Long Live the Troublemakers with Yang Jianli

Yang Jianli, leading Chinese dissident and pro-democracy activist, addresses the 6th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy – see below for full prepared remarks.

Full remarks

Thank you. Hello. 

“Long live troublemakers!” 

I was just copying what Richard Gere said a little more than a year ago at a Tom Lantos Human Rights Award ceremony to my dear friend, colleague, and hometown fellow, and my hero, Ching Wong Chang, who is here being with us now. 

Again, long live the troublemakers! Those who commit themselves to making troubles to human rights abusers. I have attended and spoken at [the] Geneva Summit for quite a few times. But each time when I came here, I had mixed feeling[s]. I knew I would come here to hear so many stories of human rights abuses. It is disheartening isn’t it? I’m [an] impatient person as you are. We are all impatient about injustice. But in most cases, we found that we have to be patient. Even a single case can take as long as many months, many years, even many decades to resolve. 

With the slaughter, obviously villains in Syria unrestrained. With our Tibetan brothers and sisters, inconspicuous sufferings, continuing to set fires on themselves. With our Korean brothers and sisters, persecuted, starved, slaughtered, without even notice of the outside world. 

This Lu Xia, the wife of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Liu Xiaobo, continuing to be legally put under house arrest for no crime other than being a wife of Liu Xiaobo. It is easy to be discouraged. I often feel brought to my knees by this story, by agony in my heart, by the feelings of powerlessness in front of these enormous evils and atrocities. But dear friends, my heroes, each time I draw encouragement, I draw inspiration from you from your sacrifice, from the brief struggle you have engaged in defending your own right and that of others. So each time I left Geneva refreshed, encouraged in my spirit, recommitted and determined to continue my fight. 

The true trouble, the true root cause of trouble are the human rights abusers, not us. So we have to continue to fight, to make trouble to them; to trouble the trouble until the trouble is gone. This morning, in his inspirational speech, Professor Cotler reminded us what Martin Luther King has said: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” But at the same time, I’m going to share with you Dr. King’s conviction that the arc must be bent by sustained effort of those committed to justice. So here, I want to earnestly urge those who happen to have offices of influence, posts of power in [the] UN, in various democratic governments to use your courage, your moral courage, to help bend it. 

In answering the specific questions I will talk about actions. But before I conclude, I want to leave you with two questions to lay a foundation for the later discussion. The first question is whether the international community, especially the UN, [and] various democratic governments, approach human rights abuses as an issue to manage or as a problem to resolve. Second question, can the international community as a whole take the moral commanding heights in dealing with China and other dictatorships by initiating engagement to the rules or code of conduct based on the International Bill of Human Rights? That includes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. And what does it mean to the future of a human being if we fail to do so? 

Thank you. Thank you for participating in this wonderful event. And thank you for inviting me here again. Thank you

Speakers and Participants

Yang Jianli

Chinese dissident, former political prisoner, Tiananmen Square massacre survivor and President of Initiatives for China


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