In early November 2009, at the request of Ding Zilin, a member of the Tiananmen Mothers – a group of families of the victims of the June Fourth government crackdown on the 1989 Democracy Movement – Human Rights in China translated into English a letter by Ding Zilin, and delivered the letter in its original and translation to President Obama before his visit to China.
Ding Zilin: Letter to President Obama
Dear President Obama,
I am a Chinese intellectual, a mother who lost her beloved son in the June Fourth Massacre in Beijing 20 years ago.
First, I would like to congratulate you on receiving the Nobel Peace Prize this year, and I look forward to your outstanding contributions to maintaining world peace, promoting the advancement of humanity, and putting America’s founding principles into practice.
On the eve of your trip to China in November, I am taking the liberty of writing to you with a request that you use your political wisdom and influence to save Dr. Liu Xiaobo, the imprisoned Chinese independent intellectual.
To my knowledge, legislators and fighters for justice from several democratic countries and regions across the world have used various approaches and channels to demand that the Chinese government release Dr. Liu Xiaobo. In particular, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution demanding the release of Dr. Liu with an absolute majority of 410 votes on October 1 this year, the 60th anniversary of the rule of the Communist regime in China. I therefore sincerely hope that you will not disappoint everyone’s expectations and that you will join in the rescue effort. As the president of the largest democratic country in the world, your actions will play a decisive role.
Dr. Liu Xiaobo has not only pursued democratic principles with courage, passion, and persistence, but has also steadfastly fought to achieve these principles with moderation and reason. He has been arrested and jailed many times over the past 20 years. Most recently, he was detained for taking part in the drafting of, and being an initial signatory to, the famous Charter 08 at the end of 2008. However, the deeper reason for his current arrest is his longstanding “June Fourth Complex.” That is, Dr. Liu has kept trying to do something for those involved with the June Fourth Incident, whether out of ethical concerns or his good heart. His actions have propelled him onto an independent intellectual’s path of no return. But, in the final analysis, who is at fault?
The arrest of Dr. Liu Xiaobo is representative of a whole series of “speech crimes” that have occurred in the Chinese mainland in recent years. That the police can, by brute force, deprive a citizen of his rights to freedom of speech and liberty of the person, and that this can happen in the glare of the public eye in the 21st century in a great country like China, must be intolerable to the leader of any civilized nation, especially the leader of the United States of America! I hope, Mr. President, that you will relay a strong message to the Chinese leaders: the United States does not support regimes that suppress the freedom of speech.
During your visit to China, numerous Charter 08 signatories and millions of those who love freedom and pursue democracy will eagerly watch your every move. If you think that one can overlook the Chinese government’s trampling of human rights and choose not to raise the issue during your visit, you will not only be ignoring the rights and interests of China’s political prisoners and their families, but will also seriously hurt the feelings of the Chinese people. Hasn’t the human experience provided enough painful lessons in the past?
This is why, with the conscience of an intellectual and as a grieving, victimized mother, I’m writing this letter to you today. Whether you agree with my views or not, please let careful consideration inform your actions.
Wishing you a successful visit,
November 3, 2009