Chinese Human Rights Advocate to Speak at Yale

Former Chinese prisoner Wei Jingsheng will give the inaugural Robert L. Bernstein Lecture on “Human Rights in China: Challenges Ahead” on Tuesday, April 28, from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Levinson Auditorium of Yale Law School at 127 Wall Street.

Wei Jingsheng will be introduced by Robert Bernstein, who will announce the first recipients of the Robert L. Bernstein Fellowships in International Human Rights at Yale Law School at that time. The event is part of the Dean’s Lecture Series and is co-sponsored by Yale Law School and its Orville H. Schell Jr. Center for International Human Rights. It is free and open to the public.

The Schell Center was established in 1989 to further scholarship, education and advocacy in the human rights arena. It was named for Orville Schell, the vice chairman of Helsinki Watch and chairman of Americas Watch from its founding in 1981 until his death in 1987. Its director is Harold Hongju Koh, the Gerard C. and Bernice Latrobe Smith Professor of International Law at Yale Law School.

China released Wei Jingsheng to the United States in November 1997 after almost continuous imprisonment since 1979. He was originally imprisoned for his writings, which were critical of Deng Xiaoping and advocated strongly for democracy. Wei will be appearing at a number of human rights-related events around campus, culminating in the Bernstein Lecture Tuesday afternoon.

Last November, leading human rights scholars and activists from around the world traveled to New Haven to mark the establishment of the Bernstein Fellowships. The fellowships were created in honor of Robert Bernstein, renowned not only as the former chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Random House Inc., but as one of the century’s preeminent human rights activists. He founded both the International Freedom to Publish Committee of the Association of American Publishers and the organization Human Rights Watch, which he still chairs.

In his November address, Bernstein issued a challenge to the human rights community, calling on everyone to work for the release of Wei, who was at the time living in atrocious conditions in a Chinese prison. On Nov. 16, less than two weeks later, front-page stories appeared in newspapers the world over: After nearly two decades in prison, Wei Jingsheng had finally been set free.

“Bob Bernstein’s years of advocacy contributed enormously not just to Wei’s release, but also to American public awareness of the plight of political prisoners in China,” said Schell Center Director Koh.

The Bernstein Fellowships will provide a year of financial support for up to three Yale Law School graduates who wish to pursue international human rights work, thus benefiting both the young attorneys and the organizations that could not otherwise afford to employ them.

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