Oct. 7, 1999
Vol. 19 No. 2

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    [wei jingsheng]
    Well-known for his outspoken campaign for democracy in China, Wei Jingsheng will deliver a public lecture Thursday, Oct. 14, in the Social Science Research Building.

    Wei Jingsheng to visit campus Oct. 14-15 as Kovler Fellow

    By Jennifer Leovy
    News Office

    Wei Jingsheng, a well-known Chinese dissident writer and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, will visit the University next week as a Marjorie Kovler Visiting Fellow.

    Wei, 49, served 18 years in Chinese prisons because of his outspoken campaign for democracy in China.

    Wei will deliver a public lecture at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 14, in the Social Science Research Building, Room 122, 1126 E. 59th St. During his two-day visit, Wei also will meet with members of Amnesty International and the Political Union, take part in a Chinese language session hosted by International House and participate in a Human Rights Program workshop.

    Wei was first imprisoned for his 1978 essay, “The Fifth Modernization,” in which he suggested that Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping’s efforts to modernize the country would not succeed until the government itself modernized and became a democracy. Wei, then an electrician for the Beijing zoo, signed the essay and posted it on the Democracy Wall. During the late 1970s, others had anonymously expressed their beliefs in democracy on the Democracy Wall in Beijing, including artists, intellectuals and workers.

    The Chinese government sentenced Wei to 15 years in prison. He was released in 1993 but within six months returned to jail with a 14-year sentence for his continued calls for democracy.

    Wei garnered international attention in 1997 when he was released in exile to the United States, just weeks after Chinese President Jiang Zemin visited President Clinton. As reported in The New York Times, China cited medical reasons for Wei’s release, but the release was seen as a gesture to encourage Clinton’s 1998 visit to China.

    “Wei shows moral stamina. Even in prison, he continued to write to Chinese political leaders to promote democracy,” said Dali Yang, Associate Professor in Political Science and Director of the Committee on International Relations. “And he has earned respect in China for his suffering. We stand to benefit from his visit to campus because, whether or not he is successful, Wei is a piece of Chinese history in the making.”

    Wei has been awarded the Olof Palme Memorial Prize, the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Human Rights Award and the National Endowment for Democracy Award. He is currently a fellow at Columbia University.

    During his visit, Wei will be a guest of the Political Union, the student-run organization that invited him to campus. “Wei Jingsheng is truly an inspiring individual. His belief in democracy and his courage to write about it sent him to jail, but he never compromised his beliefs,” said Jacob Studley, co-founder of the Political Union and a public policy graduate student.

    “In a sense, Wei is the ultimate spokesman for academic freedom, because it was through his writings that he was convicted of counterrevolution. We’re very excited to have him.”

    The Marjorie Kovler Visiting Fellows program brings distinguished speakers from the arts, sciences and public affairs to the University, allowing students to interact with prominent individuals they would not ordinarily have the opportunity to meet.

    For more information about the Human Rights Program workshop, call (773) 834-0957. For more information about the International House Chinese language session, contact Denise Jorgens at (773) 753-2274.