself today. Nancy Pelosi has perhaps been the most important voice in the House of Representatives calling attention to China's persecution of Wei and others like him. I take it as a reminder and I'm sure many others do too. We must do more for the Chinese and ourselves to try and help bring rule of law to this huge nation.


But the picture is not all dark. We should also remember that there is a spark that cannot be extinguished: a rising civil society in China. It consists of rights activists, lawyers, and all those who believe in universal values, fundamental rights, and human dignity. They need our unflagging support in their hard struggle to preserve and expand this precious space.



Related video of Mr. Robert L. Bernstein of this speech:





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Photo of Mr. Robert L. Bernstein:




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Wei Jingsheng Foundation News and Article Release Issue: A921-W601



Release Date: February 20, 2016



Topic: Robert L. Bernstein Acceptance Speech of the "Human Rights and Freedom Defender" by the Wei Jingsheng Foundation



Original Language Version: English (Chinese version at the end)







































http://www.weijingsheng.org/interviews/interviews2016/BernsteinRspeech160211WJSprize.mp4 或














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