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Acceptance Speech for the UN Watch Morris Abram Human Rights Award

Acceptance Speech for the UN Watch Morris Abram Human Rights Award

By YANG Jianli

(May 23, 2012, Geneva, Switzerland)

Ambassador Moses, Hillel, Arielle, Leon, all UN Watch friends, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for This honor.

Indeed, it is a great honor to be recognized by UN Watch with its Morris Abram Human Rights Award. I gratefully and humbly accept this honor, before this most impressive audience, not for myself, but on behalf of the great multitude of victims of human rights abuse, in China and elsewhere, and equally on behalf of the many courageous souls who daily risk life and limb to aid, comfort and defend them.

It is truly humbling to be put in the same company as such heros as the past recipients of this award. Standing here, I am also cast in the long shadow of the glorious life of Morris Abram whose many decades of service in the cause of human rights around the world is a shining example for us to try to follow.

In contrast to these towering figures, I am no more than a citizen of China, one of the 1.3 billion, nearly a quarter of humanity, ruled by a government who systematically and routinely imprisons, tortures, and exiles its best and brightest of us for no other reason than exercising the right to speak freely, who pursues cultural genocide on our Tibetan, Uyghur and Mongolian brothers and whose foreign policies and models of repression enable the morally bankrupt regimes of North Korea, Iran, and Syria to suck the freedoms and dignities from their people.

Tonight, I respectfully ask each of you, in your mind’s eye, to look across the bridge created by Morris Abram between the world struggles against the horrors of the Holocaust and against today’s assault on human rights.  Look over that bridge spanning more than seven decades. Look across to the victims of the Holocaust, to the 65 million victims of WWII, and to many more lives lost at the hands of the Chinese communists regime. It is often said that those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it. So, what must we learn as we gaze across that bridge? We should learn at least two fundamental lessons:

         1. Government that systematically deprives its citizens of human rights is inherently unstable.

         2. If left unchecked, this instability inevitably destabilizes the world order with horrific consequences.

Therefore, there must be universally accepted principles of justice and human dignity and universally condemned violations of human rights that cannot be swept under the rug of international understanding, or hidden behind a fig leaf of “cultural relativism.”Unfortunately, all too often, the world leaders turn to that overused excuse for not confronting the perpetrators. Morris Abram knew that on such fundamental issues, there is a “right” and there is a“wrong”.  He established UN Watch to monitor the UN and require it to live up to the promises of its Charter and the Universal Declaration Human Rights. UN Watch wisely and relentlessly insists on measuring what the UN and its members say in regard to human rights and justice against what they actually do.

Morris Abram knew, as we do today, it is wrong for the UN to apply different human rights standards to different member countries; it is wrong for the UN to allow citizen-abusing governments to pretend to represent their people in its mechanisms and even to bully the international community by virtue of veto power in its security council; and it is wrong for the UN to allow such world leading human rights abusers as China, Cuba, Libya, Syria, Saudi Arabia, to be elected members of its human rights council.

As I stand here tonight as a honored citizen of China in the legacy of Morris Abram, I am rededicating myself to moving beyond talking about China’s human rights record, toward engaging all who recognize human rights as the key to world peace, to develop policies that produce real political reform in China; to make substantive political reform of the UN; and for the world democracies to enshrine human rights as a cornerstone of international diplomacy, this is for the good of the people of China as well as the people of the rest of the world.

Thank you, UN Watch. I will continue to look up to your leadership in the global cause of human rights.

Once more, I most sincerely thank you for this honor on behalf of all the victims of oppression and all those who seek to defend them.

Thank you.

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