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Liu Nianchun Statement Press Conference sponsored by Human Rights in China and Human Rights Watch

December 20, 1998

Venue: Human Rights Watch Conference Room, New York

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Standing before you today, I feel very strange, as if in a dream. Only two days ago, I was in a Reeducation Through Labor camp in China. I was extremely sick, and it was very difficult to get a medical examination, and even more difficult to obtain treatment. My living conditions were despicable. The police also enlisted convicts to keep close watch over me.

I owe many people and organizations a debt of gratitude for the possibility of my escape from the nightmare of labor camp. I must thank the U.S. government, the governments of other democratic countries, the U.N. human rights mechanisms, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Human Rights In China and other international human rights organizations. I must thank the international press for their reports on my behalf. I must thank the citizens of the world for their concern, support and help. It is the strength and tireless effort of those who believe in human worth and its protection that have pressed the Chinese government to end its persecution against me. I will be forever grateful and deeply moved by such outpouring of help and support. I would also like to express my most profound gratitude to my wife Chu Hailan. She expended great efforts and withstood unspeakable suffering in seeking my release.

However, there is one point that I must underline clearly: My release into exile for medical treatment cannot be seen as an improvement of China's human rights situation. I suffer from many ailments which were not properly treated in the labor camp. The labor camp failed to act in accordance with the relevant regulations for granting me medical parole. The very fact that I am here, forced to leave China in order to receive medical treatment, is a serious violation of human rights in itself.

The Chinese authorities' approach to human rights has long been two very different lines of gesture and practice. Most recently, this dual approach has become even more pronounced. In the last year, the Chinese government signed the two core human rights covenants, have received the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights on her visit to China, and have hosted President Clinton, televising live his human rights debate with Jiang Zemin, as well as engaging in various human rights dialogues.

In the long-run, these events are significant elements to China's human rights movement. But presently and practically speaking, these events have masked and diminished perception of the actual situation of gross human rights abuse, leading some democratic countries to claim that China has already shown marked change in the realm of human rights.

Meanwhile, in the last year, the Chinese government's persecution of democracy activists has continued unabated. Fang Jue, a former government official who represents a reform faction that advocates democracy, has been in long-term incommunicado detention. Li Bifeng, Zhang Shanguang who called for the protection of the rights of laid-off workers, have also been arrested or sentenced with long-term imprisonment. Even Zhao Changqing, who simply wished to run in local elections, has been sent to labor camp.

In the last couple of months, there has been a round-up of dissidents involved in forming a political party. I have heard that hundreds have been detained and questioned. Wang Youcai, a founder of the China Democracy Party has been harshly sentenced by the Chinese government, the very government that has just recently signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Qin Yongmin, who worked with me in the Peace Charter Movement was also tried for his role in the China Democracy Party.

On this very day in Beijing, Xu Wenli was also tried. Furthermore, Wang Ce, Huang Heqing and other democracy advocates, are all imprisoned. The extreme contradiction of this situation shows that the Chinese government is playing a hostage game of human rights. It only wants to release a few symbolic political prisoners, like myself, to placate international opinion. In actuality China's repressive grip on human rights has shown absolutely no loosening.

I would like to use this opportunity today, to strongly appeal to the international community to show a heightened attention to the situation of human rights in China. Support the development of human rights and democracy in China. Recognize China's dual, contradictory approach of human rights gesture and practice. We must urge the Chinese government to match deeds with words and desist in openly trampling on human rights. China has a population of almost 1.3 billion people. If China were to establish a framework of human rights and democracy, there would be significant improvement and protection of human worth for the entire world. Furthermore, in supporting the development China's human rights and democracy, the greatest priority is to help gain the release of those imprisoned for seeking democracy and human rights. It is with their release that the campaign for China's human rights and democracy can go on. At present, special effort must be made for the release of Fang Jue, Li Bifeng, Zhang Shanguang, Li Hai, Shi Binhai, and the most recently tried China Democracy Party founders Wang Youcai, Qin Yongmin, Xu Wenli and others. Moreover, we must continue our work on behalf of all prisoners of conscience and all political prisoners.

I have just heard that Wang Youcai has been sentenced to 11 years and Xu Wenli has been sentenced to 13 years. I am utterly outraged. This is a blatant violation of human rights. I must express my extreme protest and condemnation of the Chinese government. I appeal to the international community to show its strongest support on their behalf.