Letter from Czech Republic Former President, Mr. Václav Havel

Faculty of Arts

Dear friends,

First of all I am very sorry that due to a serious illness I can not attend a roundtable on human rights in Asia that I – together with my friend His Holiness the Dalai Lama – convened to Prague today.

Allow me a few introductory words.

Recently I have a feeling that we are entering a rather dangerous period when it comes to perception of human rights and their protection and defence. I think that one of the great mistakes of politics today – and here I am referring to the politics of the Euro- Atlantic community – is the superimposing of economic interests over everything else; and the fact that attitudes towards different conflicts and problems in today’s world are being distorted by the misappropriation of those spiritual values, which form the foundation of our society.

I have a feeling, again particularly recently, as if human rights and civic freedoms were simply that proverbial “cherry on a cake”, an embellishment of what really matters, while material growth and development are considered most important.

As a result some things are simply not talked about. Human rights issues faced with ever growing economic might of a country like China are being trivialized and economic interests are being deliberately separated from those dealing with basic freedoms. And this is very dangerous, not only because solidarity with those pursuing freedom in different parts of the world is fading but also for Euro-Atlantic area whose original identity is thus being lost.

There is only one way how to fight what I – maybe too alarmingly – see as the beginning of appeasement in the field of human rights. We have to keep an eye on what is happening in China, North Korea but also in Cuba, Belarus and elsewhere where human rights are being abused. And not only to keep an eye on but also loudly articulate our indignation and criticism over and over again as well as use every conceivable occasion to express our support for the dissidents in those countries, for the prisoners of conscience. All this may not have immediate effect but it serves as a source of hope and encouragement to those who very much need it. And this is very important.

I still vividly remember when we had communist totalitarian regime here and we were trying to stand up to it. We felt very intensely how important aid from abroad was for us, as well as the support and solidarity of people from various corners of the world who took interest in out activities. It was a great encouragement when we saw that there are many people -often from very far away – who feel a similar responsibility for the world as we felt. We have been attempting now, for more than twenty years already, to return that solidarity that we received and to express support to all those who are fighting for human rights and basic freedoms in Asia and elsewhere. For people like Liu Xiabo and the likes of him all over the world.

Your Holiness, dear Shirin, Stéphan, Bernard, Yang Jianli, Honza, dear audience, let me once again apologize for not having been able to come this morning. I can only promise that if I get well, I’ll try to make it up to you. Thank you.