August 7, 2016
Speaking at an event last week in Flushing, NY, sponsored by the Qi’s Cultural Foundation, Ann Noonan, Executive Director for the Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting (CUSIB.org), stressed the need for the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) to increase funding for Voice of America (VOA) radio and TV Chinese language services, and to increase funding for Radio Free Asia (RFA).
“We need to be vigilant with these Congressionally mandated programs and be sure that the funds are used for the journalists to reach out to people inside China and Tibet, especially the poor, and not the bureaucrats in DC,” Ann Noonan said.
Ms. Noonan added that the Broadcasting Board of Governors needs “to allow for people inside China and Tibet to have access to news and information without being monitored by China’s government as they are with cell phones and Internet surveillance.”
The bulk of Ann Noonan’s speech was devoted to the late Laogai Research Foundation founder Harry Wu who died last April. Mr. Wu had served on the CUSIB Advisory Board. He was one the strongest supporters in the United States of more U.S. taxpayer-funded radio and television broadcasting to China, Tibet and other nations lacking free media.
Remarks by Ann Noonan, Executive Director, Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting (CUSIB.org)
Thank you to my dear friend, Jing Zhang, a Laogai Survivor, for welcoming me to speak today at the Qi’s Cultural Foundation’s Ninth Festival called to promote Chinese Progress Award. I’d like to express my best wishes to Mr. Gao Zhisheng’s daughter, Grace, who I met in 2012, and who is here to represent her father and to accept the Award.
While people all over the world may have had a chance to meet Mrs. Qi Jiazhen in person, the first time I met her was this past May when she traveled from Australia to Washington, DC to attend Harry Wu’s Memorial Service. It was a great honor to meet her, and to receive a copy of her book, The Black Wall.
Like Harry Wu, Mrs. Qi has worked very hard to document the human rights atrocities that she experienced as a young women imprisoned in China’s Laogai system. She was arrested for being a counter-revolutionary. Her story about the Laogai is not only a part of China’s recent history, but despite any claims by China’s government, the Laogai remains ever present in today’s China.
Today I’d like to speak about many brave souls who take great risks and make personal sacrifices to be a voice for those in the Laogai to be heard.
I’d like to speak a little bit about Harry Wu, who died on April 26 while he was on a cruise in Honduras with distant family members.
I’d really like to speak a lot about Harry because there is a lot to be said, but Harry didn’t make his work about himself. He made it about everyone else. He said he was just one of the survivors, and that he needed to be sure that those who did not survive would not be forgotten. So I’ll try not to speak too much about Harry.
The Memorial Service that was held one month after his death at the Library of Congress on Capital Hill was a tremendous recognition by our nation of the dedication of this freedom fighter, Harry Wu.
I met Harry more than 20 years ago after I had returned from the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. While in China, I was invited to attend a meeting with Underground Catholic clergy who expressed their fears of discovery and persecution and hope of worldwide recognition, prayer and support for their Catholic faith.
Harry Wu, as we all know, was also Catholic. I first met him at an event in New Jersey where he was speaking about Catholicism and the lack of religious freedom in China. Harry Wu knew that there are no geographical boundaries that divide Catholics, and that there are no conditions where basic human rights should be ignored.
I can only wonder what Harry would say today if he read the news where more than 20,000 Catholics poured in to the streets of Mindong this morning to give the final farewell to the city’s bishop, Msgr. Vincent Huang Shoucheng who spent 35 years of his priesthood in prison, under house arrest or forced labor for being a Catholic priest in China.
Harry Wu’s commitment to improving human rights in China included documenting atrocities during China’s Cultural Revolution, echoing the call for justice from the Tiananmen Mothers, celebrating Nobel Peace Prize Honoree Liu Xioabo, and always raising the voices of Laogai survivors and those who remain behind.
Harry Wu was 79 years old when he died. He could have retired years ago, but his work-week and energy level rivaled that of many people half his age. He traveled the world to raise awareness among government leaders and students about the Laogai and all of the other issues I have already mentioned.
Harry Wu was greatly respected and admired for his commitment to improve human rights in China, and his Foundation has satellite offices in Germany and in Italy. With the ongoing dedication of Diana Chang, Director for the Laogai Museum, Harry’s work here in the US and throughout the world will continue.
I will miss him, but like many people here in this room and beyond, I know that my life has been enriched and blessed to have known this remarkable human being who never made it about himself, but instead, about the Laogai survivors and those who were left behind.
For everyone here today who is a Laogai survivor, and to all who have family members who are either Laogai survivors or continue to languish in China’s laogai system, you all know that Harry Wu’s life’s work at Laogai Research Foundation was for you. We are here for you.
Mrs. Qi, who is sponsoring this event today, is Laogai survivor who was imprisoned for 13 years in China on the charge of “treason” for attempting to study abroad. When Mrs. Qi was 20 years old, she was imprisoned because of an alleged accusation that she attempted to flee China. All she wanted to do was to study abroad and realize her dream of becoming a Chinese Madame Curie. As a result of her case, her father, a former official of the KMT government was also put in prison. After she was released from prison and moved to Australia, Mrs. Qi did never forget those who were left behind, and whose stories needed to be shared. Her book documents her experience in China’s Laogai, and all of the injustice that she endured.
Mrs. Qi was a special guest at the Opening of the Laogai Museum in 2011, and as I mentioned earlier, she joined us at Harry’s Memorial Service. Harry told her to not be afraid, and to know that she is a free woman in a free country.
Today’s annual event, sponsored by Mrs. Qi’s Foundation, continues to bring Laogai survivors together to bring a voice for the voiceless and justice for those in need.
This brings me to now speak about Mr. Gao, an attorney who continues to languish under house arrest in China.
Grace’s father, Mr. Gao Zhisheng, a human rights defender, is a persecuted Chinese lawyer who has endured abduction, torture and life under virtual house arrest. At a great risk, he remains determined to expose the truth and crimes that exist in today’s China.
He has authored a book, “Stand Up China 2017 – China’s Hope: What I Learned During Five Years as a Political Prisoner,” and had it smuggled out of China to be published.
Here is a quote from the introduction of Mr. Gao’s book: “My experience is just one part of the boundless suffering of the Chinese race under the cruelest regime in human history.”
I’m sure Grace’s life has been a whirlwind of activity these past few years traveling and meeting people who respect her father’s noble efforts. While those meetings may be nice, it can’t be easy for her nor her family, and it is our responsibility to continue to help them and the Qi Foundation and show them the support they need.
Thanks to Mrs. Qi, and to all who are here to let the world know that Mr. Gao Zhisheng has not been forgotten, and will not be forgotten. His voice, and the voice of countless women and men in China’s Laogai and who suffer human rights abuse in China and Tibet will be heard.
We all know how important writing books and documenting human rights abuse is. That is why it is imperative for all here to press the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) to increase funding for Voice of America (VOA) radio and TV Chinese language services, and to increase funding for Radio Free Asia (RFA).
We need to allow for people inside China and Tibet to have access to news and information without being monitored by China’s government as they are with cell phones and Internet surveillance.
We need to be vigilant with these Congressionally mandated programs and be sure that the funds are used for the journalists to reach out to people inside China and Tibet, especially the poor, and not the bureaucrats in DC.
One final thought: Here in this room, I can see many people who may have strong differences with each other, but I have to say that it’s in those differences where we will find our strength. The power of justice will prevail.