GAITHERSBURG, Md.—May 20 was the 60th birthday for China’s renowned dissident Wei Jingsheng. On that day, many human rights activists called from mainland China to wish Mr. Wei a happy birthday and to continue his work for Chinese democracy and human rights.
Two days later, May 22, about 60 friends gathered together at the New Fortune restaurant in Gaithersburg, a suburb outside of Washington, D.C., for a dinner party in his honor. Participants came as far as Chicago, Connecticut, and New York.
The dinner party included a photo exhibition and a video show composed of photos of Wei Jingsheng with family and friends, as well as interviews and speeches, specially made for this birthday celebration. During the party, friends made moving speeches in admiration of Wei Jingsheng's contribution in thought and action towards building democracy and freedom in China.
Wei was incarcerated by the Chinese regime for 18 years for advocating democracy. He was finally released and exiled to the U.S. in 1997 at the behest of President Bill Clinton, who negotiated with the Communist leadership. His 1978 essay “The Fifth Modernization—Democracy” challenged the Communist Party’s new leadership’s stance that progress could be made without democracy.
Wei wrote "Courage to Stand Alone – Letters from Prison and Other Writings," which consists of his articles, written initially on toilet papers smuggled out of jail. Today, Wei writes articles for newspapers and often gives speeches and commentaries through various radio and TV stations, especially to the mainland Chinese audience via Radio Free Asia, Voice of America, and the BBC.
In 2005 at a forum in Washington, D.C., Wei said:
“So as for the Chinese Communist Party, let’s not consider how much it has improved. We need to consider whether it intends to improve. Once it opens up political freedom and freedom of speech, its past crimes will be exposed. People will have access to information concerning democracy and the rule of law. Then what the CCP faces is not only immediate collapse, but also accountability of all its crimes.”
One Wei admirer at the celebration, Fu Shenqi, made an especially moving speech for his friend Wei. Mr. Fu represents Chinese Democratic Party National Convention, and Mr. Wei is chairman of its advisory board.
“In reviewing the history of the modern democracy movement in China in the past 30 some years, I have the feeling as described by poet Li Bai more than 1200 years ago: ‘As we review our path, we see a vast and hazy covered bluish green hillside.’ … “
He continued, “The democratic forces have already played a remarkable role in the checks and balances function to the rulers; we have already contributed to the social progress in Chinese society; we shall carry more historic responsibility to the democratic transition in China. As the 1911 Revolution reaches its century mark, I want to say: ‘Democracy has yet to be realized; I wish all of us work together to end the one-party dictatorship, and to realize constitutional democracy.”
Fu quoted Cao Cao who wrote 1,800 years ago:
An old warhorse cherishes further exploration,
With a long term goal of the thousand mile journey;
As the martyr reaches his later age,
Lofty inspiration carries on!