by Harry Lee
Published October 6, 2010
On Monday, activists staged a candlelight vigil in front of the China Consulate in New York to remember victims of human rights violations in China.
The gathering was held days after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, which occurred on Oct. 1, 1949.
“Individual rights and freedom are protected by the Chinese constitution, but in practice they are not,” said Jonathan Cao, president of the Chinese Coalition for Citizens’ Rights. “The Chinese government seems to be above the law.”
Activists carried banners bearing messages like “China tear down this great firewall.” Others carried signs displaying images of Liu Xiaobo, a high-profile dissident in China sentenced to 11 years imprisonment for co-authoring Charter 08. which called for democratization and political reform in China.
“We need to raise [the] awareness of every Chinese citizen,” Cao said. “They don’t need to live like slaves. They need to understand their rights and fight for them.”
The event was co-organized by Cao and Ann Noonan, president of the New York Visual Artists Guild.
Noonan said the event was organized to create a voice for “prisoners of conscience” in China.
“We’re here to memorialize the 70 million lives that perished and the 450 million unborn children who were not allowed to live under the PRC’s government,” she said.
Baiqiao Tang, the chair of the China Peace and Democracy Federation and a participant in the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, said the rally was not just about remembering those who died under the repression of the Chinese government, but for pushing for more freedoms in China today.
“If the Chinese can publish newspapers, magazines and books without censorship, just like America, people will know. They will wake up,” Tang said.
Among other issues needed to be dealt with, Tang said the lack of free speech is the most significant issue China needs to address.
“We are pretty close to success; the people are waking up,” he said.
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Oct. 6 print edition. Harry Lee is a contributing writer. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.