Wei Jingsheng endured nearly 20 years in Chinese prisons for his outspoken criticism of Deng Xiaoping and for his advocacy of democracy.
has this event meant to you?
It's been a very memorable experience. There are so many human
rights supporters here, not only from America but from Europe
and so I get to interact with a lot of different peoplesome
that I know and some that I'm meeting for the first time..
will you take with you when you leave?
know who supports my causes in China and who doesn't.
just met the President of the Unites States. Was that just a photo-op
or do you feel that it will have some meaning?
spoke to him for a half-hour before, in 1997. The feeling then
was the same as it was this evening.
right human rights and Chinese trade is a big issue.
been paid attention to tonight is that your average American citizen
is slowly coming to understand the situation in China. It shows
what knowledge of the situation in China the average American
citizen has. Everybody knows that my opinion on the PNTR (Permanent
Normal Trade Relations status) is that I'm against the passing
of the PNTR. Clinton is obviously on the other side of that issue.
mentioned that American people should care about what happens
in China, what happens in East Timor, what happens in Libya. What
should he say to the American people about why they should care?
rights are shared by all people of the world and if some people
still suffer without them, then nobody has them at all. Particularly
in China, which is such an influential country and such a world
power today. If there's a problem and human rights don't develop
in China, there could be serious issues that develop in China
that will effect the whole world. You know I would hope that Clinton
would be supportive of these issues, but obviously the stance
he's taken with the PNTR and other Chinese human rights issues
... but then
again he's very happy that everyone was here together tonight
for this event and that, you know, maybe PNTR and such matters
might be influenced by the success of tonight's event.*
your portrait was shown and your words were read. Do you feel
don't want everybody to study every sentence that I utter, but
I hope that people support what we're supporting in China. Not
only would this benefit people in China, but it would also benefit
people who are living comfortable lives elsewhere.
sentence I saidthe sentence that was uttered tonightwas
about when I was put in the death cell. Many people don't really
won't understand the optimism of what I was saying at that time,
but I believe that if you don't have an optimistic world view
when you're in such a dire circumstance, there's no way you can
people have said, "It's not meI'm
not courageous. I had to do it."
Where does strength come from to become a human rights defender?
I was living in China, people don't have anything to eat. There's
people living in such poverty that it's impossible not to develop
human rights in China. When I was in China many years ago, I saw
many people starving to death. I saw people standing at train
stations, not wearing any clothes, begging for money. Seeing people
who had such terrible lives made a real impression on meit
was simple. At that time, I decided my life's present course,
supporting human rights.
you feel that we have made progress in the human rights movement?
Where is the human rights movement today?
afraid that in the last few years it's even gone backwards. Although
people all over the world are coming to understand the human rights
situation more and more in Europe, in the States, and all across
the world, the relevant governments don't pay attention to human
rights problems as much as they should. For example, with the
PNTR vote today, 80% of the American public opposed PNTR, supposedly,
but 70% of Congress supports it. And that's an example of how
governments are not paying attention to human rights. This is
a problem of American democracy.
personal feeling do you leave, having met all your colleagues?
What inside do you, what personal feeling do you feel as you go?
was wonderful to see everybody organize and support each other's
causes underneath the banner of human rights; although Western
governments and Western human rights organizations are all our
friends, we should also rely on ourselves to continue support
for human rights.
*Note: On September 19th, 2000 the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation guaranteeing Permanent Normal Trade Relations between China and the United States. The Senate vote followed the passage of the bill in the US House of Representatives in May. President Clinton is expected to sign the bill. The legislation ends a 20 year policy of reviewing China's trade status each year, and grants China low-tariff access to US Markets. The annual review gave the US the ability to penalize China for human rights abuses.
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