As a politician with firsthand experience of injustice, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s recent declaration that she will not remain silent on sexism because to be would “be a form of acceptance” struck a chord with millions globally, I among them.
AOC as she is known – New York’s 14 th Congressional District congresswoman – said because she was in a position of privilege to speak out, she had a duty to fight for the equality of others.
Her powerful indictment encapsulated why I wrote my memoir, TAKING ON CHINA: How I Freed My Husband from Jail.
Many have asked me why I undertook the enormous task of putting down on paper my experiences of taking on the Chinese regime. I have sometimes had a hard time answering them and myself: why indeed DID I undertake the enormous and emotionally draining experience of writing about awful, life changing events that took place a decade earlier?
In 2010, my then-husband Wu Yuren was beaten and illegally incarcerated on trumped-up charges – he had protested the illegal demolition of his art studio.
I began to protest his treatment and after the year in jail Wu was suddenly released but given the threat to our freedom and his, my daughter and I fled as it was no longer a safe place for us to remain in China.
Once home, work and childcare took up most of my waking hours. Though I could not quell the sense of injustice for my ex-husband, I shut up about it for many years. But the more I read how under Xi Jinping’s repressive government, human rights abuse has become worse for millions of Chinese.
I could no longer continue to be silent about the ongoing atrocities inside China: the plight of the Muslim Uyghur population, the treatment of the Hong Kong residents under the New Security Law, and of course the two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, presently languishing illegally behind bars in Beijing.
I had protested and took on the authorities and could claim small victories, but I was different. I was in a unique situation having witnessed the horrors of an authoritarian government first-hand – but I was able to escape to safety.
Following the detention of Chinese citizen and Huawei boss Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver, Beijing retaliated by ‘disappearing’ the two Michaels. That was when I picked up my pen and used my unique privilege to detail what many Chinese suffer daily.
Enough was enough. I could no longer remain silent. I realised I was in a unique position to use my experiences to not only tell others about the true nature of the Chinese Communist party but also be the voice for those still behind bars in China.
My book details only one incident of widespread human rights abuses in China, which have been recorded for decades.
But under the XI government, there has been a crackdown not seen since the rule of Chairman Mao Zedong. It was believed by the global democratic community that the adoption of a market economy and the exchange of ideas and trade, the CCP would reform. Indeed, it has lifted more people out of poverty than any such government in human history.
Undeniably, it is the right of every human to have clean water, enough food to eat, a roof over their head, education, and a sense of worth. So many a blind eye was turned by the democratic West who believed the claim by the CCP that it was a benevolent regime looking out for its own people.
But recently, Beijing has morphed into something more sinister. There is zero tolerance on dissent, and in Xinjiang there is a crime being committed that is close to being on par with the Nazi regime: millions of Uyghurs have been arrested, manacled, blindfolded, and put on trains to concentration camps where they are ‘re-educated’. Thousands of Uyghur woman have been forced to have abortions, others forced to undergo sterilization.
If the West dare speaks out, China threatens economic retaliation with all the belligerence of a schoolyard bully, warning all outsiders to keep their nose out of its dark business. Until now, the West, having become addicted to Chinese cash, has meekly acquiesced.
Since the CCP’s cover-up of the COVID-19, its motives have finally been exposed. Its bulling, lying, corruption, willful disdain of the rule of law and international convention, and until now unimaginable repression has been laid bare for all to see.
We ordinary citizens of the world can no longer remain silent on the CCP’s crimes. Silence is an enabler, or as AOC put it, a form of acceptance. To remain silent is thus akin to being complicit. We must now use our privilege of living in democratic nations to speak out and bring about change.
As part of a global community, we Canadians must create a system that makes China end its abuses and hold Beijing accountable.
July 28th, 2020
OP-ED submission to the Globe & Mail