Pelosi Remarks at Stateless Breakfast in Honor of Human Rights Defenders in China
“Good morning. It’s an honor to be here with Congressman [Jim] McGovern and Congressman [Joe] Pitts. Their statements said it all – I want to associate myself with their remarks about how important it is for us to recognize two great countries who must engage with each other, but we have to engage not at the expense of the rights of people in either of our countries.
“So, in terms of China, one of the things that I’ve heard – Congressman Pitts was talking about the experience listening to the prisoners in the then-Soviet Union. We know that throughout the world, political dissidents tells us that one of the most horrible forms of punishment that their oppressors exact on them is to tell them that nobody remembers them, even knows that they’re still in prison, or why they even went there. And we want to be sure that every political prisoner in the world, but now focusing on China, knows that we carry them in our hearts, and that we will speak about them in our forum. Of course, Liu Xiaobo.
“I had the privilege of going to Norway as part of the delegation – it was a bipartisan delegation – when he in absentia received the Nobel Prize. He is still in prison. And the list goes on, in terms of Gao Zhisheng – we have a whole list. And on the floor of the House is where we will say these names, so they’ll continue to be a part of the record for anyone who follows what happens from this and that the word does get to them. Even some that don’t know the names of, we know the situation of, and we will speak for them.
“In terms of the U.S. and China, in our relationship, it’s important for us to be who we are as America. We lose all moral authority to talk about human rights any place in the world, if we refuse to make it a priority in our conversation with a country with whom we have a strong economic relationship. That cannot be the determining factor as to whether we will recognize violations of human rights in China, and I might add, thank you for talking about Tibet.
“Again, the situation in Tibet and the human rights situation in China challenge the conscious of the world, and we cannot let that challenge go unrecognized and unmet.
“Some of us were in – in 1997, at the Stateless dinner, Richard Gere led the conversation then, and he continues to lead the conversation on China’s repression and in Tibet and in China. And now, here we are all these years later. We thought we were promised – people said that it would improve, just be patient, peaceful evolution, and the rest of that. But as a matter of fact, there are signs that things are going in the wrong direction now. And we have to point that out in the world.
“And also the situation of not only the situation in Tibet, which is – I’ll get back to that in a moment – but on the issue of Hong Kong and democracy in Hong Kong – and how China is sort of disregarding what people thought the agreement was to go forward. So, we have important work to do. And it has been my honor to be associated with this cause, with the dissidents over the years – the most idealistic and brilliant and operational people that I’ve ever worked with.
“I’ll just close by telling you this story, and then we’re going to have a toast, I guess, with your friend – he’s going to come up – I don’t want to steal the thunder of introducing him. But, in any case, I was in Dharamsala, I was visiting His Holiness there, and in the morning, we saw many people, who had come over the mountains, who were telling us what was happening in Tibet was so repressive. It was so – horrible things. It was in ’08, so you know that was March of ‘08, was when there was a crackdown in Tibet, and they were telling us what they saw there. It was horrible, and they were crying. His Holiness was so beautiful to them. So after that, we went to lunch with the Lamas – 200 of them – a large number of young Lamas from all over the region. And when it was my turn to speak, I said what I saw that morning, that we had to take action – Democrats and Republicans in our delegation – and this is what we’re going to do about this, this is what we’re going to do about that to make sure China understood that we were going to meet the challenge. And His Holiness got up after me, and he said to the Lamas, ‘Now we must all pray that we rid Nancy of her negative attitude.’
“In any event, getting back to your themes earlier, we have to do this in a way that is productive – that doesn’t diminish us in how we approach this issue of values, and not just making a fight over when they will not even stipulate to the fact. We will continue to state the fact, to act upon the challenge, to recognize the urgency so that we will improve the situation of the people in China and in Tibet and honor our own values in America. So, thank you all for what you do. It’s an honor to be associated with you. I’m so proud to be here with my colleague, Mr. Lowenthal of California, as well, a champion on this human rights [issue]. And let us thank Jim McGovern and Joe Pitts for their extraordinary leadership and courage as co-Chairs of the [Tom Lantos] Human Rights Commission.”