November 21, 1997

The New York Public Library, New York

I want to thank the people and governments around the world that have made enormous efforts to press the Chinese government for the release of political prisoners. I would also like to thank friends in the media who have given me this opportunity to freely express my opinions. I have waited decades for this chance to exercise my right to free speech, but the Chinese people have been waiting for centuries. Right now there are several thousand political prisoners still suffering in Chinese Communist Party jails for exercising their freedom of speech. Our conscience as human beings will not allow us to forget them, not even for a single moment.

Democracy and freedom are among the loftiest ideals of humanity, and they are the most sacred rights of mankind. Generations of martyrs sacrificed themselves in order to obtain democracy in Europe, North America, and many other places in the world. But people should not be satisfied with this. Those who already enjoy democracy, liberty, and human rights, in particular, should not allow their own personal happiness to lull them into forgetting the many others who are still struggling against tyranny, slavery, and poverty; and all those who are suffering from unimaginable forms of oppression, exploitation, and massacres. Dictators can never be satisfied with the power they already hold; the freedoms and prosperity you have gained are not protected by walls of steel. If you look aside when gangsters abuse your neighbors, then your own home will no longer be safe. Only when people join together to defeat all such gangsters will everyone be safe and free.

Here in this magnificent library today, I would like to enjoy my sacred right to free speech and see what can be done so that more people -- and eventually all of humanity -- can also enjoy this sacred right.

My friends, I will now take your questions!