The Danish Centre for Political Studies (CEPOS) awarded the Freedom Prize 2011 to Dr. Yang Jianli for his tireless efforts to promote human rights in China. Dr. Yang Jianli holds two Ph.D. degrees from Harvard and the University of California and is the founder of the pro-democracy organizations, Initiatives for China and the Foundation for China in the 21st Century.
Dr. Yang Jianli was born in northern China and graduated from Beijing Normal University at the age of 19. A rising star in the Chinese Communist Party, Jianli quickly became disenchanted by the corruption and duplicity in the communist system. He left China to pursue a career in Mathematics at U.C. Berkeley. In 1989, his fellow graduate students at Berkeley elected him to go to Beijing in support of their counterparts who were demonstrating for democracy in Tiananmen Square. He arrived in time to witness the massacre. He narrowly escaped capture and returned to the United States himself to studying democracy. In 2002, after completing his Doctorate in Political Economy at Harvard, Dr. Yang returned to help the labor movement with non-violent struggle strategies. He was arrested and sentenced to five years imprisonment. Only in August 2007 he was allowed to return home to his wife and child in America. Today, he is refused entry to China. Despite great personal cost, Yang Jianli has chosen to continue the struggle for human rights and democracy in China.
“As China will have an increasingly important role as a superpower, it is crucial that society places demands on how China treats its own citizens, and that democratic countries say from when China violates fundamental human rights and uses censorship, arbitrary imprisonment and torture of dissidents. Yang Jianli has paid a heavy price for his principled and uncompromising defense of democracy and freedom and thus represent an alternative route for China,” says CEPOS General Counsel Jacob Mchangama. “Instead of appreciating Yang Jianlis amazing talent and conscientious disposition is Yang Jianli has been a pariah in China. Lack of freedom will eventually undermine China’s continued development, and therefore we know to honor Yang Jianli with CEPOS Freedom price make our modest efforts to convince the Chinese government that prosperity and liberty are not opposites, but goes hand in hand.”
During the award ceremony on April 30th, Dr. Yang Jianli says the award “recognition strengthens [his] commitment to [his] fallen brothers in Tiananmen Square, to [his] compatriots including Christians and Falungong practitioners, to my Tibetan, Uyghur and Mongolian brothers and sisters” He promises that he will continue his efforts “for freedom and justice until [his] very last breath.” (read full speech here)