On the same day as the high-profile escape of a blind Chinese lawyer from house arrest, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited the Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland and paid solemn respect to past victims of totalitarianism.
Wen’s statements during his visit on April 27 were received back home where his communist regime continues to persecute and kill religious believers and others deemed enemies of the state.
“The tragedy here was an unforgettable episode in human history, which is grievous and should be remembered forever,” Wen told reporters, according to Chinese state mouthpiece Xinhua, which carried the news back to China.
“Only by always bearing history in mind can people build a bright future,” he said, according to Xinhua.
“The tragedy of Auschwitz is a tragedy for all of humankind,” Wen also said at the press conference, according to the local Polish media Fakty Oswiecim (Oswiecim is the proper Polish name for the town the Germans called Auschwitz).
“This history tells us that we must oppose war, racial discrimination, and atrocities. Countries that have unleashed war and brought disaster upon humanity must approach history in an appropriate way, learning lessons from it. Only then, when they are able to admit to their crimes, to their guilt, can they be respected by the international community,” Wen continued.
“The disaster has passed, but the warnings it wrought will remain forever,” he said, to close the press event.
Read the analysis piece: Lessons From Auschwitz Brought Home to China
Meanwhile, as Wen made his sobering remarks, blind Chinese lawyer Chen Guangcheng released a video imploring the premier to do whatever he could to stop the abuses against Chen and his family.
Chen released the video after his extraordinary escape from his own home, where he had been illegally detained and repeatedly abused since late 2010, after finishing a four-year jail term on charges of “damaging property and organizing a mob to disturb traffic.”
Chen had organized a class-action lawsuit against local officials for thousands of often brutal, forced abortions, and sterilizations carried out by way of enforcing the Communist Party’s one-child policy.
In his video, Chen explained the violence against himself and his wife. His wife suffered several broken bones during what Chen described as savage beatings from the security forces stationed around his home. He asked Wen Jiabao, increasingly seen as a reformer, to formally investigate the matter.
The day before Wen went to Auschwitz, his entourage came face-to-face with demonstrators protesting the closest thing to genocide currently taking place in China: the persecution of the spiritual practice Falun Gong.
Falun Gong practitioners stood outside the entrance of the Hilton in Warsaw, Poland, where a trade forum was being held on April 26. Wen’s entourage passed several times, with some members of it stopping or slowing down to read the banners.
In the afternoon of the same day, at the European heads of government meeting in the Royal Castle in Warsaw’s Old Town, some members of Wen’s entourage ran into Falun Gong practitioners.
Some in the entourage reportedly said they had read the Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party editorial series published by The Epoch Times, which exposes the Communist Party’s historical and contemporary crimes against the Chinese people and calls for Party members to renounce their membership.
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Rumors have surfaced online that in private meetings with top-level Communist Party officials, Wen Jiabao called for the political rehabilitation of victims of the Tiananmen massacre, and victims of the persecution of Falun Gong, whose adherents across China run into the tens of millions.
The persecution began in 1999 when then Party leader Jiang Zemin declared he would “eradicate” the practice from Chinese society. Since then, the use of extralegal incarceration, torture, psychiatric abuse, forced labor, and coercive “thought reform” have been widespread.
Falun Gong adherents were vilified by China’s state media, in ways that some commentators have likened to the process of dehumanization conducted by the Nazis against Jewish people.
Near the Auschwitz crematoria, Wen signed the museum guest book with the words: “Knowing history, we are able to plan for the future.”
With research by Jane Lin and Cheryl Chen.