Rep. Christopher Cox

U.S. House of Representatives

Condemning the Crackdown on Democracy Protestors in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, in the People’s Republic of China on the 15th Anniversary of that Tragic Massacre

June 2, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I thank the chairman for the time.

   I thank the gentleman from California and the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Pelosi), who is the cosponsor of this resolution commemorating the 15th anniversary of Tiananmen Square.

   That day in June of 1989 is, of course, remembered for the tragedy, but it should also be remembered as one of the high points in the progress towards democracy in human rights in the People's Republic of China. Because prior to the troops crushing the demonstrators and their message, the message had already spread all over China, and looked at in a grander scale of time, there is no question what ultimately can and must happen here. The troops may have won the battle that day against the Chinese people, but they will not win the war so long as we remember, and we will never forget. So we are today commemorating this anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

   At the same time, we are supporting the people of China in their struggle for human rights. These democracy demonstrations that began in Beijing in April of 1989 spread quickly to other major cities and provinces throughout China. They were an inspiration to the world.

   As Communist regimes were falling in Russia and East Germany and Poland, Romania, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Ukraine, across Eurasia, the people of China were also seizing the moment to move to the next step in the development of their astounding civilization.

   The statue of the Goddess of Democracy showed the world that China's glorious civilization and their extraordinary and wonderful culture for which we all owe a great debt of gratitude would advance still further in the 21st century so that the Chinese people would have a form of government worthy of that culture and that civilization. Finally, after centuries of feudalism, colonialism and foreign interference, the people of China would have genuine human rights, the freedom of association, the freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the freedom to choose their own leaders.

   When the Chinese Army injured or killed hundreds of unarmed civilians, some people insisted that this showed the true face of China, but, of course, it did not. The true face of China was shown in the statue of the Goddess of Democracy. The true face of China was shown in those demonstrations throughout the provinces and all the major cities in the country.

   We want China to become a trustworthy member of the international community; and in some respects, certainly compared to cultural revolution and the reign of terror under Mao, things in China are much improved.

   Yet contrary to the drumbeat sounded by some advocates of engagement, this resolution warns that China's willingness to engage in the world economy has not yet translated into evolution toward democracy nor even an improvement in the Chinese people's religious, human or worker rights.

   I will never forget the audience I had with Jiang Zemin in the Great Hall of the People when I asked him, because they were then advertising the village elections that they were having as a step on the road to democracy, when might we have elections in China for a mayor or a city council. He said to me, not for at least 20 years. I still do not know to this day whether that is exactly what he said, because he might just as well have said not in my lifetime. It would have been literally a correct translation.

   Here we are many years later, and there have been no steps towards that kind of authentic democracy. In fact, in Hong Kong, where that kind of democracy under the one-country, two-systems model is eminently possible and achievable and where the people of Hong Kong wish devoutly to achieve that result, Beijing has just insisted, in violation of their guarantee in 1997 of the high degree of autonomy to the people of Hong Kong, that there will not be universal suffrage and free elections for the chief executive or for a legislative council in 2007 and 2008.

   With this resolution, Congress shows we remember and we will not forget. We insist that our country's China policy promote freedom, human rights and the rule of law, religious and political freedom, free expression, free trade and free markets.

   Our long-standing friendship with China can only reach its full potential when the Chinese people enjoy these freedoms. These freedoms increasingly flourish along China's borders. Peace and security for the Chinese people and all their neighbors are essential preconditions for true political, social and economic progress.

   Mr. Speaker, the PRC cannot seek a spirit of cooperation between our governments, as they claim to want during a recent visit by Vice President Cheney, and at the same time so horribly mistreat their own people. Americans, as friends of the people of China, are happy to hear words about the PRC's government's commitment to human rights. We are happy to see their proposal of new amendments to their constitution further guaranteeing these human rights, but unless these words are reflected in deeds, they are meaningless.

   The reflections published in the Wall Street Journal today by Wang Dan, one of the leaders of the 1989 Chinese democracy movement, were poignant. He said, ``It is clear to me as never before that the Tiananmen massacre was an unavoidable step in the long path to a free China and that true political reform can never come from within the Communist Party.''

He lamented that ``Communist leaders, be they conservatives or reformists, are all wedded to retaining the current political system, complete with its problems such as corruption and lack of accountability. And far from easing its iron grip on all forms of political dissent, the new leadership now seems intent on extending it to Hong Kong.''

   It is striking, with all of the progress that we have seen in other areas, that the current Communist Party leaders in China have repudiated nothing that happened 15 years ago. As Wang Dan points out, that is because they understand ``that reevaluating the official description of the 1989 movement as counterrevolutionary would shake the foundations of the Communists' grip on power.''

   Is it not a terrible irony that the current leaders of the People's Republic of China have their power because of the system that was enforced through these brutal means in 1989.

   One of the demonstrators, one of the organizers of what happened in Tiananmen Square, a student at the time, is now Dr. Yang Jianli. He and his wife and his two children have lived here in America for many years because he suffered under the punishment, as so many Chinese freedom fighters, democracy activists do of exile. It is a horrible form of punishment. You can never go back to your own country again. So he was banished and lived here in America.

   He decided that he wanted to go back to China; and when he set foot in the country, he was arrested. He has been in jail, held incommunicado, held without access to legal counsel or any of the legal rights guaranteed him even under PRC law, for the last 2 years. His children have not seen their father. His wife, Christina Fu, is well known to many of us here because she has helped us enact resolutions that this Congress has passed in a show of support for the basic human rights that any human being, and certainly this American resident, is entitled to. His crime, of course, was supporting freedom and democracy. It has been nearly a year since the House of Representatives enacted House Resolution 199 by a unanimous vote of 412 to nothing.

   This legislation condemned and deplored the detention of Dr. Yang Jianli and the lack of due process afforded him. It called on the Government of the People's Republic of China to release him immediately and unconditionally. The Bush administration has made the release of Dr. Yang one of its most important priorities, and the Vice President raised this at his recent summit. Yet the PRC has continued to violate its own law and to act without regard to international condemnation.

   In 2003, the United Nations, through its Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which I should point out is a group that includes Algeria, France, Paraguay, Hungary, and even Iran, a very diverse group, concluded that in this case continuing to hold Dr. Yang is a violation of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The U.N. working group clearly and specifically declared that Yang Jianli's detention was illegal.

   It is not just that he is being detained; it is that he is being abused. He is being virtually deprived of his human rights even as a prisoner. Not only was he arbitrarily placed for lengthy periods in solitary confinement; he was handcuffed for so long that his wrists bled. He was denied access even to books, newspapers, not to mention a lawyer.

   Releasing Dr. Yang would be a small, but important, gesture that the Communist Government had learned something since Tiananmen Square. No such gesture, Mr. Speaker, has come.

   As we remember Tiananmen Square, we must remember that there are many, many cases like Dr. Yang's. In fact, there are many, many cases of those who were murdered, tortured, and who are still in prison today. We must remind the dictators of the world yet again that individual freedom of expression is no mere internal affair of a government. It is a human right shared by all peoples and recognized by all civilized nations.

   Mr. Speaker, I strongly support the passage by this House of this important resolution marking this sad anniversary, but this joyful anniversary that eventually will see freedom in China.

Article 19 of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights explicitly guarantees the freedom to ``receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.''

   According to Amnesty International, a growing number of Chinese people are being detained or sentenced for peacefully expressing their views or downloading information on the Internet. The detained include students, political dissidents, Falun Gong practitioners, workers, writers, lawyers, teachers, civil servants, former police officers, engineers, and businessmen.

   Signing online petitions, calling for reform and an end to corruption, planning to set up a pro-democracy party, publishing ``rumours about SARS,'' communicating with groups abroad, opposing the persecution of the Falun Gong and calling for a review of the 1989 crackdown on the democracy protests are all examples of activities considered by the PRC's dictatorial regime to be ``subversive'' or a danger to ``state security.'' Such charges almost always result in prison sentences.

   China is also renowned for aggressive censorship of the Internet. Web sites of human rights organizations, and numerous international news sites are regularly blocked by government-controlled routers.

   There is a role for the United States to play in this fight for free expression. We can promote the exchange of ideas and disseminate accurate information. Our efforts to do so behind the Iron Curtain were instrumental in empowering citizens living under Soviet Communist rule. It is now time to focus our efforts on a different Communist regime and a new technology.

   The ability of people around the world to freely access news and information via the Internet may be the greatest threat to tyranny and the most powerful weapon possessed by free people that we have seen in our lifetimes. Indeed, Internet access is rapidly expanding in China. According to official statistics, the number of Internet users had risen to 79.5 million by December 2003 from 59.1 million users in December 2002--an increase of 34.5 percent.

   But, just as Communist governments during the Cold War sought to keep uncensored news from their people by jamming Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, the government of China today retains strict control over the information Chinese citizens can access on the Internet. During the past few years, Beijing has passed sweeping regulations that prohibit unauthorized news and commentary on Internet sites, and officials arrest and imprison those who violate these laws. Authorities in China routinely block websites they believe a danger to their hold on power, including those of dissident groups and foreign news organizations, like the Washington Post, the New York Times, the BBC, and the Voice of America.

   Dictatorial regimes like China have been aggressively blocking access to the Internet with technologies such as firewalls, filters, and so-called black boxes. In addition, these oppressive governments monitor Internet, email, and message boards for key words. They also develop lists of users who visit particular sites, and when they believe that a web user or publisher is a threat to their power, they don't hesitate to act on this information.

   According to Human Rights Watch, Chinese web publisher Huang Qi, after enduring a 3-year detention, was finally sentenced last summer to 5 years in prison for the crime of subversion. What was he publishing? The online equivalent of our milk carton notices about missing persons. He had dared to create a website at which people could share information about missing friends and family members and he actually helped rescue several young girls who had been abducted and sold into marriage. Because his site also featured criticism of several state-run agencies, he now spends his days in prison.

   The U.S. private sector is developing a number of technologies to combat Internet blocking. Unfortunately, the U.S. government has contributed few resources to assist these efforts and to put the new technologies to use.

   That is why I joined Congressman TOM LANTOS, Senator JON KYL, and Senator RON WYDEN in authoring H.R. 48, the Global Internet Freedom Act, which would create a new Office of Global Internet Freedom within the International Broadcasting Bureau. The Office would develop and implement a global strategy to combat state-sponsored and state-directed Internet jamming and persecution of those who use the Internet. The Foreign Relations Authorization Act, which passed the House on July 16, 2003 but has been stymied by the other body, authorizes $8 million per year for the Office of Global Internet Freedom.

   With the Global Internet Freedom Act, within the larger State Department bill, Congress can authorize $8 million annually to the proposed Office of Global Internet Freedom so that the U.S. can devote more resources to ensuring worldwide access to information and give those who strive for true freedom the tools they need to outwit the thought police.

   The Chinese people certainly still need these tools, because the thought police in Beijing have obviously not learned from the SARS tragedy. While some might have hoped that this deadly lesson would lead to greater openness on the part of the regime--and perhaps some restraint in its ongoing campaign to block the free exchange of information via the Internet and other media--recent events suggest that the tyrants of Beijing are moving in the other direction.

   Despite the early release of several high-profile Tibetan dissidents, suppression of political dissent and restrictions on religious freedom continue throughout Tibet and neighboring areas of the PRC. According to the Tibet Information Network, those early releases were quickly off-set by further arrests of Tibetan dissidents in other Chinese provinces. For instance, a popular singer was detained in March 204 because of the political content of his songs, and in February, a young monk was arrested at his monastery for possessing a photograph of the Dalai Lama.

   Meanwhile, in northwest China, the international war against terrorism is used to justify harsh repression in Xinjiang, home to China's mainly Muslim Uighur community. Several mosques have been closed, use of the Uighur language has been restricted and certain Uighur books and journals have been banned. The crackdown against suspected ``separatists, terrorists and religious extremists'' intensified following the start of a renewed security crack-down in October 2003. Arrests continue and hundreds of dissidents remain in prison.

   Members of unofficial spiritual or religious groups, including some Qi Gong groups and unregistered Christian groups, continue to be arbitrarily detained, tortured and ill-treated. Detained Falun Gong practitioners, including large numbers of women, are at risk of torture, including sexual abuse, particularly if they refuse to renounce their beliefs.

   It is fitting that, as we debate this resolution, the Victims of Communism Memorial is nearing construction on Capitol Hill. The Memorial, which will commemorate this struggle by paying tribute to more than 100 million victims of Communist atrocities around the world, will prominently feature a replica of the Goddess of Democracy statue created by pro-freedom activists in Tiananmen Square, in addition to an eternal flame to the victims of Communism and bronze panels with quotes from heroes of the Cold War.

   Wang Dan said, ``The 1989 student movement played an invaluable role in pointing out the path to democracy in China. Without it, we would still be clinging to the myth that a small group of enlightened Communist officials could rescue China from totalitarian rule. Instead we have learned from our mistakes that year, and realized that China's democratization must be a bottom-up process, driven by forces outside the Communist system.''

   Today, on a bipartisan basis, Congress stands united in support of freedom for the people of China. Fifteen years ago, Tiananmen Square marked not only a tragedy, but a decisive turning point in the fight for freedom. People's Liberation Army troops won the battle against the Chinese people that day, but they will surely lose the war to imprison the human spirit--because we will never forget. The day will soon come when all of the Chinese people will have the right to speak and debate freely. The hope symbolized by the Goddess of Democracy will ultimately triumph.

See the original in the Congressional Record on Page H3687, H3688, and H3689

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