Chinese dissident Dr. Yang Jianli is walking from Boston to Washington DC, May 4 - June 4, 2008. This is his speech at the kick off rally at Boston City Hall Plaza, May 4 2008:
Thank you for coming to send me off on my walk to Washington DC. We, people of different faiths and of different ethnicities came together for a peaceful assembly to make a profound testimony: that under God, we are all equal.
And we can live together without fear. And we can speak out without facing persecution.
Today, May 4th, is a very significant date in the history of China. 89 years ago, Beijing students demonstrated, calling for democracy, which marked the beginning of China's modern peaceful democracy movement. And today, this cause has not yet been accomplished.
We start our GongMin walk today here in Boston. GongMin in Chinese means "citizen." It is my firm belief that China's hopeful future lives in the awakening of its citizen spirit, and the growth of its citizen power.
Being a citizen means that we have the right to make our voice heard. Being a citizen, we have many responsibilities for our country we love so deeply. Our walk will conclude in Washington DC on June 4th, another historic date. On that day, I will join a large group of human rights advocates and political and religious leaders to remember untold numbers of Chinese compatriots who were killed on that date 19 years ago in Tiananmen Square.
After five years as a political prisoner, I'm once again free, thanks to the efforts of countless friends in the United States. But I'm not walking simply for my personal freedom, as blessed as I am to have it. I'm walking on behalf of the millions of others who cannot walk with freedom --who cannot speak for freedom without fear of persecution.
At a time when the eyes of the world are on China, as it prepares to host the Olympic Games, I'm walking to draw attention to the people the Chinese government tries to make invisible. I'm walking for the powerless whose land has been grabbed by China's officials and their associates. I'm walking for the powerless who face forced evictions because their homes were demolished for Olympic beautification and to make a way for government supported developers. I'm walking for the powerless who are constantly subjected to exploitation by predatory officials and deprived of all means to make their grievances heard.
I'm walking for the Tibetan monks, the Falun Gong practitioners, the underground house church members, the petitioners, the human rights defenders, the political prisoners who fill Chinese prisons. I'm walking for all citizens of China who wish for freedom and democracy.
Earlier today, I walked the Freedom Trail. My heart was filled with hope. If this great monument to the founding principles of this country is to resonate more broadly in the 21st century, it must extend beyond Boston. It must extend to Tiananmen Square.
It must extend to the Chinese countryside as well as to the people of Tibet.
I'm walking with a deep love for my compatriots and my homeland. Chinese farmers, workers, thinkers, holy men, students, and ordinary citizens, men and women, are entitled to a government that respects their rights as human beings. Rural Chinese deserve land. Urban Chinese deserve housing. Both deserve shelters in which they are protected, not just from wind and rain, but also from the King's unwanted entrance.
Today, this 500 mile GongMin Walk begins our new steps to continue the same walk the Beijing students started, and have marched for nearly a century.
My friends, I stand here today knowing that the Chinese people want change. And that that change will come only as a result of brave efforts inside China and our supportive efforts outside China. It may not be change that comes as quickly as we want it to; but it will come, one step at a time. Or perhaps, 1,408,000 steps -- that is 500 miles -- at a time!
Our cause is true and of justice. Because freedom is our birthright. It is, in the words of Jefferson, inalienable. Because the lord who gave us life gave us liberty. I believe the onward march of freedom is irreversible. And with the grace of God, freedom will prevail.
Thank you. God bless you all.
(Video version of speech at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEUtCuzNSeA )