I checked the headlines of the BBC News this morning as usual and was shocked to hear Congressman Tom Lantos has passed away. He was the greatest ally in Washington for human rights organizations. AIUSA worked with him on numerous occasions. Whenever I was asked to spread the word about a Dear Colleague letter being circulated in Congress written on behalf of a prisoner of conscience, Lantos was always one of the two representatives who initiated the letter.

Most recently, he scolded Yahoo executives over their negligence of handling the company’s involvement in the imprisonment of journalist Shi Tao in China during a House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing last November. A few days after the hearing, Yahoo settled a lawsuit with the family members of Shi Tao and imprisoned pro-democracy writer Wang Xiaoning. There is no doubt in my mind that the hearing played a major role in the outcome of the lawsuit.

Although I only learned about Rep. Lantos through the media or emails circulated from AIUSA, my impression of him is a person who gets it when it comes down to human rights. Most of his colleagues would put other priorities in front of human rights but not Lantos. Losing a go-to person like him feels like losing the greatest captain in the worst storm at sea.

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