House Honors Chinese Human Rights Activist Liu Xiaobo

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 8, 2010   |   4:19PM   |   Washington, DC

The House of Representatives today voted overwhelmingly today to approve a resolution authored by pro-life Rep. Chris Smith congratulating Tiananmen Square survivor Liu Xiaobo.

Liu is the Chinese political prisoner who will be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10 in Oslo, Norway.

Last February, Smith led a bi-partisan group of lawmakers in nominating Liu for the prize. They also nominated Chen Guangcheng and Gao Zhisheng, two attorneys who were jailed for standing up for the victims of forced abortions and sterilizations under China’s one-child family planning rule.

They hoped the trio would draw attention to the plight of political prisoners in China and the Nobel Prize committee eventually awarded it to Liu, though he is not expected to be permitted by China to attend the awards ceremony.

“I urge my colleagues to adopt H. Res. 1717, expressing Congress’s profound respect for and solidarity with Liu Xiaobo and all those who peacefully advocate for human rights and democracy in the PRC,” Smith said on the House floor during debate.

Smith added:  “The resolution explicitly states that in honoring Liu Xiaobo it honors all those who have promoted democratic reform in China, including all those who participated in the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstration. After Liu’s wife told him of the award, he wept and dedicated the prize to “the Tiananmen martyrs.”

Smith’s resolution, H. Res. 1717, passed 402-1. It was debated on the House floor Tuesday and received strong bipartisan support.

The resolution highlights the struggles of the freedom activist now serving an 11-year prison term, and will be one of the strongest congressional resolutions on China’s human rights abuses in the past decade.

It is important because it helps draw attention to those who have stood up against other human rights abuses like the one-child rule, which has seen family planning officials enforce it with brutal human rights abuses, jailing and fining offenders, revoking their jobs and governmental benefits, and subjecting them to house arrest.

Prior to debate, Smith rallied with other House members and human rights groups at a press conference to build support for the resolution.

“We’re here to call on the Chinese government to release Liu and all of its political and religious prisoners, and to begin the process of democratic reform. And we’re also here to call on the world to bring new light and fresh scrutiny to the Chinese government’s horrific record of  human rights abuses,” Smith said.

“In our nominating letter, we recognized Liu as “a visionary leader,’ remarkable for ‘his patriotism, his civic courage, and the generous tone of his work, which has never sought to divide his country or cause civil conflict, but always to raise the Chinese people’s awareness of its dignity and rights, and to call on his government to govern within… the international human rights agreements it has signed,’” Smith said.

In the resolution, Congress congratulates Liu Xiaobo and calls on the Chinese government to release him, and rejects its claim that Liu’s imprisonment is purely an “internal” Chinese matter.

Smith, a longtime human rights advocate in Congress, is the Ranking Member of both the Congressional-Executive Commission on China and the Helsinki Commission, and Co-Founder and Executive Committee Member of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC). A member of Congress since 1981, he has chaired over 25 congressional hearings on human rights in China.

He is also the co-chairman of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus and has pressed concerns related to abortion for three decades.