November 21, 1997
An update on political dissident, Wei Jingsheng. Wei has been in a Detroit hospital since he reached the United States. In his first public appearance, he spoke at a news conference sponsored by three human rights groups.
WEI JINGSHENG, Chinese Dissident: (speaking through interpreter) I want to thank the people and governments around the world that have made enormous efforts to press the Chinese government for the release of political prisoners. Right now, there are several thousand political prisoners still suffering in Chinese Communist Party jails for exercising their freedom of speech. Our conscience as human beings will not allow us to forget them, not even for a single moment. Here in this magnificent library today I would like to enjoy my sacred right of free speech and see what can be done so that more people and eventually all of humanity can also enjoy this sacred right. My friends, I will now take your questions.
REPORTER: Mr. Wei, how do you plan to work for democracy from exile in this country, and do you have any plans to go back to China?
WEI JINGSHENG: (speaking through interpreter) I certainly plan to go back. In fact, I never intended to leave. It was only because the Chinese authorities told me that if I wanted to apply for medical treatment, medical amnesty from prison, I could only receive that medical treatment overseas and could not receive it in China.
REPORTER: (speaking through interpreter) You said continuously that you want to go back to China, but the justice minister of China, Xao Jung, was just here and said that if your health improves and you're willing to go back to China, you'll have to finish out your term.
WEI JINGSHENG: (speaking through interpreter) I'd be willing to go back to China under almost any circumstances, but nobody would like to go back there to go to jail.
REPORTER: (speaking through interpreter) The question is what is the most important thing you've learned in your 18 years in prison.
WEI JINGSHENG: (speaking through interpreter) The main thing--I've learned many things, but the most important one is that for a human being there's no difficulty that cannot be overcome. You just have to rely on yourself and you can overcome any difficulty.
REPORTER: Mr. Wei, do you want to be president of China? Do you think you might ever be president of China?
WEI JINGSHENG: (speaking through interpreter) I'm basically not interested in this issue.
REPORTER: (speaking through interpreter) Recently, Wang Shita, another democracy activist, published an article saying that he doesn't agree with portraying Wei Jingsheng as the grandfather of the Chinese democracy movement. What is your attitude on this.
WEI JINGSHENG: I'm not too clear about this article of Wang Shita, but I feel that people's praise of me makes me feel ashamed or embarrassed because I have not done enough for Chinese democracy.
REPORTER: (speaking through interpreter) You've been saying since your arrest in 1979 that you love China. Right now, how do you feel about China?
WEI JINGSHENG: (speaking through interpreter) I will love my fatherland forever, whether I'm there or away from there.
REPORTER: (speaking through interpreter) You have to stay overseas for a long time and fight for democracy from overseas. What do you think is your prospect in fighting for democracy under those conditions?
WEI JINGSHENG: (speaking through interpreter) I will participate in all sorts of democracy activities. As for the future, the future prospect of the Chinese democracy movement is excellent. You should not pay attention to the immediate low tide, because after a low tide, there is always a high tide that follows. I ask your apology. I'm very tired. I feel week, and I hope we can continue to talk another time.
WEI JINGSHENG: Thank you very much.