Pelosi Remarks at Congressional Executive Commission on China and Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission Hearing

June 4, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered testimony at the Congressional Executive Commission on China and Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing, entitled Tiananmen at 30: Examining the Evolution of Repression in China. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:


Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

As you know, it is unusual for the Speaker of the House to testify before a committee.  This is more than a committee.  It’s a committee, a commission, a commission – so many things.

Thank you for your leadership as Chair of the Lantos Commission and the Human Rights Commission, as well as your role with the China Commission.

And thank you, Co-Chairman Rubio, for your extraordinary leadership, as well as Chairman Smith, whom I’ve worked with for decades on this issue.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman Engel, for your leadership on the Foreign Affairs Committee.

And, to all of you, thank you for being here this morning.

And I accept the kind remarks and overly-generous introduction that you gave me on behalf of our many colleagues.  Anything you said that I did, we did in a bipartisan way, including unfurling that banner in Tiananmen Square in a bipartisan way.

And all of the legislation to protect the Chinese students and on issues that related to trade and human rights in China in a bipartisan way.  Right, Mr. Smith?  All of us along the way.

And I thank – I want to acknowledge – while we were in Tiananmen Square unfurling a banner, for which we were chased by the People’s Liberation Army – it was just a question of who could run faster – Mr. Levin was actually in Tiananmen Square at the time of the massacre.  Thank you for the beautiful testimony and photos that you have of that occasion, which was an assault on humanity, in my view.

So, I thank you all for focusing on this special anniversary.

And, sitting here with Wu’er Kaixi – when we had our first hearing after Tiananmen Square, our first, our very first hearing, Wu’er Kaixi was our first guest.  Remember that?  And now we are, thirty years later.  So courageous.  All these years, but so courageous then.  Thank you Wu’er for being here.

Again, as a Founding Member of the CECC Commission and Speaker of the House and as an American, I’m honored to speak at this ‘Tiananmen at 30: Examining the Evolution of Repression in China.’

Today, we remember the brutal massacre that the Chinese government committed against its own people thirty years ago.

We remember the courage of the students, workers and citizens who peacefully defied an oppressive regime to demand the liberties and human rights that they deserved.

We all remember that they raised a Goddess of Democracy in the image of our own Statue of Liberty; how they quoted our Founders; how the tanks and troops crushed their protest, but could not extinguish the flame of freedom burning in their hearts.

Thirty years later, one of the enduring images of the 20th Century remains seared into our shared conscience: a lone man standing in the street, bringing a line of tanks to grinding halt.

I was sad to learn, years later going back to China, that most students in the universities and the rest have no idea of that image.  When they are asked what they think it stands for they say, ‘Well is it an ad for a drink, a soda or something like that?’

The Chinese have totally suppressed what happened at Tiananmen Square as well as the lone man standing before the tank – revered in the whole world, but unknown to young people in China.

Earlier this year, the Tiananmen Mothers – God bless them – who lost loved ones in the massacre wrote to Chinese leaders, and this is what the moms said.

They said, ‘During the Great Famine of the 1950’s and 60’s, in which tens of millions of our compatriots starved to death, the former President Liu Shaogi warned Mao Xedong, ‘People are eating people – it will be written in books.’’

That’s what the moms said in this letter – this current letter.

‘Considering this,’ they said, ‘we can’t help but wonder, wouldn’t the People’s Liberation Army’s mass killing of innocent people in full public view also be recorded in history, in the end?’

Today, and on all days, we assure these mothers that we remember, and that the heroism of their children will continue to be written in the official history of the United States Congress.

We must remember, because China still tries to deny history.  As the writer Lu Xun wrote, ‘Lies written in ink cannot disguise facts written in blood.’

I remember June 4th vividly, the horrors of the massacre and the heroism of the massacred.  They remain with me, with many of us, until today.

On June 21st, just over two weeks after the Tiananmen Square massacre, in a bipartisan way, we introduced the Emergency Chinese Immigration Relief Act, to help Chinese students facing prosecution stay in America, followed by the Chinese Student Protection Act – again, in a bipartisan way.

This is important because the Chinese were filming all the demonstrations in the United States, so that they would be able to punish the students who participated – not in China, but here, in the United States – reaching their hand into deterring free expression in the United States of America.

Two years after the massacre, as you indicated, Democrats and Republicans stood in Tiananmen Square, and unfurled a black and white banner reading ‘To those who died for democracy in China’ and then, we got chased by the People’s Liberation Army.

What was interesting about it – what you might want to know is when we were there and people saw Americans there, a lot of what looked like tourists were being friendly and smiling, and this and that.  When we took out the banner, all those friendly tourists had walkie talkies and they were calling the police.

So they were police themselves, calling the People’s Liberation Army.  They came out of the building.  We could see the troops coming.  We took off and they did manage to assault some of our Members – take the film from the photographers and the rest.  But, nonetheless, the statement was made.

And every year since, we have argued, in a bipartisan way, that America and the world cannot afford to promote a morally bankrupt policy towards China.

Sadly, 30 years after Tiananmen, we see that China has changed, but its record of repression has not.  From the unabated abuse and repression that the Uyghurs face at the hands of the Chinese government, Wu’er Kaixi; to the plight of people of Hong Kong, where the Chinese Control Council pushes an extradition bill that makes mockery of the ‘one country, two systems’ pledge and would put 85,000 U.S. citizens at risk; to the decades-long abuse faced by the Tibetan people whose religion, culture and language, the Chinese government is brutally trying to erase; and to prison cells on the mainland where journalists, human rights lawyers, democracy activists, and Christians are denied dignity, justice and their rights.

If we do not speak out for human rights in China because of economic concerns, we lose all moral authority to talk about human rights in any other place in the world.

Human rights and trade an inextricably linked.  That is why in 1993 we worked together on the U.S.-China Act to tie any extension of China’s trade status to improvements in human rights by the Chinese government.

In 1994, we urged our colleagues in Congress to limit most-favored-nation status on products made by the People’s Liberation Army – the very perpetrators of the massacre in Tiananmen Square.

In 1999, we warned that the Chinese government has signed agreements on trade, on proliferation and on human rights, but had not honored them.

And in 2000, we all worked together to fight efforts to give China a blank check while China gave the U.S. a rubber check by failing to comply with its market commitments under the World Trade Organization.

As I said then, ‘The U.S.-China bilateral WTO agreement is seriously deficient in substance, implementation and enforcement.  This issue is too important for our economy to be based on a pattern of broken promises, not proven performance.’

Today, let us recognize that the greatest tribute Congress can make to the fallen freedom fighters of Tiananmen is to use our influence to advance the democratic aspirations of that generation.

Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman – so many Chairmen there – they say if you’re in prison, one of the most excruciating forms of punishment that can be exacted upon you is to say that nobody remembers you; they don’t remember why you’re here or that you are here, in prison.  And we want to be sure that those prisoners know, and we do believe the message gets to them, that they are not forgotten; that in the Congress of the United States, important leaders such as all of you gathered here, are saying their names, giving letters to the authorities in China, recognizing their sacrifice – which is a sacrifice not just for them personally, but a sacrifice for democracy across the world.

In 2012, Congress made clear that trade and human rights are firmly linked – passing Chairman McGovern’s Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, as part of the Russian PNTR.

In 2017, we built on that progress by making the Magnitsky Act global.  Thank you Mr. Chairman for that, and thank all of you that – participated in that.

Last year, we passed the bipartisan Tibet Reciprocity Act, also led by Chairman McGovern, to hold China accountable for its repression of the Tibetan people.

And as we work on trade agreements today, we continue to insist that any policy be tied to human rights.  America must demonstrate the moral courage to use our leverage to not only guarantee fair trade for our products in Chinese markets, but also to advance human rights in China.

Let me repeat: we cannot allow economic interests with China to blind us to the moral injustices committed by China.

As I asked on the House Floor twenty years ago during the PNTR debate: ‘What does it profit a country, if it gains the whole world and suffers from the loss of its soul?’

Just over ten years ago, Liu Xiaobo – the world’s great champion of human rights, whose death was an affront to the very identity of human dignity, the very idea of human dignity – penned Charter 08.

In that text, he asked, ‘Where is China headed in the 21st century? Will it continue its modernization under authoritarian rule or will it embrace universal human rights, join the mainstream of civilized nations and build a democratic system?

Mr. Smith and I and others were honored to represent Liu Xiaobo at the – when he received the Nobel Peace Prize in Norway.  Of course, the Chinese would not let him out of the country.  The prize was given to an empty chair, but we were honored to be a part of the delegation to show our support and our concern.

As we examine the evolution of repression today, let us continue to work towards achieving Liu Xiaobo’s dream and the dream of the Tiananmen protesters, a future of freedom for all.

Thank you all for the opportunity to testify today.  Thank each and every one of you, for your leadership, your commitment to human rights and advancing freedoms in China and that, of course, includes Tibet, Hong Kong, Beijing, with the Uyghurs and the rest.

So much repression is taking place.  I think we are going in the opposite direction.  It’s important for the world to know 30 years later that we haven’t forgotten what happened then and we know what is happening now.  And it will have an impact in our relationship with China.

I thank you all for your leadership and for the opportunity to share some thoughts with you today.

Congressman McGovern.  Thank you very much, Madam Speaker, from all of us here.


We are grateful to you.

I just want to point out to you, as you were speaking right now, someone gave me a picture of a candlelight vigil in Victoria Square in Hong Kong, where tens of thousands of people are doing a candlelight vigil in honor of those who lost their lives in Tiananmen Square and other uprisings around China.  So, this is happening as we speak.

So, thank you very much.  I know you have a very busy schedule, so I yield to Senator Rubio.

Senator Rubio.  Thank you and thank you, Madam Speaker, for being here on this important day.  Thank you to the Chairman for convening this important Commission and hearing on the 30th Anniversary –

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, let me just thank you for showing that picture of what is happening in Hong Kong because that is the only place in China where people are able to speak out.

It is a beautiful sight to behold and I commend the courage of the people there for speaking out in light of China’s actions in Hong Kong these days and thank you again, Mr. Chairman.