Freedom House Honors Activist, Legislators, Film Makers
Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng, four members of the U.S. Congress who led efforts to hold Russian officials responsible for the death of a whistle-blower, and an American film-production company dedicated to raising public awareness of socially vital issues accepted Freedom House awards October 23 that highlighted their contributions to democracy.
Chen received the organization’s highest honor, the Freedom Award, in recognition of his continued advocacy of greater human rights in China. “We should not be afraid of the dictators,” said Chen, a blind, self-taught lawyer imprisoned by Chinese authorities for four years and then kept under house arrest until his escape in 2012. “They couldn’t even keep a blind person in custody.”
“In the age of the Internet, the people of China have risen up, and we need to support them,” Chen said. “The reports released by Freedom House have tremendous impact in the world.”
Freedom House gave its Leadership Award to Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) for their co-sponsorship of the Sergei Magnitsky Act, which denies visas and freezes the assets of Russian official involved in human rights abuses.
“Freedom House is upholding a high standard of human rights around the world,” McGovern said. “There are a lot of people around the world aggravated by what you do – but that’s a good thing.”
Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer, died in a Moscow prison after being beaten and denied medical care while awaiting trial on spurious charges of tax evasion. He was detained after exposing large-scale financial fraud and corruption.
Magnitsky worked for Hermitage Capital, led by William Browder, who presented the award to the lawmakers. The freezing of assess and travel bans are “a new technology of human rights activism,” said Browder. He advocated applying similar measures to officials in other countries where human rights are abused.
Passage of the Magnitsky Act, Sen. McCain said in videotaped remarks, “Is one of the finer moments I’ve had in the United States Senate.”
Freedom House presented its Raising Awareness Award to Participant Media, the film- and TV-production company that seeks to create greater awareness of significant public issues. “It’s critical to support your work,” said Jeff Berk, chief executive officer of Participant. “Let’s work to bring more democracy and human rights.
Founded in 1941, Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom around the world. Past honorees receiving the Freedom Award include Aung San Suu Kyi, Vaclav Havel, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Medgar Evers and Edward R. Murrow.
See photos from the dinner.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.