Opening Remarks before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations
Initiatives for China/Citizen Power
Hearing on "The Tragic Case of Liu Xiaobo"
July 14, 2017
Chairman Smith and Ranking Members,
I had a sleepless night.
At this grievous moment, I would like to thank you for holding this critical hearing. It is critical for us to discuss how we can still lend a helping hand to assist Liu Xiaobo's family, and how we can fight to honor the legacy of his courage and sacrifice.
Liu Xiaobo's tragedy represents the tragedies of many human rights activists in China, but it is also unique in its own way. In all of Nobel Peace Prize history, there have only been three jailed Laureates. But among them, Liu Xiaobo is the most tragic one.
Liu Xiaobo had been held incommunicado since December, 2008 until he became terminally ill and was eventually allowed a visit by a German doctor and an American doctor after the pleas to Xi Jinping from both President Trump and German Chancellor Merkel. During his entire imprisonment, he was not allowed even to talk about any current events with his wife Liu Xia during her visits, nor the persecutions Liu Xia and her family suffered. Even on his deathbed, he had no freedom to leave his last words. Now that he is gone, the world will never know.
Liu Xiaobo's cancer was diagnosed on May 23 during an emergency hospital visit because of internal bleeding, and since then he had been hospitalized in the First Hospital of China Medical University in Shenyang, Liaoning Province. However, the news of his late-stage cancer was not leaked out until the late June. During this time, his tumor enlarged from 5-6 cm to 11-12 cm.
It is reported that Liu Xiaobo had two CT tests last year. How can two tests fail to reveal Xiaobo's fairly large liver tumors? Many, including myself, suspect that the Chinese officials intentionally concealed this info from Liu Xiaobo and his family. This is why they have been withholding Liu Xiaobo's medical records. These records are classified as the top State secret.
I strongly believe that the Chinese regime deliberately chose not to treat Liu Xiaobo's cancer earlier. As early as 2010, Liu Xiaobo was suspected of suffering from hepatitis B. His lawyers had been petitioning the government to grant him medical parole, but the Chinese authorities never allowed him proper diagnosis and treatment. In China it is not doctors but the party officials to decide whether to grant medical parole. In other words, medical parole in China is a political, not a medical decision. In Liu Xiaobo's case it was up to China's top leaders to decide. The denial of medical care lead to Liu Xiaobo's advanced liver cancer, and at its core was a disguised death sentence.
When Liu Xiaobo's worsening condition became public, human rights activists, 154 Nobel laureates and world leaders called for Liu Xiaobo's immediate release and medical treatment overseas. Liu Xiaobo himself also expressed his wish to seek medical treatment abroad and to die in a free place. Unfortunately, the Chinese regime callously disregarded these requests. After persecuting him for so many years, the regime still didn't even hesitate to crush his final wish.
I believe the reason that the Chinese regime denied Liu Xiaobo's wish and the world's appeal to allow him medical treatment abroad and to die in a free place is that it fears the truth of its ruthless persecution will come to light. The world media would focus on Liu Xiaobo and the regime's lies would be exposed. More and more people in China would see the true nature of this one-party state. The government would lose control.
No doubt, the Chinese Communist regime is responsible for Liu Xiaobo's worsening health and for his death. However, the world democracies' appeasement policy towards China's human rights abuses has made them accomplices of Liu Xiaobo's slow murder. If the world continues to acquiesce to China's aggression against its own people, engaging it without any moral clarity, Liu Xiaobo's tragedy will repeat.
Mr. Chairman, the U.S. should do more to help Liu Xiaobo and his family. The Trump administration should make it a priority to urge China to grant Liu Xia full control of funeral arrangements for her late husband and help Liu Xia leave China for a country of her choosing. The U.S. implement country-specific, and tougher sanctions against those personally responsible for Liu Xiaobo's death. The U.S. can use the Global Magnitsky Act as a tool to sanction them, banning them from traveling in the U.S. and freezing their assets in this country, and also encourage its allies to do the same. It should also consider trade sanctions. In addition, the U.S. can honor Liu Xiaobo's life and legacy by passing legislation to permanently rename the street in front of Chinese Embassy in Washington DC as "Liu Xiaobo Plaza."
To fight for the ideals of human rights and democracy, Liu Xiaobo gave up his career, he gave up his liberty, he gave up his freedom, and now, he has given up his life. But we cannot give up on him. We have to seek justice for Liu Xiaobo's death at the hands of the Chinese regime, and we have to preserve the legacy of Liu Xiaobo's struggle for a democratic free China.
Additional Remarks at Hearing on "The Tragic Case of Liu Xiaobo"
By YANG Jianli
Mr. Chairman, I have a few more points to make.
In life as well in death, Liu Xiaobo represents the best of what China can ever be. He possesses a moral authority that his persecutors can only envy, and his legacy of love, justice and sacrifice will surely far outlive the deeds of those who persecuted him.
Liu Xiaobo, then a young philosopher and writer, was a major leader of the 1989 democracy movement. He shouldered both moral and political responsibilities after the Tiananmen Massacre and continued to fight for constitutional democracy from inside China, while many others left the country and even abandoned the movement. He shared the sufferings of his compatriots and made great sacrifices for them. He is a saint. His spirit will be an uplifting and unifying force that will inspire more Chinese people to fight to realize his dream--indeed, the common dream of the Chinese people.
To the world, he represents the universal values that all democracies embrace, and he stands for the unwavering struggle of unfree people for freedom. Liu Xiaobo is a representative of universal ideas that resonate with millions of people all over the world.
It is a sad and disturbing fact that many leaders of the free world, who themselves hold democracy and human rights in high regard, have been less willing to stand up for those rights for the benefit of others. If this becomes a widely accepted approach and is continued, it will eventually jeopardize the democratic way and the security of free peoples.
I cannot help but ask: What kind government would callously refuse to grant the final wish of such a peaceful and kind man as Liu Xiaobo, a man who sincerely believes he has no enemies, to die as a free man-to die with dignity? What kind government would not even allow him in his final moments to be his beloved wife without surveillance?
This is a totally morally bankrupt regime. Dealing with such a regime, one must have moral clarity. There are a lot of talk about engaging with China. Yes, no one can avoid engaging with China, but democracies must engage China comprehensively. Democracies must confront the brutal face of this regime and must not look the other way when human rights tragedies take place.
The Chinese government can never be considered a trusted peer on the global stage until it addresses its egregious human rights violations.
The tragic death of Liu Xiaobo gives us a stronger sense of urgency in helping the prisoners of conscience of China.
I believe there is clearly a pattern of the Chinese regime deliberately neglecting detained and jailed activists' health, mistreating them - including torturing them and forcing ingestion of harmful drugs, as reported by jailed activists' family members or released activists.
I am afraid that more human rights activists will languish and disappear in Chinese prisons.
Wang Bingzhang, Hu Shigen, Zhu Yufu, Ilham Tohti, Tashi Wangchuk, Wang Quanzhang, Jiang Tianyong, Tang Jingling, Wu Gan, Guo Feixiong, Liu Xianbin, Chen Wei, Zhang Haitao,...the list can go on and on.
If American advocacy for human rights and justice is to mean anything at all, the US government must do more to support these political prisoners and to hold accountable the Chinese government and individuals who so brazenly abuse the fundamental rights of its people. One way of doing this is through the vigorous enforcement of the Global Magnitsky Act.
We all hoped that Liu Xiaobo would one day complete his unjust prison sentence and then have more time to share his passion and energy for human rights and dignity... and also perhaps one day to have time to enjoy for himself the fruits of his life's work: freedom. But instead, he is gone.
I want to share with you the beautiful words of Martin Luther King Jr which he delivered in a speech in Memphis, Tennessee on the evening before his own death.
"Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop.
And I don't mind.
Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!"