My name is Zang Xihong, but most people know me by my pen-name, Sheng Xue. I grew up in Beijing, and moved to Canada soon after the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. An event which traumatized me but also was the moment that shaped my life to become an activist for freedom and human rights. I am a member of PEN Canada, and also of The Independent Chinese PEN Center (ICPC), both of which belong to International PEN. In addition I am a member of the Writers in Prison Committee of ICPC. Another area of my work is as the Canadian correspondent of Radio Free Asia and the North American correspondent of Deutsche Welle (Voice of Germany). I also regularly write columns for various media outlets. I know, its sounds very serious and challenging, right? Well sure but there's a whole other dimension to my life, a passion and range of interests I am really happy to share and discuss. That's why I am so excited to have launched this site:)
Anyone standing up to tyranny is likely to face a number of genuine hazards, most disturbingly torture, jail or execution. Those beyond the immediate reach of the draconian regime or brutal tyrant suffer a different response. People daring to expose and challenge the oppressive violence and injustice of the dictator are often the target of character assassination and vile smear campaigns. The object being to discredit and thus distract public attention away from their violations and injustice to lurid fabrications assigned to those who are exposing such crimes.
Such has been the fate of Ms Sheng Xue a tireless campaigner on human rights, freedom and democracy for China, a concerted and organized vilification against her has been launched by the Chinese regime. This has been exposed and forcefully challenged by a number of leading human rights activists, parliamentarians, legislators and writers from prominent organizations in Canada and beyond. Here is their collective statement. (edited where noted)
'In Praise Of Sheng Xue'
A group of highly-organized people is employing lies and deceit in order to marginalize and shut down one of its most successful critics. Sheng Xue, the President of the international Federation for Democracy in China, now a Canadian citizen who has lived in this country since 1989, is being bullied viciously and systematically via the Internet and threats against friends and associates.
We, the undersigned, have known Sheng Xue for as long as twenty-five years. She has worked to bring us together by helping us recognize that Tibetans, Uyghurs, Falun Gong practitioners, Taiwanese and democracy advocates all face repression, unjust imprisonments and even murder at the hands of the Chinese government. Her work to unify our repressed communities is, of course, one of the primary reasons she is deeply hated by the Chinese dictatorship.
Over the years Sheng Xue, an author and journalist (Radio Free Asia) has received numerous awards including the Queen’s Jubilee Medal, a Canadian National Magazine Award and the Canadian Association of Journalists award for Investigative Journalism.
In email, Facebook, Twitter and WeChat groups, mostly in Chinese, Sheng Xue is accused of being a Chinese spy. It is said that she raises money from naive Chinese democracy supporters to finance her own lavish lifestyle. Wild claims are made about funds that she has supposedly stolen from FDC while, in truth, she lives very modestly, supplementing her income from journalism by renting part of her house. She has also been dishonestly accused of taking money to support refugee claimants at hearings of the IRB. However, an exhaustive, independent FDC investigation concluded that there is “no indication of embezzlement” and “no evidence to support misconduct” in her dealings with the Refugee Board.
Meanwhile, Sheng Xue is bizarrely accused of having numerous extra-marital affairs, despite the fact that she has been happily married to Xin Dong for thirty years. Lurid fabrications of mis-behaviour, written by shady critics and one-time supporters, go on and on and doctored photos are posted to suggest that Sheng Xue is promiscuous. These scurrilous lies are entirely without merit. (Editor's Note: this paragraph mildly edited for reasons of introducing moderate tone)
So what is the real record that has so infuriated the Chinese government?
Sheng Xue has been a primary organizer of demonstrations since 1989 demanding justice for the victims of the Tiananmen massacre. As a Radio Free Asia journalist, she reported relentlessly on China’s appalling human rights abuses and called for reform, never backing away despite virulent attacks from Chinese agents.
The financial record is the opposite of the lies of her critics. Sheng Xue has used her own money to help imprisoned democracy activists in China and refugee claimants in Canada, and to fund an international conference.
Sheng Xue has worked with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, visiting him twice in Dharamsala, and helping to organize North American visits with Chinese community leaders. In October, 2013 she was the initiator of a remarkable Toronto conference of international rights and democracy activists from around the world.
Despite the determination of the Chinese government to brand Falun Dafa an “evil cult”, Sheng Xue has been a consistent, active supporter of the right of practitioners to enjoy their spiritual practice in peace. Similarly, she has been a friend and advocate of the Uyghur community in Canada and beyond. And long before Taiwan and Beijing were talking, she reached out to the Taiwanese community in Canada. She has also worked with South Korean activists who seek to publicize and end the brutal human rights abuses of the China-backed North Korean regime.
In short, no Chinese rights and democracy activist in Canada has surpassed Sheng Xue in diligence and commitment. She has never excused or minimized Chinese government atrocities. The absurd claim that she is a spy only benefits the Chinese Communist Party.
We respect and applaud the work Sheng Xue has done over the years to promote democracy and unite China’s critics. We trust her implicitly. We invite and encourage her attackers, who appear by their actions to be supporters of the Chinese government, to come out of the shadows and debate us honestly. We know and welcome the truth about Sheng Xue.
Michael Craig, Chair, China Rights Network
Kunga Tsering, Co-chair, Canadian Friends of Tibet
Mehmet Tohti, former President, Uygur Canadian Society
Kayum Masimov, President, Uygur Canadian Society
Rollor Luo, Board Member, Federation for a Democratic China
Kyung B Lee, President, The Council for Human Rights in North Kore
Jun He, President, Federation for a Democratic China, Canada
Majed El Shafie, President, One Free World International
Michael Stainton, President, Taiwanese Human Rights Association of Canada
Dr. Albert J F Lin, former legislator of Taiwan
David Kilgour, former MP and Minister for Asia-Pacific
The Hon. Consiglio DiNino, former Senator and Chair, Parliamentary Friends of Tibet