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Open Letter from Chinese Human Rights Lawyers to Republican Candidate Donald Trump
March 15, 2016
According to CNN, at the televised Republican debate on March 10 the moderator put the following question to billionaire Donald Trump: “Some of your Republican critics have expressed concern about comments you have made praising authoritarian dictators. You have said positive things about Putin as a leader and about China’s massacre of pro-democracy protesters at Tiananmen Square, you’ve said: ‘When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it, then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength.’ How do you respond?”
Trump replied: “That doesn’t mean I was endorsing that. I was not endorsing it. I said that is a strong, powerful government that put it down with strength. And then they kept down the riot. It was a horrible thing. It doesn’t mean at all I was endorsing it.”
For Trump to call the student-led Chinese democracy movement of 26 years ago a “riot” and to speak with such envy of the brutal regime that caused such a horrific massacre, it is unsurprising to see the strong protest and negative public opinion backlash from all people of conscience in the world as well as those who were victims of June Fourth. As Chinese human rights lawyers who have taken it upon ourselves to defend human rights and promote rule of law, we express our own disbelief and condemn Mr. Trump’s preference for power over justice and his statements that show an incomplete understanding of history.
The United States was founded on freedom and human rights. This is the central reason why it stands out among all the nations of the world. These are also basic principles in the platform of the Republican Party that has come to represent American conservatism. It is unfortunate that, as a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, Mr. Trump’s real sympathy seems to be only for the “power of strength.”
Even the Communist authorities responsible for June Fourth, who spoke of the events that year as “turmoil and counterrevolutionary riot,” have many years later changed their tune and come to describe it more vaguely and with much less bombast. They gradually shifted from “turmoil and counterrevolutionary riot” to “that disturbance in the last days of spring” and then simply to “that disturbance.” What we don’t understand is this: Why is Mr. Trump so willing to call what happened a “riot” when even the Chinese Communist government’s own spokesmen now refer to it only as a “disturbance”?
It has become conventional wisdom that power, unchecked, leads to disaster. This is something that has been demonstrated repeatedly over the course of human history. Hitler’s Nazi regime was incomparably strong, but Hitler’s unchecked power led to the Second World War with more death and destruction than any war in human history and the massacre of 6 million Jews. The Communist regime under Stalin was sufficiently strong, but Stalin’s Great Purge led to a million deaths and a huge famine that took millions more lives as it spread to Ukraine and elsewhere.
Mao Zedong was thought of by some as “invincible” for the way he wielded power, but countless numbers were killed in the “Campaign to Suppress Counterrevolutionaries,” the “Anti-Rightist Campaign,” and the Cultural Revolution, and conservative estimates put the number who starved during the Great Leap Famine at 30 million.
Putin is also a powerful leader whose “strength” Mr. Trump also admires. To hang on to power, he is willing to manipulate the constitution and play power games where he rotates between the posts of president and prime minister, and he ignores international law by invading Ukraine to annex the Crimea through military force.
Each is powerful, but slaughter, suffering, and endless disaster inevitably follow in the wake of these powerful regimes. At the foot of the thrones upon which these capricious dictators sit are piles of bleached bones, like those of the mass graves where the victims of the Katyn Forest were buried.
We cannot help but point out that, at this very moment, Wang Yu, Wang Quanzhang, and more than a dozen other Chinese lawyers—men and women just like us—are currently being held by the Chinese Communist authorities on trumped-up criminal charges. They were forcibly disappeared and secretly held for six months outside of legal detention facilities under the guise of “residential surveillance in a designated location.” The authorities showed disregard for the presumption of innocence by forcing them to confess on television and subjecting them to “trial by media” before giving them a chance to appear in court. For eight months, they have been deprived of their rights to meet with a lawyer and correspond with the outside world.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to human rights disasters in our country. As lawyers, we cannot turn a blind eye to human rights violations against our fellow lawyers. We hope that Mr. Trump can gain a fuller understanding of China and that he will remember this: When you envy the Chinese regime for its strength, please don’t ignore the innumerable human rights disasters that have occurred or are currently occurring there.
How the Tiananmen Massacre Changed China, and the World, by Hu Ping, June 4, 2015.
June 4th Stands for the World’s Unfinished Business, by Kong Tsung Gan, May 31, 2015.
March 11, 2016
We are appalled by the U. S. presidential candidate Donald Trump’s remarks about the Chinese government’s 1989 massacre during the 12th Republican presidential candidate debate last Thursday, in which he called the heroic pro-democracy protest in Beijing a “riot”, and praised the Chinese government’s response as “strong.” Trump’s comments show not only a lack of moral orientation, but also show a complete disregard for the hundreds if not thousands of innocent lives lost when the Chinese government butchered unarmed students and citizens in Tiananmen Square on June 3-4, 1989.
Many of us participated in that peaceful demonstration, and we know that we were merely exercising our basic rights to protest and our rights for free speech. We petitioned the government to curtail the rampant corruption and start political reform to transition to democracy. That’s all we did. We were patriots, not rioters by any standard. However, the Chinese government labeled this peaceful protest a “riot”, and branded us as common criminals.
But the people in the free world knew better, and in the wake of the 1989 massacre, many world leaders condemned the horrific atrocity. On June 5th of 1989, George H. W.Bush, then president of this great country, publicly condemned the Chinese government’s brutality, rightly pointing out that the peaceful protectors in Beijing were just advocating basic human rights that were enshrined in both the American and Chinese constitutions, and stressing that throughout the world the US always stands with those who seek greater freedom and democracy. President Bush and the U.S. Congress also imposed economic and diplomatic sanctions against the Chinese Communist regime.
All the U.S. presidents since George H. Bush have denounced the violent actions in Tiananmen Square. That’s why the U.S. Department of State each year marks the anniversary of the 1989 crackdown with a statement calling on the Chinese Government to “end harassment of those who participated in the protests and to fully account for those killed, detained, or missing.”
We greatly appreciate the Republican presidential candidate Governor John Kasich’s unequivocal condemnation of the 1989 massacre and his suggestion of establishing a statue to honor the Tank man, an icon and soul of that peaceful protest.
We are also encouraged by and grateful to the other two Republican presidential candidates Senator Marco Rubio and Senator Ted Cruz. Senator Rubio has long been a major voice on Capitol Hill for human rights in China and Senator Ted Cruz introduced the bill in the Senate to rename the plaza in front of the Chinese embassy after Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese democracy leader who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 and has been a political prisoner since 2008.
We believe Mr. Trump is not just irresponsible in choosing his words, but also shows that he still sides with the Chinese dictators like he told Playboy magazine in 1990, and that he still admires the Chinese Communist regime’s “strength” and “power” like he admires fascist Hitler’s. It is obvious to us all that Mr. Trump has betrayed American values and ideas. He is not fit to be the president of the United States.
We demand that Mr. Trump apologize to the victims of the Tiananmen Square Massacre and their families, and to the millions of people that participated in the peaceful protest, and openly retract his remarks.
公民力量 (Initiatives for China/Citizen Power for China)
人道中國 (Humanitarian China)
民主教育基金會 (Chinese Democracy Education Foundation)
全球支持中國暨亞洲民主化論壇 (Forum for a Democratic China and Asia)
獨立中文筆會 (Independent Chinese Pen Center)
中國共和黨 (China Republican Party)
內蒙古人民黨 (Inner Mongolia People’s Party)
中國民主團結聯盟 (Chinese Alliance for Democracy)
民主中國陣線 (Federation for a Democratic China)
加拿大价值守护者联盟 (Alliance of the Guard of Canadian Values)
民主亚洲基金会 (Asia Democracy Foundation)
民主中國聯合陣線 (Alliance for a Democratic China)
中國大陸”六四”平反促進委員會 (The Mainland China Committee for Reassessment of the Tiananmen Incident)
中國社會民主黨 (China Social Democratic Party)
中國青年民主同盟 (Chinese Democratic Youth League)
中國民主黨海外委員會 (Overseas Committee of Chinese Democratic Party）
普林斯頓中國學社 (Princeton China Initiatives)
全德学者学生会 (The Society of Chinese Students in Germany)
中國綠黨/中國綠社 (China Green Party/Chinese Greens)
香港人民力量 (Hong Kong people’s Power)
北京之春 (Beijing Spring)
歐洲蒙維漢協商會 (European Council of Mongolia-Uyghur-Tibet-China)
歐洲藏漢文化交流會 (European Tibetan Han Cultural Association)
中國民主黨全國聯合總部 (China Democracy Party)
台灣勞工陣線 (Taiwan Labour Front)
齊氏文化基金會 (The Qi’s Cultural Foundation)
台灣關怀中國人權聯盟 (Taiwan Association for China Human Rights)
中國民主黨青年委員會 (Youth Council of China Democracy Party)
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