WASHINGTON — A Chinese human rights activist told a congressional panel Friday that “world democracies’ appeasement” to the regime in the People’s Republic as China continues rampant 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,” Yang Jianli told the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations, adding “the U.S. can, and should, do more” to help Liu’s persecuted family.
Chinese democracy activist and political prisoner Liu, whose 2010 Nobel Peace Prize awarded while he was behind bars infuriated the authoritarian regime in Beijing, died Thursday of liver cancer at age 61.
Liu, a veteran of the Tiananmen Square protests, had been sentenced to 11 years in prison on Christmas Day 2009 for being one of the writers of 2008’s Charter 08 declaring that “political democratic reforms cannot be delayed any longer,” including separation of powers, free markets, human rights protections, and freedom of speech, assembly, and religion. His lawyers were allowed to argue his case for only 14 minutes. The charge was “inciting subversion” against the communist state.
Yang, a onetime rising star in China’s Communist Party who became a democracy activist and protested at Tiananmen, was imprisoned for five years in 2002. He eventually returned to the United States, where he had received his Ph.D. at UC Berkeley, and founded Initiatives for China.
Liu was taken to the hospital May 23 for internal bleeding, Yang told lawmakers, and the news of his late-stage cancer leaked at the end of June. “During this time, his tumor enlarged from 5 to 6 cm to 11 to 12 cm. It is reported that Liu Xiaobo had two CT tests the last year. How can two test — two test failed to review Xiaobo’s fairly large liver cancer tumors? Many, including myself, suspected that the Chinese officials intentionally concealed this information,” he said, adding that Liu’s records are classified as state secrets though it was known the prisoner was suspected of suffering from Hepatitis B in 2010.
“I strongly believe that China’s regime deliberately chose not to treat Liu Xiaobo’s cancer earlier,” Yang said. “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 the 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 led to Liu Xiaobo’s advanced the liver cancer, and at its core, was a disguised death sentence.”
The Trump administration should use the Magnitsky Act, originally passed to levy human rights sanctions against Russia but expanded to other countries, to sanction China over Liu’s death, rename the street in front of China’s U.S. Embassy after Liu, and help his wife Liu Xia — still under house arrest — “leave China for a country of her choosing,” Yang stressed.
“To fight for the ideals of human rights and democracy, Liu Xiaobo gave up his career. 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 his death at the hands of China’s regime,” he said. “And we have to preserve the legacy of Liu Xiaobo’s struggle for a democratic, free China.”
Freedom Now founder Jared Genser told the committee that “as if Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia had not suffered enough, in his dying days, not only were family and friends denied the ability to visit and to tell him goodbye, but they were never even allowed to be alone with each other — the entire time, a Chinese security official was with him around the clock, and in the end, President Xi showed no humanity and no mercy.”
“The Chinese government is literally erasing him from existence in China. If you type his name in Chinese and the WeChat program online, for example, his name is instantly erased. The Chinese government should never be allowed to forget Liu Xiaobo,” Genser said. “…The best way to honor the legacy of Liu Xiaobo would be for the United States and so many other countries around the world to stand in solidarity with the Chinese people’s struggle for freedom, democracy and human rights.”
Yang regarded Liu as “a saint” whose “spirit will be uplifting and a unifying force that will inspire more people of China to fight, to realize his dream.”
“But 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 benefits of others. If this became a widely accepted fashion and it continued, the democratic way, and the security of the free people would eventually in jeopardy,” he said.
“…Democracies must engage this 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 true trusted peer on the global stage until they address their egregious human rights violations.”
Chairman Chris Smith (R-N.J.) agreed “it couldn’t be clearer, the stark difference between the gross evil of what is done by the leadership of the PRC and a man of light of Liu Xiaobo’s character.”
“I think the other story that needs to be told by the media globally is this whole death sentence. It wasn’t like he got Johns Hopkins-like medical care or Sloan Kettering-grade medical care. He was ignored,” Smith said, adding that China hastening Liu’s death “shows a barbarity that just needs to be confronted aggressively.”
“I think this needs to be the pivot to human rights in his legacy, of course, but because there are so many others who are still suffering horribly in the laogai and throughout China’s concentration camp system… There needs to be a pivot to human rights. The old days have to be over of just thinking that backdoor diplomacy and mentioning it, you know, under your breath is going to work. It’s not going to work. It has not worked.”