To all Children of Prisoners of Conscience
Speech by YANG Jianli
at “Children of Prisoners of Conscience”—Organization Launch
The 10th InterEthnic/InterFaith Leadership Conference
April 29, 2015
I am most pleased and honored to see you all here. Today I speak to you as a father and as a former prisoner of conscience.
There are so many children, like you, children of prisoners of conscience, who are not with us at the moment. We will not forget them. We will not leave anyone out.
It is a rather emotional moment.
When your parents were your age, they had already begun thinking about the hard questions and taking heroic actions. But, unfortunately, their actions, which were no more than exercising their basic rights as human beings, landed them in jail, and they became prisoners of conscience. The years they spent in Chinese prisons, no matter how long, were mostly their golden years. Their stories are incredibly moving, as well as tragic.
I want to ask you, if I may, all the children of those prisoners of conscience, whether or not here – to try to understand your fathers and mothers, try to understand what they have been through all those years. Their stories, as an important part of the history of China’s human rights, carry many secret codes about today’s China, the world, and even the meaning of life itself. I encourage you to learn to decode these codes. You will benefit greatly from doing so.
Your parents are the most fearless people in China. They are the people who have made greatest contributions to, and greatest sacrifices for, the progress of Chinese society. Although such contributions and sacrifices have not been fully acknowledged by the world, you—the second generation—must give them credit and your sincere respect for what they sacrificed. Only by doing so will you carry on with their tasks and continue to support the noble cause of fighting for China’s freedom. And, this cause is the one that all young people should pursue. As the second generation of prisoners of conscience, you are bound to witness the most far-reaching change in China, the birth of a new and democratic China.
Today, I want to also acknowledge the sufferings we, the parents and prisoners, have brought you. Your sacrifices are even greater. At the time when you were coming of age, we couldn’t secure an environment of reasonable freedom and safety for you. Even since you were born, you have faced all kinds of threats and persecutions. Many of you are still haunted by such persecutions. I must admit the suffering I have brought to my children is a wound on my heart that can never be healed. And, I know there is an even deeper wound on your heart, which I have found, in many cases, mine included, that we, the prisoners, can do little about it. That is the primary reason I have urged you and taken pains to help you to come together to form Children of Prisoners of Conscience, through which you can support each other as brothers and sisters.
While we apologize to you for all the hardships you have endured, I hope all the children of prisoners of conscience, whether present here or not, will strive to be more understanding and committed. You should be confident that it was out of the love for their children and for your future that your parents never gave up their beliefs and ended up spending their prime years in prison. Indeed, if not for children, I would see little reason for us to come together and could not imagine we would have struggled so long and hard as we have.
Looking back at the sweep of history, we see those valuable beliefs are invariably passed down from generation to generation. This is universal, and China is no exception. Now, as parents, with our shared beliefs and commitments, we pass the torch of friendship into your hands. This torch is a symbol of the friendship among your parents, and this friendship should continue and grow among you. This kind of bonding is where the future of China lies. Please don’t forget that it is you who drive us and make us more confident. Thank you for giving us hope. God bless all the children of prisoners of conscience.