Thursday, October 25, 2007

Rose Parade and the Olympic Float

Oct. 25, 2007 - Pasadena Weekly: Broken Roses
A new year's float representing China Forces civic leaders to grapple with international human riights concerns
By Joe Piasecki

Excerpt: Activists are expected to hold a press conference today outside Tournament House calling for the Rose Parade to start with a running of a Human Rights Torch Relay by the Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of the Falun Gong in China ( They are also expected to announce plans for a Nov. 4 human rights march from City Hall to Tournament House. (more)

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Human-Rights Vacuum

Buddhist monks join Myanmese activists in a demonstration in front of Myanmar embassy in Bangkok on October 7, 2007.
Pornchai Kittiwongsakul / AFP / Getty
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Rebel troops stampeded an african Union base in Darfur, Sudan, last month, murdering 10 African peacekeepers. That same week in Burma, the military regime killed a Japanese photographer and turned its machine guns on unarmed, barefoot monks. The violence in Darfur and Burma met with widespread international condemnation but scant concrete action. The perpetrators will almost certainly get away with murder.

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India‘s Silence on Burma Speaks Volumes

India‘s Silence on Burma Speaks Volumes Saturday, Sep. 29, 2007 By SIMON ROBINSON/NEW DELHI ...

What is going on? Even in an era of connectedness, when such outrages are beamed into living rooms around the globe, the world's major powers can't seem to agree on what should be done or who should do it. While many foreign critics of the U.S. express relief at the erosion of American influence, events in Burma and Darfur show the downside of the U.S.'s diminished standing: a void in global human-rights leadership.

The U.S. has raised its voice on Darfur and Burma louder than any other country. George W. Bush has regularly denounced the Sudanese campaign of destruction as "genocide," Washington has spent $2.5 billion on humanitarian aid to keep Darfur's refugees alive, and the Administration has spearheaded creation of a 26,000-person, U.N.-led peacekeeping force. When the Burmese regime cracked down on protesters, it was Bush who used his appearance before the U.N. General Assembly to announce that the U.S. would freeze the assets of Burma's repressive leaders and deny them visas. Yet when he urged "every civilized nation" to use its diplomatic and economic leverage to "stand up" to the regime, his appeal was largely ignored. Many countries acted as if they agreed with Burma's self-serving claim that the crackdown was simply an "internal matter." Notwithstanding the U.S.'s $500 billion military budget and $13 trillion GDP, its summoning power has dwindled.

The inaction is partly backlash against the discredited American messenger. Torture, "black sites," extraordinary rendition and the bungled, bloody invasion and occupation of Iraq have all made U.S. human-rights appeals ring hollow. But many countries that point to America's abuses are doing so to cover their self-interested, economic reasons for overlooking atrocities in Darfur and Burma.

U.S. leverage over Sudan and Burma is particularly limited. In 1997 Congress protested Khartoum's brutal tactics in southern Sudan by barring select Sudanese companies from involvement in the U.S. financial system. The same year, Congress punished the Burmese junta's "severe repression" by prohibiting U.S. investments in Burma. These measures have left the U.S. with few remaining business or diplomatic ties to terminate.

Others will need to step in. But China, the international actor with the greatest leverage over both countries, seems disinclined to use it. Two-thirds of Sudan's oil goes to fuel China's booming economy, and China's foreign direct investment in Sudan exceeds $350 million annually. China is Burma's leading arms supplier and trading partner and has just won the right to build a major oil pipeline there. Beijing's support for abusive governments would be troubling under any circumstances, but its influence is magnified because it is using its veto on the U.N. Security Council to block international sanctions.

Some observers hope U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his envoys can persuade repressive regimes to relent. U.N. officials must certainly use their pulpits to condemn abuses and mobilize international (not simply bilateral) punitive measures. But history has shown that envoys rarely succeed unless the Security Council is united behind them. Until Sudan and Burma begin to hear Chinese footsteps, they will have little incentive to engage in good-faith negotiations.

Given China's human-rights deficiencies and its reluctance to be seen to cave in to outside pressure, it will not budge easily. But China's wealthy trading partners must show Beijing that the long-term costs of uncritically backing murderous regimes exceed the benefits of doing so. We must elevate human safety alongside consumer safety, expressing the same outrage over massacred civilians that we do about faulty toys. And governments sending athletes to China's Olympic "coming out" must shine the torch on its support for brutal regimes.

It may take China decades to see that governments that kill at home make unreliable neighbors and threaten global stability. In the meantime a coalition of the concerned must insist that what is manifestly true of the economy is also true of human rights: in this age, there is no such thing as a purely "internal matter."

Monday, October 8, 2007

Investigative Group Questions China’s Pledge to End Organ Harvesting


October 8, 2007

An organization established to investigate accusations related to the persecution of the Falun Gong spiritual group is questioning the Chinese Medical Association’s recently-announced agreement to stop harvesting organs from prisoners and others in police custody. The Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong in China (CIPFG) doubts the promise will have any real meaning.

“We believe this could just be a cover to ease international pressure on the Chinese regime to improve its human rights practices,” asserts Dr. Sherry Zhang, a spokesperson for CIPFG. “Despite numerous promises they made in order to host the 2008 Olympics, the Chinese government is suppressing the media, religious groups, ‘dissidents’ and ordinary citizens even more severely than before.”

The Coalition was formed in March of 2006 after a Chinese journalist working for a Japanese television station exposed the presence of a concentration camp in northeast China where 6,000 Falun Gong practitioners had been held for the purpose of harvesting their organs for profit. Subsequent witnesses, including the former wife of a neurosurgeon at the facility, supported the journalist’s shocking exposé. A witness who identified himself as a retired military doctor revealed there were at least 36 similar concentration camps operating across China.

On July 6, 2006, two Canadian attorneys – David Kilgour, the former Canadian secretary of state for Asian-Pacific affairs and David Matas, a respected human rights attorney – released the results of their own investigation. The report affirmed large-scale organ seizures from unwilling Falun Gong practitioners in China for profit. "Organ harvesting of unwilling donors where it is either systematic or widespread is a crime against humanity," stated the authors of the report.

“The Chinese regime has never been able to challenge any of the evidence raised in the Matas and Kilgour report,” according to Dr. Zhang. “CIPFG has tried many times to obtain visas so that we can conduct investigations in China, yet we are repeatedly denied. As long as the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China continues, we remain doubtful that the Chinese regime will end this heinous practice.”

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Human Rights Torch Reaches the Heart of the European Union

Epoch Times (Belgium) - October 1, 2007
The Belgian Human Rights Torch Relay Ambassadors assemble on stage. (The Epoch Times)
The Belgian Human Rights Torch Relay Ambassadors assemble on stage. (The Epoch Times)

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BRUSSELS, Belgium—After a morning of pouring rain, the skies cleared for the welcoming ceremony for the Human Rights Torch relay at Schumann Place in Brussels, Belgium. Members of almost all the parties in Belgium's Parliament supported the event.

The Human Rights Torch, which started its five-continent trek in Athens, Greece on August 9, arrived in Brussels, the administrative capital of the EU, on September 28. Brussels is the Torch's twelfth stop. The torch brings with it the message that human rights violations cannot continue in China if the Chinese regime will be allowed to host the Olympic Games.

The Torch Relay was initiated by the Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong (CIPFG.) Many think the persecution of Falun Gong, affecting one hundred million practitioners, and involving torture, murder, and organ theft, is the worst human rights violation happening in China. CIPFG started the Torch Relay to tell the world about the persecution of Falun Gong, Christianity, Islam, democracy and freedom of belief, assembly and expression by the Chinese Communist Party.

Mr. Petitjean, local CIPFG representative, said in the opening speech: "The 2008 Olympics are less then 12 months away while according to reports from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other NGO's, the Chinese communist regime has stepped up measures to further silence anyone suffering repression under their rule."

He added "The torch relay is aimed at urging the international community to boycott the Olympic games in Beijing as we believe hosting the Olympics in Beijing would be a travesty of the Olympic spirit and a direct violation of the Olympic Charter".

Bea Diallo, Belgian Parliament member and ten-time International Boxing Federation middleweight champion, explains why he supports the Human Rights Torch Relay. (The Epoch Times)
Bea Diallo, Belgian Parliament member and ten-time International Boxing Federation middleweight champion, explains why he supports the Human Rights Torch Relay. (The Epoch Times)

One of the Belgian Torch Relay ambassadors, Senator Vankrunkelsven, who carried out his own investigation into illegal organ transplanting in China in 2006, stressed in his speech the ongoing human rights violations in China. "The Chinese regime will use the Olympics for their image, while we should not cease to use this opportunity to expose the real situation in China," Vankrunkelsven stated.

The ongoing persecution in China was sadly illustrated by this week's arrest of renowned human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng in China, because of his open letter to the U.S. congress. Therefore the participants of the Torch Relay in Belgium wore yellow ribbons to show their support for lawyer Gao. "We have great appreciation and admiration for Gao's determination and courage in issuing this open letter at a time when he was placed under extensive surveillance and subject to severe coercion from the Chinese regime", as one of the speeches mentioned.

The list of support statements from political and cultural personalities presented at the ceremony was extensive. "I hereby announce that I will support CIPFG's Global Human Rights Torch Relay. We will join all those who stand up for justice, and together we will light the torch and let the brightness of justice illuminate all corners of our world," one of the Belgian mayors wrote.