On Thursday, April 22nd at 1pm, join WACNH as we partner with the Lantos Foundation for the second installment in our Spring Global Tipping Points speaker series, The Other Great Challenge: Holding China Accountable on Human Rights! Tune in for this compelling panel discussion on human rights in China featuring Dr. Yang Jianli, Founder and President of Citizen Power Initiatives for China, Rushan Abbas, Founder and Executive Director of the Campaign for Uyghurs, and Andrew Duncan, award-winning film producer and advocate for democracy and human rights, moderated by Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, President of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice. Our speakers will delve into the current human rights challenges facing Uyghurs in Xinjiang, pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong, as well as the speakers’ personal experiences with human rights abuses committed by the Chinese government.
Following an opening moderated discussion with our panelists, an audience Question and Answer session will be held. All questions can be emailed to email@example.com, posted in either of the YouTube or Facebook Live chats, or the messenger app on our website. Tune in to the Council website for this virtual event at wacnh.org and we hope to see you there!
When: Thursday, April 22nd from 1 – 2:30pm
About Dr. Yang Jianli
Dr. Yang Jianli is a scholar and human rights activist, a world-renowned architect and leader for China’s democracy. He is also the Founder and President of Citizen Power Initiatives for China.
Dr. Yang was born in Shandong Province, China and graduated from college at the age of 19. A rising star in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the 1980’s, he quickly became disenchanted with the corruption and duplicity he experienced in the communist system. He left China to pursue a career in Mathematics at University of California in 1986 when he was 23 years old. In 1989, his fellow Chinese students at Berkeley elected him to go back to Beijing in support of their counterparts in China who were demonstrating for democracy in Tiananmen Square. He returned to Beijing, joined the movement and witnessed the massacre of thousands by the guns and tanks of the CCP army including tanks running over protesters. This event changed his future. He narrowly escaped capture and returned to the United States to study democracy and continue his activism.
In 2002, after completing his Doctorate in Political Economy at Harvard (earlier he had gotten a PH.D. in Mathematics from UC Berkeley), Dr. Yang returned to China to help the labor movement with non-violent struggle strategies. He was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison, kept in solitary confinement for a good part of the imprisonment. Following an international outcry for his release, including a UN Resolution and a unanimous vote of both houses of the United States Congress, Dr. Yang was freed in April of 2007. Immediately following his return to the U.S., he formed Citizen Power Initiatives for China, a pro-democracy movement committed to a peaceful transition to democracy in China. He firmly believes that continued world democracies’ leadership in holding China accountable for respecting the human and political rights of its citizens is a critical component for world stability and for the peaceful transition to a democratic society in China.
Dr. Yang holds a deep conviction that the path to democracy in China lies through the awakening of a unified Citizen Power (公民力量 Gong Min Li Liang) among all the peoples under Chinese government rule. A few months after its formation, Initiatives for China/Citizen Power launched a demonstration of Citizen Power by sponsoring a 500-mile walk by Dr. Yang from Boston to Washington D.C. to highlight the human rights situation in China and to call for continued American leadership in the struggle for peaceful democratic reform. The GongMin Walk received worldwide acclamation from leaders around the world, including H.H. the Dalai Lama, President of Republic of China (Taiwan), Ma Ying-Jeou, and the Honorable Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Dr.Yang concluded the GongMin Walk by joining Speaker Pelosi at a large commemorative rally on Capitol Hill on June 4, 2008, the 19th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre.
Before the establishment of Citizen Power Initiatives for China, Dr.Yang founded and presided over the Foundation for China in the 21st Century (1989-2002). During that time, he co-authored a constitution for a democratic China which was endorsed by the Dalai Lama, and founded the online magazine Yibao (Civic Forum). Under the theme of understanding, trust, and cooperative actions, in 2000, he created the annual Interethnic/Interfaith Leadership Conferences.
In March 2010, Dr. Yang co-chaired the Committee on Internet Freedom at the Geneva Human Rights and Democracy Summit. In December 2010 in Oslo at the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize awarding ceremony, he represented that year’s laureate, the imprisoned Chinese democracy leader Liu Xiaobo, who would die in the CCP regime’s custody on July 13, 2017. In March 2011, he spoke at UN Human Rights Council, directly questioning the representatives of China on the Human Rights issues. In December, he joined the Dalai Lama and four other delegates, to attend Forum Democracy and Human Rights in Asia, hosted by former Czech president Vaclav Havel. Over the years, Dr. Yang has helped design, launch, and lead many of China’s major citizen initiatives. Dr. Yang is a frequent contributor to and interviewee by the international media, a panelist at hearings held by the US Congress, the European Parliament, the UK Parliament and the Taiwan Legislative Yuan. He has also been a speaker at various international forums on topics ranging from human rights in China, China’s democratization, China’s politics, ethnic relations in the PRC, cross-strait relations, and on US – China policies.
About Rushan Abbas
Rushan Abbas is the Founder and Executive Director of the Campaign for Uyghurs. Ms. Abbas started her activism work while she was a student, organizing and leading in the pro-democracy demonstrations at Xinjiang University in 1985 and 1988. Since her arrival in the United States in 1989, she has been an ardent campaigner for the human rights of the Uyghur people.
She has worked closely with members of Congress since the 1990s. Ms. Abbas was a co-founder of the California-based Uyghur Overseas Student and Scholars Association in 1993, the first such Uyghur association in the United States, and served as that organization’s first Vice-President. The charter co-drafted by Ms. Abbas later served as the blueprint and played an important role in the establishment of the Uyghur American Association (UAA) in 1998. Ms. Abbas was subsequently elected Vice President of UAA for two terms. When Radio Free Asia launched its Uyghur service in 1998, Ms. Abbas was the first Uyghur reporter broadcasting daily to the Uyghur region.
From 2002 till 2013, Ms. Abbas translated for the 22 Uyghurs who were being held in Guantanamo and worked closely with the US Department of Defense, Department of Justice, State Department, and US administration with their efforts on resettlement of 22 Uyghurs from Guantanamo Bay to Albania, Sweden, Bermuda, Palau, Switzerland, El Salvador, and Slovenia.
After working for more than 20 years in global business development, international relations, and government affairs throughout the Middle East, Africa, CIS regions, Europe, Asia, Australia, North America, and Latin America, now Rushan Abbas is a full-time activist working to advocate for Uyghur people while they are facing genocide by the Chinese regime.
In 2017, Rushan Abbas founded the Campaign for Uyghurs to advocate and promote human rights and democratic freedoms for Uyghurs, and mobilize the international community to act to stop the human rights atrocity in East Turkistan. Under her organization, Ms. Abbas introduced and led the “One Voice One Step” movement and successfully organized a demonstration on March 15th, 2018, in 14 countries and 18 cities on the same day to protest China’s detention of millions of Uyghurs in concentration camps.
Ms. Abbas works with groups in the United States, Canada, The UK, and other parts of Europe, Australia, Japan, and Turkey to highlight the Uyghur cause and in support of empowering Uyghur women and youth for activism.
In July 2020, Ms. Abbas’ organization published the report “Genocide in East Turkistan” which laid out the ways that the actions of the Chinese regime met every condition of genocide laid out in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. Ms. Abbas first raised the case of Uyghurs as undergoing active genocide in May of 2019 while delivering speeches at the events hosted by the U.S. Embassies in Prague and Vienna and remained a vocal advocate for declaring the CCP’s crimes as such since then.
Ms. Abbas frequently briefs US lawmakers and officials on the human rights situation in East Turkistan and testifies at the United States senate and congress on the Chinese regime’s crimes against humanity. She regularly appears on media outlets to advocate for the Uyghur cause and gives public speeches, having spoken for audiences at Holocaust museums, universities, U.S. embassies, grassroots groups, and more.
Ms. Abbas has three children and currently resides in Herndon, Virginia with her husband, one of the founders, and the current Inspector General of the World Uyghur Congress, Abdulhakim Idris.
About Andrew Duncan
Andrew Duncan is an award-winning film producer and advocate for democracy and human rights. His portfolio of films includes the Oscar-nominated The Florida Project and Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower, a documentary featuring Joshua Wong as the leader of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong and winner of the Audience Award at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Mr. Duncan’s human rights and democracy advocacy spans well over a decade with a focus on China. He was integral to the blind dissident Chen Guangcheng’s asylum in the U.S., beginning in 2012, and the 2015 prison release of the Beijing Five led by LGBTQ activist Li Tingting. In the fall of 2019, Duncan led the peaceful pro-democracy and freedom-of-speech protest against the NBA and was a driving force behind the signing of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.
About Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett
Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett serves as President of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, established in 2008 to continue the legacy of her father, the late Congressman Tom Lantos, who served as Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and was the only Holocaust survivor ever elected to the US Congress. Congressman Lantos was the founder of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus and was widely acknowledged as one of our nation’s most eloquent and forceful leaders on behalf of human rights and justice.
Under her leadership, The Lantos Foundation has rapidly become a distinguished and respected voice on key human rights concerns ranging from advancing rule of law globally and fighting for Internet freedom in closed societies to combatting the persistent and growing threat of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.
Dr. Lantos Swett is the former Chair and Vice-Chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and teaches Human Rights and American Foreign Policy at Tufts University. She currently serves as Co-Chair of the Board of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) and the Budapest based Tom Lantos Institute. Dr. Lantos Swett also serves on the Advisory Board of UN Watch, the annual Anne Frank Award and Lecture, The Warren B. Rudman Center for Justice, Leadership, and Public Policy, the Advisory Council of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, and the Brigham Young University Law School.
Dr. Lantos Swett is the co-editor of The Noble Banner of Human Rights, a book of essays on human rights published by Bill Nijhoff Press in 2018.
Lantos Swett earned a Political Science degree from Yale University at the age of 18, a Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, and a PhD in History from The University of Southern Denmark.