By Yang Jianli

[This is the transcript of Yang Jianli’s very moving speech at the Closing ceremony of the International Tibet Support Groups Conference (about 200 people from 43 nations) at Dharamsala India, 17-19 Nov, 2012, for which he received a standing ovation from the deeply touched audience] 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Yang Jianli
Nearly 80 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in the past three years for the cause of their people’s freedom. This month alone, the world bore witness to 15 more tragic and heroic self -immolations. We all have a strong sense that they will not stop. Even as I speak, there may be more actually happening.

The martyrdom of so many devoted and peaceable Tibetan people has overwhelmed me with grief.   As a Chinese man, I stand before you shamed, embarrassed and humbled. Shamed by the unspeakable suffering the Chinese government has systematically inflicted upon the people of Tibet.  Embarrassed by the general apathy of the Chinese general public. Humbled because I am a proud man:  A proud man brought to his knees by the weight of his grief, the force of his anger, and the unbearable feeling of helplessness in the face of such powerful evil.

Yet I draw strength and inspiration from you, my dear Tibetan brothers and sisters; you inspire me through your endurance despite these grievous assaults on your language, your culture, your religion, your land, your spirit, and even your lives.  And I draw strength and inspiration from good people like you, the  participants of this international conference; your relentless efforts have kept the issue of Tibet alive and the worldwide Tibet support network snowballing. And I draw strength and inspiration from the words of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, “Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength. No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful the experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster.”
Yes. We must draw hope from these saffron flames of martyrdom. We must not lose hope.  But hope alone cannot defeat this evil.  We must have a tool more powerful than evil.  His Holiness tells us, “In our struggle for freedom, truth is the only weapon we possess.”
My dear brothers and sisters, the time has come to unite for a campaign of truth.
No evil, no matter how strong, can withstand the force of truth.  Wherever the evil lurks we must blind it with the light of truth.  Wherever the conscience sleeps we must awaken it with the sound of truth.
With the burning flames from Tibet, we should see the truth. These courageousmartyrs sacrificed their lives in the most painful way; they did it in protest against Chinese rule. This rule has led to the killing of a million Tibetans, the destruction of thousands of temples and monasteries, the diluting and destroying of the Tibetan language and culture, the irreversible damage to the natural environment on the Tibetan plateau, and the more than five-decade-long exile of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Each time when tensions escalate, instead of showing concern and trying to address root causes, the Chinese regime responds with increasing force and oppression. The increased clampdown on the Tibetans especially monks and nuns, stepped up cultural genocide and ever growing ethnic oppression have made the situation in Tibet ultimately unbearable for the Tibetans.
Let’s listen to the flames.  Yes, there are voices in the flames: ‘Free Tibet!’ and ‘Let the Dalai Lama Return Home!’  When we hear the voices, our conscience permits us no alternative but to act as their transmitters and amplifiers, to awaken more people’s moral conscience, to let more people know the truth about these tragedies, and to allow more people to experience these Tibetans’ despair and desire to be reborn in the flames.
Brothers and sisters, the time has come for a campaign of truth.
We must press the Western governments to speak the TRUTH.  The grass roots movement is very important but it alone is not enough. The Chinese government generally does not respond if the world leaders remain silent, because the only language it can understand is that of power. It does not understand that in democracies the power is ultimately with the people.  We must take advantage of our democratic mechanisms to press our governments to represent our will in regard to the issue of Tibet. We must not let our governments base their policies on the wrong assumption- that CCP rule is permanent.
Power has passed to a new generation of leadership in China.  It is the nature of tyrannical regimes that they grow weaker and less coherent with each successive generation.  Already we see the cracks weakening the CCP.  We must exploit these cracks by waving the flag of truth in their faces at every turn.
The question of Tibet is both a political issue and a moral one. All of humanity is challenged.  Every world leader must take this test, and just like any other test, one either passes or fails.  To our great dismay, many world leaders have so far either refused to take the test – or failed it. Too many of them looked the other way while our brothers and sisters were crying in flames. We should not let our governments continue to fail the test, politically or morally. We must insist that today silence is no longer an option. We must keep before us the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”  
We must challenge the silence of our governments at every turn and press them to confront the lies of the Chinese government with the TRUTH.  We must also give praise when a world leader does speak the TRUTH. We commend and support US Ambassador Locke’s recent actions and the UN Human Rights High Commissioner Navi Pillay’s recent strong statement and welcome these actions as a big step forward.
Brothers and sisters, the time has come for a campaign of truth.
We must empower the Chinese People to end their silence on Tibet.  We should make special efforts to reach out to them to meet them with the TRUTH, to appeal to their conscience and to let them realize that the suffering of the Tibetan people is the suffering of the Chinese people, and that the same government that brings such misery to the Tibetan people is the same government that is jailing their best citizens, robbing the land from the peasants, and controlling their right to speak and think freely.  We must make the Chinese government feel the heat of the fires of martyrdom from all directions.  

My dear brothers and sisters, I promise with all my heart, all my physical being and spirit that I will commit myself to this campaign of TRUTH.  With our combined help, the world will learn the truth. The world will know the truth.   The world will speak the truth.  And in the end, the TRUTH will set us FREE.

Thank you.
From Jianli:
“At around 10:30am in the morning of Nov.17, 2012, the second day of the conference, while the participants of the conference were dividing into groups for photos with His Holiness, His Holiness and I held hands together. He asked me about China’s new leadership and I briefly answered His question. Without wasting a second, I murmured to Him in grief, “ Yesterday, three.”  
“I know, I know” said His Holiness: Of course He knew what I was talking about, “I am helpless, I am helpless,” He continued. 
As we spoke, we were looking into each other’s eyes. He poked my hand hard with his finger and said “Even like this is painful… burning, burning” . At that moment, I saw tears running in His eyes. Tears then ran down my face. 
A few moments later, when He came to our group for the photo, His Holiness held my hands again. No words, we just looked into each other’s eyes. Again, I saw tears pooling in his eyes and once again tears ran down my face.”

Editor's NOTE-- Yang Jianli is the director of Initiatives for China 

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