As a Tibetan, Uyghur, Southern Mongolian and Chinese – people who have all suffered from the oppressive policies of the Chinese Communist Party – we express our deep admiration for and solidarity with the movement for democracy and rights in Hong Kong. We have all dedicated our lives to restoring rights and freedom to our people, and we salute the people of Hong Kong for refusing to remain silent as Beijing reneges on its promise of universal suffrage and democratic reforms.
The events unfolding in Hong Kong highlight the deep and enduring problems the Chinese Communist Party faces as it tries to maintain draconian control over all the territories it rules within the People’s Republic of China. Just as Hong Kongers are refusing to accept a sham version of democracy with leaders pre-approved by Beijing, Tibetans, Uyghurs, Southern Mongolians and Chinese refuse to accept the pervasive restrictions on our fundamental rights and freedoms. We hold a common desire for genuine democracy; a desire shared with millions around the world. Unless the Chinese government takes the necessary steps to devolve political power to the people, it is inevitable that the people’s uprising we see in Hong Kong today will one day spread across Tibet, East Turkestan, Southern Mongolia, and China itself.
The citizens of Hong Kong have mounted a remarkable challenge to Beijing, who now face an unanticipated dilemma. Thanks to the freedom of press that exists in Hong Kong – unlike anywhere else in the PRC – the world is closely watching Beijing’s response. We call on the Chinese authorities to refrain from use of force against these peaceful protesters, and in particular appeal directly to security forces to refuse unconscionable orders from their superiors if they come.
We call on world governments to also convey this message to the Chinese authorities in the strongest possible terms, and we remind them that, should tensions grow, to remain silent or passively stand by is to support the oppressor. Let no one forget that the Party machine that justified rolling the tanks out against a similar group of students and youth in 1989 remains in power and continues to inflict brutal repression against anyone who challenges its authority.
To the students and youth of Hong Kong, we pledge to stand with you as long as it takes to achieve true democracy. The world has witnessed mass street protests to oust rulers in many countries over the past four years and we know that structural, not just cosmetic, changes are essential in order to cement the gains made by grassroots uprisings and ensure that authoritarian forces cannot prevail over time. Whatever the coming days bring, change is inevitable, whether it happens in this moment or in the months and years ahead.
Five generations of Chinese Communist Party leaders have failed to quash – or buy off – the aspirations of the people of Hong Kong, Tibet, East Turkestan, Southern Mongolia and China for democracy and liberty. Our collective resistance will endure until we all – or our children or even our children’s children – experience the sweet taste of freedom.
Yang Jianli, Teng Biao, Tenzin Dorjee, Rebiya Kadeer, Enghebatu Togochog
Mr. Yang Jianli is a leader of China’s democracy movement and President of Initiatives for China. He has been involved in the pro-democracy movement in China since the 1980s and was forced to flee China in 1989 after the Tiananmen Square massacre. He spent 5 years in a Chinese prison between 2002 and 2007 after travelling to China on a friend's passport to investigate labour unrest. He has met with His Holiness the Dalai Lama on many occasions.
Mr. Teng Biao is a Chinese human rights activist and lawyer, and the co-founder of Gongmeng or the Open Constitution Initiative. He has been a vocal supporter of human rights activists such as Chen Guangcheng and Hu Jia and was arrested in March 2008 and again in February 2011. He is currently a visiting scholar at Harvard Law School and President of China Against the Death Penalty.
Mr. Tenzin Dorjee (Tendor) is a Tibetan writer, activist and musician, and Researcher and Strategic Advisor for Tibet Action Institute. He is the former Executive Director of Students for a Free Tibet. He was arrested and briefly detained in Tibet in 2007 after protesting against the Beijing Olympics at Everest Base Camp.
Ms. Rebiya Kadeer is the leader of the Uyghur Democracy Movement and President of the World Uyghur Congress. An activist and businesswoman, she was imprisoned from 2000 - 2005 for her relentless political and human rights activism and now lives in exile in the United States. She’s been awarded the Rafto Prize for Human Rights and in 2012 was included in the list of ‘500 Most Influential Muslims’.
Mr. Enghebatu Togochog is the Director of the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC), a New York based human rights organization dedicated to protection and promotion of the Mongolian people in Southern Mongolia.
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