Thursday, September 19, 2013

China, Cuba and the Solidarity of the Shaken: Yris, Chen, and Yang meet at Forum 2000

"My dream is for China to have its own Velvet Revolution."- Yang Jianli, Forum 2000
in Ostrava, September 18, 2013

"We need to promote democracy. It isn't only on the shoulders of Chinese people, it's on the shoulders of the whole world." -Chen Guangcheng, Forum 2000 in Prague, September 17, 2013 

"It was a wonderful meeting, I learned a lot and I was able to explain my struggle. When I return to the island will tell my sisters in the movement of all these experiences that fills one with optimism for our struggle " - Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera , Forum 2000 in Prague, September 16, 2013

Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera, Chen Guangcheng, and Yang Jianli
Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera met with and exchanged experiences with two well known Chinese pro-democracy activists: Chen Guangcheng and Yang Jianli.

It was a remarkable encounter that took place at Forum 2000 and an example of the solidarity of the shaken a coin termed by the Czech philosopher Jan Patočka.

Erazim V. Kohák in his book Jan Patočka: philosophy and selected writings refers to Patočka’s “solidarity of the shaken” as a community freed “from the preoccupation with the pursuits of peace and prosperity that inevitably lead to war and turn it instead to the pursuit of the Good, the care of the soul” that is “living with a clear conscience, living in truth, or in far older terms, seeking first the Kingdom of God.”

Consider for a moment the backgrounds of these three human rights defenders.
Yang Jianli witnessed the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre, and later escaped to the United States. In 2002, he returned to China to help the labor movement with non-violent struggle strategies, was captured, arrested and sentenced to 5 years imprisonment for “spying”. He served out his full sentence and was released in 2007. He is also a signatory of Charter 08 – a manifesto of Chinese intellectuals calling for political reform in China.  In 2010 he picked up the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of Liu Xiaobo. ( Fair notice: I was one of the signers of a petition calling on the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay to attend the award ceremony in Oslo and am also an advocate for human rights in China).

Chinese Lawyer and Civil Rights Activist Chen Guangcheng has worked intensively on human rights issues in rural areas of the People’s Republic of China. He gained international recognition for organizing a landmark class-action lawsuit against authorities in Linyi, Shandong province, for the excessive enforcement of the one-child policy. As a result of this lawsuit, Mr. Chen was placed under house arrest from September 2005 to March 2006, and formally arrested in June 2006. During the trial, his attorneys were forbidden access to the court, leaving him without a proper defender. In April 2012, Mr. Chen escaped his house arrest and fled to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. He is currently living in the U.S. He is a vocal advocate for women’s rights, land rights, and the welfare of the poor.

Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera is founder and President of the Rosa Parks Women’s Movement, whose objectives are to struggle against human rights violations in Cuba. Born in 1975 in Sancti Spiritus province in central Cuba, she entered the opposition movement in 1999, when her brother, Mario Pérez Aguilera, was unjustly imprisoned at Nieves Morejón prison. Thats where Yris met and later married Jorge Luis García Pérez, an activist who spent 17 years and 38 days in prison for calling in 1990 for human rights reforms in Cuba like those taking place in Eastern Europe at the time and refusing to be indoctrinated. Yris has organized protests, marches and social initiatives that have found housing for the homeless and improved, if not saved, lives in Cuba. She has stood up for those that can't defend themselves. She has paid a steep price for this suffering numerous detentions, brutal beatings that on more than one occasion led her to lose consciousness.
Worlds apart but joined together in their suffering for defending the dignity and rights of their fellow human beings because it is the right thing to do even if at the time it does not appear that it will accomplish a concrete external change, but it is the way these activists are able to hang on to their humanity confronting an immoral totalitarian regime that seeks to destroy human dignity and decency. Listening to them through translators one found that they understood each other speaking a an underlying language that transcended their languages of national origin.

The fact that they were brought together by Forum 2000 a project initiated by Vaclav Havel who's best known work outside of the Czech Republic is "The Power of the Powerless" and is dedicated "to the memory of Jan Patocka" should not be a surprise but the coherent, moral, and powerful legacy of a profoundly decent man who applied Patocka's ideas and put them into action.

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