Yang Jianli's Meeting with Archbishop Desmond Tutu in Boston


On Tuesday, September 25th at the Sheraton Boston, Nobel Peace Prize winner, Archbishop Desmond Tutu was honored for his work in the fight against AIDS at a fundraising dinner hosted by Shared, Inc., a Massachusetts not-for profit group involved in charitable work to improve access to the essentials of good health. Dr. Yang Jianli and his wife, Christina Fu, were invited as guests by the Shared president, Elizabeth Ziemba, who provided an opportunity for Dr. Yang to meet with Archbishop Tutu.

In May of 2002, one month after Yang Jianli was detained in China, Archbishop Tutu met with Christina at the Brookline church where Yang's family attends services. Afterwards, he wrote a letter to the Chinese government expressing deep concerns about Yang's well-being and urged the Chinese to release Yang for humanitarian reasons. He also appealed to the Chinese government to practice more political openness and foster reconciliation with dissidents.

At the event on the evening of the 25th, Archbishop Tutu warmly opened his arms to embrace Dr. Yang as Yang walked up to him. Tutu said to Yang repeatedly "five years, five years....!" Some people were in tears and deeply touched by Tutu's loving kindness and genuine concern shown towards Yang. Tutu then told Yang, "I read your speech given last week at the church. It is very moving." Yang expressed his gratitude to Tutu for his personal interest in his five-year ordeal and for his support promoting human rights in China. Tutu asked Yang, "What are you doing now?" Yang replied that he is trying to reveal to the international community a true China and its human rights conditions, and he wishes that the combined forces of civilization inside and outside China will compel the Chinese government, before and after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, to yield to human rights for the long term. Tutu applauded Yang and said, "I support you." Later when Tutu delivered his address at the dinner, he asked the audience to give both Dr. Yang and his wife a round of applause to stand in solidarity for the hardships they had endured.

Archbishop Tutu, now 76 years old, became the first black Secretary-General of the South African Council of Churches in 1978. From this position, he devoted himself to work against apartheid through his writings and lectures, exposing truth in history and at the present. He consistently advocated truth-based reconciliation between all parties involved in apartheid. The value of his contribution to eventually ending apartheid and realizing democracy in South Africa has been unmatched. Because of this, Tutu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. In 1995 South African President Nelson Mandela appointed Tutu the head of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee which investigated allegations of human rights abuses during the apartheid era. Later Tutu wrote a book titled "No Future without Forgiveness" which summarized his work, his beliefs, ideas, thoughts and experience. Not long after Yang Jianli was released from prison, a friend in Beijing gave him this book in Chinese. During their meeting, Yang asked Tutu for his autograph. Tutu wrote on the book "You are wonderful and courageous. God bless you."

Yang Jianli, a long time activist striving for a non-violent and constitutional democracy in China, told the reporters that evening, "For many years, Archbishop Tutu has been a source of morality, kindness and faith worldwide. He has been an inspiration to me since I was very young. His thoughts and beliefs, his wisdom and courage, his moral strength and practices are invaluable treasures to human beings of all walks of life, at all times and in all places. They are for those who wish the world to be a better place and are applicable to the Chinese and to China's reforms in the process of democratization." In the preface of his book (Chinese edition), Tutu wrote: "If China can carefully and properly deal with the pain of the past, she will become a greater country."

Yang Jianli also took this opportunity to introduce to the Shared president the work, contributions and difficulties encountered in AIDS prevention and AIDS patients' rights protection by Chinese individuals, especially Gao Yaojie, Hu Jia, Jiang Yanyong and Wan Yanhai, among others.

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---Distributed by Chinaeweekly.com