His Excellency Hu Jintao
President of the People's Republic of China
Zhongnanhai, Xichengqu, Beijing City
People's Republic of China
April 2, 2007
I greatly value my association with the 2008 Beijing Olympics, an event meant to unify nations and people as well as to promote respect for universal moral principles. These first Olympic Games to be held in China also promise to be a fitting symbol of the important role that your nation will play in the affairs of the world in this new century.
My contributions as a filmmaker have led me to the Beijing Olympics. As important as film is to me, however, there is another aspect of my life's work that is both more personal and more significant.
Among my proudest achievements has been the establishment of the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education. The Institute has recorded the video testimonies of 52,000 survivors of the Holocaust from 56 countries in 32 languages. These remarkable documents have offered the world faces and voices of men and women who survived the genocide which, in Hebrew, we call the Shoah. These first-hand experiences have been preserved and made available for scholarship and education so that the genocide suffered by the Jews under the Nazis can never be forgotten.
Even more important than the collection of the testimonies themselves is the mission of the Institute: to use those testimonies to overcome intolerance, prejudice, bigotry and the suffering they cause. We are doing that now in many countries around the world, and I hope that China will someday be one of them. I regard the creation of the Shoah Foundation Institute as the most important professional accomplishment of my life. It alerts me, and I hope others as well, to the importance of speaking out on behalf of those who are targeted by governments for murder.
I believe there is no greater crime against humanity than genocide. I feel strongly that every member of the world community has a moral and ethical responsibility to act to prevent such crimes, to eliminate the conditions in which they are bred and to combat them wherever they exist. Therefore, I am writing this letter to you, not as one of the overseas artistic advisors to the Olympic Ceremonies, but as a private citizen who has made a personal commitment to do all I can to oppose genocide through the work of the Shoah Foundation Institute.
For four years I have followed the reports of the chaos and human suffering of the civilians in the Darfur region of Sudan. There is no question in my mind that the government of Sudan is engaged in a policy which is best described as a genocide.
I have only recently come to understand fully the extent of China's involvement in the region and its strategic and supportive relationship with the Sudanese government. I share the concern of many around the world who believe that China should be a clear advocate for United Nations action to bring the genocide in Darfur to an end.
Accordingly, I add my voice to those who ask that China change its policy toward Sudan and pressure the Sudanese government to accept the entrance of United Nations peacekeepers to protect the victims of genocide in Darfur. China is uniquely positioned to do this and has considerable influence in the region that could lead efforts by the international community to bring an end to the human suffering there.
My hope for all sovereign nations is that they will work creatively to co-exist with great peace and lasting prosperity and that they will treat their citizens with dignity and respect. That hope motivates this letter, which I send to you in the spirit of the Olympic Games themselves.
Your Excellency, I look forward to your response and would be more than willing, if you desire, to meet with you to discuss this further. In the meantime, I will watch with great interest China's actions in Sudan.