Jianli Yang was born in 1963 in Shandong Province, China. A rising star in the Chinese Communist Party in the 1980’s, he quickly became disenchanted by the corruption and duplicity he experienced in the communist system. He left China to pursue a career in Mathematics at U.C. Berkeley in 1986 when he was 23 years old. In 1989, his fellow Chinese students at Berkeley elected him to go back to Beijing in support of their counterparts in China who were demonstrating for democracy in Tiananmen Square. He went back to Beijing, joined the movement and witnessed the massacre of thousands by the guns and tanks of the CCP army including tanks running over protesters. This event changed his future. He narrowly escaped capture and returned to the United States to study democracy and continue his activism.
In 2002, after completing his Doctorate in Political Economy at Harvard (earlier he had got a PH.D. in Mathematics from UC Berkeley), Dr. Yang returned to China to help the labor movement with non-violent struggle strategies. He was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison, kept in solitary confinement in a good part of the imprisonment. Following an international outcry for his release, including a UN Resolution and a unanimous vote of both houses of the United States Congress, Dr. Yang was freed in April of 2007. Immediately following his return to the U.S., he formed Initiatives for China/Citizen Power, a pro-democracy movement committed to a peaceful transition to democracy in China. He firmly believes that continued world democracies’ leadership in holding China accountable for respecting the human and political rights of its citizens is a critical component for world stability and for the peaceful transition to a democratic society in China.
Dr. Yang is a frequent contributor to and interviewee by the international media, panelist at hearings held by US Congress, European Parliament and speaker in various international forums. He is the main driving force behind the InterEthnic/InterFaith Leadership Conference which in 2017 held its 12th edition in Japan. Jianli was the only Chinese invitee to attend the ceremony of H. H. the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday in Dharamsala, India. On that occasion he made aquaintance with Marco Pannella who, just a couiple of months later invited Jianli to the international conference on the Rule of Law and the Right to Know in the Italian Senate organized by the Nonviolent Radical Party Transnational Transparty.