China--don't give up! Freedom cannot fail.
That message, along with hundreds of others, came from both American and Chinese Brigham Young University students Thursday who have united in support of their fellow Chinese students' fight for democracy."Although oceans separate us, the basic quest for freedom unites us," said Todd Hammond, a graduate student in international relations. Hammond and Tom Pitcher, a senior in business finance, organized the rally to support the student protest in Beijing.
"It is time for American students to stand up, not just Chinese students," Pitcher said. "Some of us go to class and don't even worry about China, but we thought it was time to let them know we care."
Pitcher said the rally is the first of its kind where American students have gathered in behalf of democracy in China. The group has organized as "Students for Democracy: Chinese and Americans Unite."
They plan to send two banners with various messages and a banner of the Goddess of Democracy to Beijing next week through inside contacts, Pitcher said.
Several hundred students, one wearing a white headband like those worn by student protesters in Tiananmen Square, gathered outside the Wilkinson Center to sign the banners and listen to speakers.
Wei Shi, a representative of BYU's Chinese Student Association, said telephone contact with friends and family in China makes it clear that "people are being butchered. We are facing a crisis of life and death. Thousands have been murdered and 10,000 have been injured."
"We cannot endure the brutality any more. We appeal to all nations to unite together for a more free and democratic China."
Yurun Mao, a visiting music professor at BYU, said he had mixed feelings about speaking at the rally because his wife and daughter are still in Shanghai and "to live safely we have to have our mouths sealed and sealed tightly."
"It's different for you young people. I am a Chinese citizen and I have to go back. I can only squeeze out a little from the outer rim of my heart. A sense of fear still lingers in my soul."
Taowen Le, a BYU graduate student, said, "I thank you for all coming to show you care and support the Chinese students fighting for democracy. We must unite for freedom that belongs to the people."
One woman said her sister and brother-in-law, an employee of the World Health Organization, returned this week from Beijing where they also taught English at the university.
Kaylene Coleman said, "The Chinese people want America to know what is going on so they can help and know what to do. There is little we can do, but we can help in our own way."
Hammond said, "We are making a proud stand for democracy today. It's ironic that this is teaching us the price we pay for freedom even if we take it for granted every day."