John Kamm is an American businessman who has since become a campaigner for human rights. He is focused on China, where he has been involved in various efforts for more than four decades and counting. However, what makes John Kamm impressive is his record of success, which can be attributed to a considerable extent to his chosen approach.
1. Has a Business Background
Kamm had no background in human rights when he became a human rights campaigner. Instead, he was someone in the business. For example, Kamm had once been responsible for overseeing operations for the Occidental Chemical Company in China as well as the rest of East Asia. Likewise, he was serving as the vice president for the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong when he experienced the moment that would change his life.
2. Condemened the Suppression of the Tiananmen Square Protests
In short, Kamm was the vice president for the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong when the suppression of the Tiananmen Square protests happened on June 4 of 1989. As such, Kamm issued a condemnation of the suppression, which was met with opposition by some who felt that the Chamber should have stayed out of such matters. Furthermore, Kamm would follow up by urging the Chinese leadership to release those who had been imprisoned because of their participation in the protests.
3. Pushed For the Extension of China’s Most Favored Nation Status
Despite his position on the suppression of the Tiananmen Square protests, Kamm pushed for the extension of China’s Most Favored Nation status with the United States. This can sound rather strange, but on the whole, its logic was very simple and straightforward. Essentially, Kamm felt that it would be more effective to improve the condition of prisoners of conscience through engagement rather than economic sanctions, which is a viewpoint that can be seen in his subsequent efforts as well.
4. Become Full-Time Human Rights Campaigner Following Extension
Following the unconditional extension of China’s Most Favored Nation status, Kamm became a human rights campaigner on a full-time basis. It is interesting to note that Kamm had more success than what most people expected, as shown by how he was able to secure verbal information about hundreds of prisoners of conscience. In this, Kamm was helped by his role in securing the unconditional extension, which opened doors that would have been closed under other circumstances.
5. Success Reliant on China-U.S. Relationship
With that said, it should come as no surprise to learn that Kamm has encountered plenty of challenges over the course of his efforts. For instance, his success is very reliant on the state of the China-U.S. relationship, meaning that serious issues in a said relationship can throw up serious obstacles in the way of his work.
6. Founder of the Dui Hua Foundation
One of the most visible symbols of Kamm’s work can be seen in the establishment of the Dui Hua Foundation, which is named thus because Dui Hua is the Chinese for “dialogue.” The Dui Hua Foundation performs a number of important functions that are connected to Kamm’s overall aims. For example, it is very much involved in Kamm’s efforts to secure release as well as better treatment for prisoners of conscience. Likewise, the Dui Hua Foundation maintains an extensive database containing information about tens of thousands of prisoners of conscience.
7. Believes in the “Five Ps”
It is interesting to note that Kamm believes in what he calls the “Five Ps,” which are preparation, persuasion, patience, persistence, and passion. This was true for his work as a businessman. Moreover, this remains true for his work as a human rights campaigner. As such, while Kamm’s change of career can seem strange to some, there was a smooth transition from one to the other as far as he is concerned.
8. Doesn’t Think that China Disrespects Human Rights
Kamm has been asked whether he thinks that China disrespects human rights or not. Curiously, he said no in spite of the nature of his work. One could make the assumption that Kamm was just being diplomatic so that his efforts wouldn’t be impeded. However, it should be mentioned that his stated reason is that while China acknowledges the concept of human rights, it has different views about what civil, economic, and political rights look like when compared to the United States.
9. Doesn’t See His Role As Changing China
Besides helping out prisoners of conscience, Kamm has been known to collaborate with Chinese authorities on reforms of Chinese law as well as the Chinese legal system. However, he has said that he doesn’t see changing China as being his role, not least because he thinks that he isn’t capable of doing so. Instead, as far as Kamm is concerned, he is the one responsible for getting the people who can change China out of prison.
10. Weighed In on the Case of Robert Schellenberg
Kamm is still very much involved in his chosen line of work in the present time. As a result, it should come as no surprise to learn that he weighed in on the case of Robert Schellenberg. For those who are unfamiliar, Robert Schellenberg is a Canadian man whose appeal for his 15-year jail term happened following the Canadian arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, with the result that he received a death sentence in spite of the fact that no new evidence was introduced. In Kamm’s opinion, Schellenberg’s family should be doing their best to delay Schellenberg’s appeals trial for his execution sentence as long as possible, while the Canadian government should be doing its best to make it clear that Schellenberg’s execution would have long-lasting consequences for the China-Canada relationship.