When it comes to human rights, silence is not golden.
Silence is golden, goes the aphorism. But consider the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany. Instead of walking away from the Olympics, which would have removed any tacit approval of Hitler, leaving him less emboldened – possibly even changing the course of history – the world was silent.
We stir up trouble by speaking out.
But I am speaking out. Because the people inside China cannot speak out, and because thousands of brothers and sisters in prison need a voice.
I served five years as a political prisoner in China, from which I was released only last year. I was tortured, both physically and psychologically, and put in solitary confinement for the first 14 months. I was charged with "espionage," a crime of which I was innocent, and one that can mean jail for life or result in the death sentence.
My family hired a prominent Chinese lawyer in February 2003, after I had been detained. But it was only after the US House and Senate adopted resolutions calling for my release in June 2003 that I was finally allowed to meet with this lawyer.
The pressure from the US eventually made a great difference in my prison experience – I was given more freedom within the prison, and no longer tortured. The fact is that without the leadership of the US, I might never have been freed.
Even when I was finally released from prison, the Chinese government kept me in China, preventing me from uniting with my family in America. If it were not for Congressman Barney Frank and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson working on my behalf, I would not have been able to come home in August 2007.