You can watch the full recording of Human Rights Foundation Chairman Garry Kasparov speaking at Day One of the Oslo Freedom Forum, 2021 here.
Human Rights Foundation Chairman Garry Kasparov introduces the Václav Havel Prize and one of this year’s laureates, Badiucao of China
“For all of us born on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain, Václav Havel was the brightest symbol of intellectual vigor and moral resistance to Communist dictatorship. During his remarkable life, Havel played many roles. He was a democrat devoted to the cause of freedom and human rights, a dissident against the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia—and spending a few years in jail for it—and a successful statesman of the first president of the newly independent Czech Republic. But beyond politics, he was also a famous poet, philosopher, and playwright. But above all, he was a truth teller.
In his essay, the Power of the Powerless, he describes the concept of “living in truth,” that is, an unwavering commitment to living according to one’s belief in democracy and civil liberty.
Our theme this year, TRUTH IGNITED, resonates strongly with Havel’s idea. This year at our Freedom Forum, we celebrate the powerful stories that spark action across the world in service of the truth.
Tomorrow is Havel’s birthday. Today we honor his legacy by amplifying the voices of those who speak truth to power—no matter the personal cost—and awarding the Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent to activists who creatively unmask the deception of dictatorship.
Last year, we awarded the Havel Prize virtually to three laureates: Saudi political satirist, activist Omar Abdulaziz, Rwandan singer and peace and reconciliation activist Kizito Mihigo—who received the prize posthumously after being killed by the Rwandan regime’s henchmen—and Chinese dissident artist Badiucao. This year, it is my honor to introduce one of those winners of the 2020 Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent to receive his prize in person. For Badiucao, a political cartoonist and human rights activist from China, his perilous journey to live in truth began when he was a teenager in China and realized the fanatical level of censorship around the subject of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Instead of becoming a lawyer, a safe and reputable job, he became an artist—a far less rewarding and far more dangerous career choice in Communist China. He is best known for his online cartoons which are shared on Twitter.
For years, his artwork has revealed the heinous crimes of the Chinese regime, rallied support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, advocated on behalf of political prisoners in China, and, lately, helped expose the lies of the Chinese government’s about the coronavirus pandemic.
In a dictatorship, such courageous activism might come at a steep price. Not surprisingly, he did not want to reveal his identity, and decided to wear a ski mask covering his face in public. However, that all changed in 2019, when he bravely decided to reveal his identity. He currently lives in exile in Australia.
His artwork remains at the forefront of spreading awareness about never-ending human rights abuses in China, Hong Kong, Tibet, and the Uyghur Region. Furthermore, beyond China, his art has shined a spotlight on pro-democracy demonstrations in Thailand and Burma as well.
Let me emphasize what we all know: protest art can galvanize and sustain a movement. This Havel Prize laureate has made history by inspiring countless millions of people to keep their hopes and faith in freedom and democracy alive. Ladies and gentlemen: Badiucao”