Rep. Smith Gets Coveted Wei Jingsheng Award for Human Rights in China
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), received the prestigious Wei Jingsheng Foundation’s Human Rights and Freedom Defender award for, “his decades-long devotion and effort to improve human rights and freedom all over the world, especially in China.”
In presenting the award, Wei, who spent 18 years in Chinese prisons for advancing democracy and human rights, described Smith as a, “very tough, very honest and very passionate politician.”
“We’ve talked openly and honestly and I am very sure he is a person who will support democracy and human rights in China,” Wei continued. Wei expressed the appreciation of the Chinese people for Smith’s work in assisting Chinese human rights defenders in their struggle to free the people from the oppressive Communist regime.
Smith first met Wei in Beijing in 1994.
“On a human rights trip to China in 1994, Wei Jingsheng and I met in Beijing. Despite gross mistreatment and torture, he was strong, resilient and tenacious,” said Smith.
“Wei was very blunt about the impact our voice had during his imprisonment,” Smith continued. “He said that when the U.S. agreed to China’s demands—when we were weak, timid, indifferent and kowtowing to the dictatorship—his jailers beat him and other political prisoners more. But when the U.S. took a firm and public stance, making human rights a priority, his jailers beat him and others less. He made it clear that human rights must be linked to trade.
“The message was clear: never be silent about abuses in China because silence equals more torture—even death—for prisoners of conscience.”
The event, co-sponsored by the Wei Jingsheng Foundation, the European Parliament Liaison Office with the U.S. Congress, Freedom House and others, also featured remarks from Maria José de Sousa Fialho, Minister Counsellor at the European Parliament Liaison Office U.S. Congress, as well as Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who spoke at the event.
“What an honor it is to be in the presence of Wei Jingsheng,” said Pelosi. “A hero to the world.”
“Chris Smith, for a long time, has persisted in his call for freedom and respect—and human rights in China. His most recent courage was seen in his fight to free Liu Xiaobo. He is relentless, he is creative. He uses every avenue at his disposal to demonstrate that he respects the dignity and worth of every person. I feel very honored to be able to sing his praises with all of you, in the presence of Wei,” Pelosi said.
“I won the award last year,” she concluded. “But for Chris Smith, there is a much bigger room.”