I am glad to be here as a part of the presentation prepared by Falun Dafa Association.
Allow me to start by introducing myself.
Some of you would possibly remember me for my role as the Australian Human Rights Commissioner between 2000 and 2005. During that time I produced a number of reports – the most important possibly was the report on children in immigration detention and the other report of major significance dealt with mental health services.
But my involvement with human rights goes back to the late sixties in Communist Poland where I was born and then since 1975 in Australia.
Currently I am Adjunct Professor at the Centre of Peace and Conflict Studies at Sydney University and President of Australian Chapter of World Organisation to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong.
And here I would like to declare that I am not a Falun Gong practitioner. Tonight I am speaking as a human rights expert.
I have become involved with the World Organisation to Investigate the Prosecution of Falun Gong only after I have read a well documented report by David Kilgour, former Canadian MP and Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific and human law lawyer David Matas about organ harvesting. As a social scientist I was impressed by the solid methodology they used to investigate organ harvesting.
I was horrified to learn that Falun Gong practitioners are murdered so their corneas, hart and lungs, livers, kidneys could be stolen for sale to commercial customers. And that this procedure is undertaken in a systemic way in state owned hospitals under government supervision.
In February this year I have took part in a well attended international conference on Human Rights in China organised by the World Organisation in Taiwan. It was intellectually very stimulating because of wealth of empirical information about situation in China. I will use some of the information obtained at this conference during my presentation.
Today, considering that I was given only 10 minutes for my presentation and that the history and oppression of Falun Gong movement will be discussed by John Dellar, I would like to concentrate on two points, namely:
the current human rights situation in China,
the PR China international activities that undermine human rights; and
suggest some way forward.
II. The Current Human Rights Situation in PR China
International Human Rights Law Obligations
Although in the Chinese record of participation in international human rights regime has been largely negative, China has managed to enter a range of human rights obligations in international law.
As early as 1947 China was a member of a Drafting Committee of UN Commission on Human Rights developing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This declaration adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948 has established a list of “common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations” which, until today, constitutes the listing of most basic human rights standards for all.
In fact, according to Eide and Alfredsson book on The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A Common Standard of Achievement, published by Martinus Nijhoff Publishers in1999: The performance of governments, and even their legitimacy, is being measured against the standards of the UDHR. No government can afford to ignore these standards, and all governments are bound to feel their impact at home and in external relations.
Allow me now to quote here few principles from this Declaration:
Article 2. Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
Article 3. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and the security of person.
Article 5. No one shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment of punishment.
Article 9. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
Article 11. Everyone charged with a penal offence has a right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a public trail….
Article 18. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion…. this includes freedom to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
Article 20. Everyone has a right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
Since the early 80’s China has actively sought to increase its participation in multilateral affairs. In fact, contemporary China had become party to a range of over 273 international treaties, of which 239 had become applicable to China only after 1979. These watershed decisions decisively showed China’s acknowledgment the universal applicability of international law.
Since then, international law has even been used by Chinese authorities to modify some of its domestic standards -- in particular in economic governance through accepting membership and the rules of, for example, the International Monetary Fund or the World Trade Organisation.
Since the 80’s China has signed and ratified most of the principal international human rights treaties including:
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights adopted by UN December 1966 and ratified on 27 June 2001
Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide approved by UN General Assembly on 9 December 1948 and ratified on 18 April 1983
Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment of 1984.; ratified on 3 November 1988; although it sought to block any strengthening of the UN Committee Against Torture powers and voted against its Optional Protocol.
Regarding the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights adopted by the UN General Assembly on 16 December 1966 and China had signed in 1998 but it is yet to ratify it.
In addition, China plays an important and active role in the UN human rights structures and, for example, continues to serve on the UN Commission on Human Rights as well as currently playing a very active role in the development of the Disability Convention.
Finally, China participates in a range of bilateral human rights arrangements such as the human rights dialogue with the European Union established in 1997 or with Australia, Canada and some other countries. There are however some doubts as to the effectiveness of these dialogues. Recently HREOC President in an interview for Chinese TV stated that protests associated with Olympic torch relay breached human rights.
The People’s Republic entered these human rights international law obligations voluntarily and, as a result, is now subject to international accountability as to its human rights performance. Further, by ratifying these conventions it has ceded part of its sovereignty and its human rights performance has became a legitimate subject of international scrutiny.
The current Human Rights Situation in China
In order to answer the question whether China is meeting its human rights obligations, I have examined a range of documents by the Chinese and other governments (such as the recent US Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices in China), information generated by UN (for example, the 2006 report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak) and by a range of international human rights NGO’s (for example, by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch) and by individual experts.
I regret to conclude that China human rights record is far from perfect. The human rights violations are wide spread but impact disproportionately on Falun Gong practitioners because of targeting of this group by authorities.
What is of particular concern - since China was granted the right to host Olympics, China’s civil and political rights record has not improved and but rather it has instead grown progressively worse. In fact, the major complaint made by Amnesty International and other watchdog groups is that China has failed to keep the promise they made in 2001 when Beijing was a finalist for the games in regards to improving their human rights record. Furthermore, I regret to say that some human rights violations have directly resulted from China being granted the right to host the Olympics.
Below I list both the on-going human rights violations as well as the additional violations which emerged since the Olympic bid was made by China.
The on-going brutal occupation and colonisation of Tibet, that started 60 years ago and which continues to this day. We are well aware of the destruction of Tibetan culture and of the current political crackdown in Tibet, so I do not need to elaborate this point in today’s speech.
Perhaps one point I would wish to make here is that the Chinese government has said that they have invested billions of dollars in Tibet and in improving its economy. To me, this argument has the logic of the argument of a person who has invaded to your home and locked you and your family in a room for your good because he has decided to repaint and refurbished your home for his own needs and taste.
Civil and Political Liberties
The denial of Chinese citizens of their basic civil and political liberties. For example:
Chinese citizens cannot elect their own government.
There is no freedom of speech; and censorship by the Communist Party apparatus dominates every aspect of life. Censorship of political speech and information is openly and routinely used to protect what the government considers national security interests. In particular, press control is notoriously tight. In the Reporters Without Borders' Annual World Press Freedom Index of 2005, the PRC ranked 159 out of 167 places. PRC journalist He Qinglian in her 2004 book Media Control in China documents government controls on the Internet and other media in China.
Citizens are arrested and sent to jail simply because of the content of their private e-mails, sometimes courtesy of yahoo dob-ins. According to Amnesty, today, there are over 80 cyber-dissidents and journalists behind bars in China, hundreds international Web sites blocked from being accessed by citizens and sophisticated systems of filtering and monitoring political information. The situation was much better in 2001 when the games were awarded to Beijing.
Amnesty International recently reported a crackdown on journalists and human rights activists. Here I could provide you with names of many human rights activists who in Australia for their work would be recommended for Australia Order, but in China are imprisoned and tortured. For example, at the end of January civil rights defender and campaigner for rights of AIDS patients Hu Jia, 34, was sentenced for three and a half years for "inciting subversion of state power" – a catch-all charge frequently used against dissidents. On the same charge, Lu Gengsong, an online dissident in Zhejiang province, was sentenced to four years in prison. Other names include Liu Jie, a long-time protester of land issues in Beijing and Gao Zhisheng, an outspoken lawyer and Yang Chunlin, a factory worker arrested last July after collecting thousands of names under his online petition calling for “human rights not the Olympics”. And these are just a few names on a long list.
Some 1.4 million Chinese citizens were forcibly removed out of Beijing and elsewhere to make room for the Olympics. In fact, Chinese law allows for the detention for up to four years without trial for any person living - without authorisation - within the Beijing city limits.
Recently the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern at the extensive use of the death penalty, including for offences that do not meet the international standard of "most serious crimes". In fact, China leads the world in capital punishment, accounting for roughly 90% of total executions in 2004.
According to the 2006 report by UN special reporter, torture is regularly used in Chinese prisons. Manfred Novak further concluded that two third of those being tortured (66%) in Chinese prisons were Falun Gong practitioners.
There exists a policy of forced abortions for people who break China’s rigid one-child policy. Chen Guangcheng, a blind civil rights activist who exposed this policy has been under house arrest in Shandong Province for the past four months.
There is significant evidence pointing to continuance of religious persecution of Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, and others.
In particular the oppression of Falun Gong practitioners which started in 1999 is particularly brutal and has the hallmarks of genocide.
As it was well documented in a report by David Kilgour, former Canadian MP and Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific and human law lawyer David Matas, Falun Gong practitioners are murdered so their corneas, hart and lungs, livers, kidneys could be stolen for sale to commercial customers.
Falun Gong practitioners are denied their basic civil rights - they are arrested, tortured and send to prisons bypassing any court proceedings. Others are used as slave labour to produce cheap goods for export.
What is of particular concern is the use of Nazi like world wide propaganda campaign to dehumanise the practitioners. Falun Gong is being portrayed as a dangerous religious sect whose followers are coming to your neighbourhood to steel your children and money.
Recently an official Chinese policy statement was issued to preclude Falun Gong practitioners from participating in the Olympic Games. To implement this, for example, Shanghai authorities prohibited Falung Gong practitioners to travel during the Olympics and to report weekly to local police station. It is in clear breach of the non-discrimination clause of the Olympic Charter. This clearly echoes Hitler’s policies excluding Jews from the Berlin Olympics.
To sum up, the Chinese authorities are clearly breaching international human rights standards.
The Peoples’ Republic of China government usually responds to the criticisms such as above by arguing that the notion of human rights should factor in standards of living; rise in the standard of living for some Chinese is seen as an indicator of improvement in human rights. I agree with the Chinese authorities’ statement that progress has been made in securing economic rights of some Chinese. I am however of the view, that even if granted that economic rights have improved we cannot overlook the Chinese officials blatant disregard of basic political and civil rights.
III. China international practices
Export of human rights abuse
The Chinese government exports its human rights abuses to other countries such as:
Zimbabwe - where China remains the chief political and financial backer of the Mugabe regime and provider of arms to Mugabe loyalists.
Burma - where China sells arms and politically protects the military junta.
Darfur - where China supports a genocidal regime in Sudan and blocks the UN Security Council resolutions aiming at peace. Furthermore, it provides effective financial and diplomatic protection of the first genocide of 21 century in exchange for access to Sudanese oil. In fact, China continues to be a key arms supplier to Sudan. According to Amnesty International, in 2005, China sold $83 million worth in weapons to Sudan providing it with bomber aircrafts, helicopter gunships and other weapons used in the recent proxy invasion of Chad.
International campaign of Intimidation against Falun Gong
There is emerging evidence that PRC China authorities are using their consular and diplomatic missions around the world and PR China sympathisers to target Falun Gong activists and their supporters in third countries.
You were able to watch a short video about the situation in New York that provides a graphic illustration of consulate involvement in intimidation of human rights activists there.
This is not an isolated incident. Incidents of similar nature were reported elsewhere.
In my native Poland, on 7 June Ms Zhang Qian, a 14 year resident of Poland and a Falun Gong practitioner was physically assaulted while delivering the Chinese language edition of the Epoch Times newspaper to Chinese businesses. The attacker, identified by witnesses as Chinese national Ms Lei Wu, grabbed the newspapers from Ms Zhang, tore them up, and punched Ms Zhanf from behind on an attempt to steel more papers.
Ms Lei returned two hours later, telling Ms Zhang “If I see you here again, I will kill you.” Ms Lei is known to be closely associated with the Chinese Embassy in Warsaw.
The incident resulted in calls by a number of Parliamentarians (both government and the opposition) to investigate the matter and writing letters of protest to the Chinese Ambassador.
There are also reports from other countries of organised intimidation of Falun Gong members, including from South Korea and Japan.
Looking at Australia some disturbing trends are starting to emerge. They involve political violence or intimidation encouraged and/or practiced by Chinese diplomatic and consular authorities in Australia.
Attacks on Practitioners
In Australia at least five Sydney Falun Gong practitioners have reported recent verbal and physical attacks in public by pro-communist Chinese because their beliefs.
Torch Relay in Canberra
Let us stop for a moment to reflect on recent calls by Chinese officials in Australia upon “patriots’ in Australian Chinese community to travel to Canberra to defend the Olympic torch relay from protesting Tibetans, Falun Gong practitioners and human rights activists.
However the visit of Chinese “patriots’ was not only about protection of Olympic ideals and freedom of expression.
I have been told by a number of Tibet supporters from Sydney that they were spat upon by the pro-Chinese mobs and one person complained about physical assaults. They were disappointed that the Australian Federal police did not intervene.
Furthermore, if such an army of “patriots” shows in Canberra, rightly or wrongly questions may be asked about the loyalties of Chinese community in Australia.
As you know I am involved with two Universities – the University of Sydney and the University of Western Sydney. Both Universities received representations form Chinese officials because of their involvement with human Rights in China.
On 12 June I have organised, as a part of Refugee Week Celebrations, an Open Forum on Tibet. Chinese Consular officials, after they learned about the proposed forum, paid a visit to UWS DVC responsible for International Relations to lodge a formal protest against UWS holding the Tibet Forum.
Similar representations were received by the VC of Sydney University, over the visit to Centre of Peace and Conflict Studies by a Chinese dissident, Mr Rebiya Kadeer.
The Confucius Institute
On 18 June 2008 it was reported that the University of Sydney has become the forth university in Australia to set up a Confucius Institute to teach Chinese languages and run workshops in Chinese culture and business. The University of Sydney's Confucius Institute will receive 50 per cent of its funding from Hanban, an organisation linked to China's Ministry of Education. The total start-up costs are $200,000 per year.
China's consul-general, Shaofang Qiu, said Beijing would not take kindly to the institute hosting students or academics who were opposed to China's policies on Falun Gong or Tibet.
Such position, if adopted by the University, may be in breach of Australian anti-discrimination laws.
The question is how many other universities or businesses are subject to similar pressures form Chinese officials.
IV. Conclusion – the Way Forward
At present Chinese Government is making an enormous effort to legitimise and enhance China’s world status. In case of the Olympics, the Chinese Communist authorities hope that the Olympics will showcase China’s economic achievements, consolidate China’s status as a world super power and present China as a harmonious and just society of the future.
Looking back, Nazi authorities held the same hopes for the 1936 Berlin Olympics which they saw as an occasion to showcase the so-called German economic miracle and to assert Germany’s world power status.
And let us not forget that in 1936, Nazi dictatorship was already well established, with political executions without trial, censorship of the media, abolition of the freedom of association and the racist Nurnberg Laws of September 1935 taking away all civil liberties from Jews. Despite this, the Western democracies decided to overlook these developments in the name of unity of Olympic spirit.
The key difference between China and Hitler’s Germany is that while Germans prosecuted Jews, Chinese authorities focus on Falun Gong practitioners.
Furthermore, considering China’s growing interest in projection of its power into Asia Pacific region and US formidable presence in the same region – it is inevitable that this competition will lead to increased international tension in our backyard. Such tension would be much better handled if China is a democratic nation.
Thus human rights and democracy in China are our business.
I am an optimist and like many Chinese believe that democratisation of China is inevitable. One academic quoted to me an old saying when referring to the future of Communist system in China – “regardless whether you are a slim or fat pig, your destiny is to be slaughtered”.
And I believe that the democratic change will be initiated from within. But for the democratisation of China to happened, it needs to be ushered and supported from outside. Australia needs:
To adopt Neville Chamberlain’s attitude from Munich would lead to a disaster. The policy of appeasement rarely works with aspiring world powers.
So what should be our priorities in trying to improve human rights situation in China:
First we should work to protect Falun Gong practitioners and other human rights activists from government institutionalised violence. We should demand their release from prisons and labour camps.
We should demand a stop to the export of human rights abuses and in particular to withdrawal economic and political support for the Sudanese regime and cooperation with the UN to end the Darfur genocide.
We should demand China granting wider cultural autonomy to Tibet. I personally would encourage the Chinese to create Vatican-like status for Tibet. This is a practical suggestion to get out of current mess. Tibet is the holy place of Buddhism, lies on periphery of China and cannot threaten China either politically or militarily.
And our Government should offer our “know how” and assistance with building of democratic structures in China.
And let’s remember – all these proposals are doable and can be accomplished. The change from within China will be initiated either by the internal reforms initiated by the Chinese government or by people’s power that is growing in strength in China.
In either case our support for democratic change will bear fruits. Falun Gong is an important element of this people’s power. It has similarities with the Solidarity movement of Poland. It is popular, well organised and has high moral standards. What is however the most important, it works outside the government propaganda realm.
It is up to us people living in free world to take a calculated risk and to express our solidarity with the Chinese victims of rights violations. It is our responsibility to support democratisation in China. As Edmond Burke, an English philosopher once said “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” And our action can achieve much.
Full democratisation of China and in particular better protection of civil and political rights may take time to deliver. How long? It is difficult to be precise in estimation.
But if one takes Moscow Olympics as a guide, it did not save the Soviet Union. On the contrary, it delivered first important step on the way to the collapse of the Soviet Union ten years later in 1990. The Nazi regime only lasted 9 years following the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
China after the Olympics will be certainly a different nation. World perceptions of communist China will change too. My hope remains that China, sooner rather then later would emerge as a nation where civil liberties are better understood, practiced and protected.