Jianli, a pro-democracy activist and graduate of the Kennedy School of Government (KSG), went to China illegally last year using a fake passport and violating the blacklist that forbade him from entering the country. He was arrested by Chinese authorities, who have been holding him ever since.
His wife, Christina X. Fu, a Harvard Medical School researcher, has not heard from him for 12 months.
Her lawyer, Jared Genser from the not-for-profit organization Freedom Now, was the first to address supporters gathered Thursday in front of the Chinese embassy in Washington.
He thanked Representative Barney Frank, D-Mass., for what he called Frank’s unfaltering support in pressing for the release of Jianli.
In his speech, Genser endorsed House Resolution 199, which calls for the Chinese government to release Jianli and for President George Bush to continue working on Jianli’s behalf for his freedom.
The resolution was introduced in the House of Representatives two weeks ago and 11 representatives have since signed it.
“Our goal with the year anniversary is to take the case to the public and let the American public know what’s going on,” Genser later said in a phone interview.
After Genser spoke, the Reverend Susan Blue, from Fu’s Episcopal church in Brookline, led the crowd in a prayer.
Next, Frank asked everyone to “‘demand [Jianli’s] release, he didn’t do anything wrong. All he did was bring democratic ideas to China and there’s nothing wrong with that,’” said Fu on a telephone interview immediately following the vigil.
The gathering in front of the embassy closed with a speech from Fu.
“I hope but I don’t know when things will happen. You just never know. But we just have to keep working, keep hoping, keep pursuing, “ Fu said. “The more people know about it, the more pressure is placed on the government. That’s why I have been more outspoken lately.”
More than 50 people gathered outside All Saints Church in Brookline on Friday night for an interfaith vigil in support of Jianli.
A cantor from Temple Beth Zion Congregation began by singing a Hebrew prayer, and Reverend Leslie Sterling read a passage from the Book of Isaiah that called for maintaining justice and “one law for all.”
There was a moment of silence to “meditate on hope,” and a Chinese poet recited some of his work.
Peter Chan, a longtime friend of Jianli’s, read selections from one of Jianli’s writings, entitled “There Must Be a Better Way.”
Attendees included Jianli’s classmates from the KSG, members of the Foundation for China in the 21st Century which he founded, and the Temple Beth Zion Congregation.
“It is especially moving to see so many different elements of the community coming together at our parish to show unity and oneness of concern as they wait,” said the Reverend Leslie K. Sterling ’79, the assistant rector at All Saints Parish.
—Staff writer Ishani Ganguli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Romina Garber can be reached at email@example.com.