Today I had the honor to be invited to a White House event with President George W. Bush to commemorate Human Rights Day on the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. More than anything else, the meeting itself showed that the voices of activists inside China are being heard and supported by the White House.
President Bush met with me and seven other bloggers and new media users from Cuba, Belarus, Burma, Iran, Egypt (through video conference) and Venezuela (through video conference) in the Roosevelt Room at 2:50 pm, December 10, 2008. The meeting lasted for an hour. The President opened the meeting with remarks about U.S. government support for universal freedom and human rights all over the world. Then he said he wanted to hear from us. I had the chance to speak first, and I used this opportunity to talk about two specific and significant recent events in China. The first is the release of Charter 08, signed now by more than 500 Chinese citizens across the social spectrum, from prominent scholars to victims of rights abuses. I particularly mentioned the detention of one of the leading figures in this movement, Liu Xiaobo. The second issue I mentioned was the list of the “Twenty Most Influential Figures in China’s Cyberspace,” profiled in the reform-minded paper Southern Metropolis Weekly. Some names were prominent in both events, such as He Weifang and Yang Hengjun; in my view, this signifies the nascent convergence of different social forces — from voices within the system to human rights activists and bloggers — to promote democratic reform in China, facilitated by the Internet, under the common banner of a “Citizens’ Movement.”