John Kamm is Making a Name and a Difference in China

2008-01-03 — Good Characters (Leave a message)

NBC Nightly News has a video (Selling China on human rights) about Dui Hua Executive Director John Kamm, a successful business person turned human rights activist for Chinese political and religious prisoners. Kamm uses persistence and his acquired business skills to advocate for human rights.

John Kamm’s Chinese name is 康原 (Kang Yuan). Kang is a Chinese surname meaning health or to be healthy. It sounds like the English pronunciation of his last name, Kamm. Yuan means original It doesn’t sound like John. We’d like to ask him one day how he decided on his Chinese name and what inspired him to pick this name.

According to the report, his approach to negotiating with Chinese officials can be summarized in two steps:

Kamm first researches Chinese court documents to discover and identify prisoners who are in the system.

Subsequently, using a business approach to human rights, Kamm makes a request to the Chinese officials, trying to convince them that they are better off releasing the prisoners. He is persistent and sees the release as yet another sale he needs to close.
He understands that he gets better results when he informs the government officials of the benefits to them of releasing prisoners than when he uses threats. Unlike other human rights activists, Kamm tries to stay low key, working quietly rather than embarrassing the officials.

Kamm is well admired, not only because of his accomplishments as a successful business man, his past service as president of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, and his role as a successful corporate vice president. He is well respected and liked among the Chinese because his intentions seem to be genuine and sincere. He helps those who cannot help themselves and cannot give him anything in return. His actions have freed 450 political and religious prisoners to date; most of them he says he’s never met.

We can all learn something from this report.

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