Campaigners Want Human Rights on the APEC Agenda

By Ben Hurley
Epoch Times Sydney Staff
Sep 08, 2007

China activists have expressed fears that totalitarian limits on freedom are creeping into Australia, and have called on democratic countries to take a stronger stance on human rights in China.

The calls were made stronger by revelations reported in the Daily Telegraph this week that the Australian government had secretly blacklisted from APEC functions a number of media organisations it feared would pose embarrassing questions to China leader, Hu Jintao. The blacklisted media included The Epoch Times.

"We can say that a limit on freedom of expression is creeping into Australia," said prominent democracy activist Wei Jingsheng, citing the blacklisting of certain media outlets. "Even though you're making a lot of money today, you're gradually losing your freedom. I think that's a serious problem."

Co-organised by the Federation for a Democratic China, and Amnesty International, the rally at Sydney's Victoria Park on Saturday, September 8, included a host of community organisations, such as the Vietnamese Community Association, the East Turkestan Association of Australia, Falun Gong, the Australia Tibet Council, the PEN worldwide association of writers, and Free China. Graphic information boards displayed human rights atrocities committed by the Chinese communist party during the past half-century.

Mr Wei said that with China's trading partners solely concerned about economic ties and ignoring human rights, the majority of Chinese people still haven't benefited from the country's economic growth.

"This sort of regime is like the Nazis back in the 1930s and also the Japanese in earlier times. They pose a threat to countries around them.

So we call for the leaders of Western countries to pay attention to the human rights situation in China, as much as they pay attention to economic development."

Greens Senator, Kerry Nettle, said the rally was a strong message to APEC leaders that human rights must also be represented at the forum.

"One of the things that we have seen come out of these free trade agreements is more people are being driven into poverty as wages and conditions are brought down. They're not trade agreements that give equal importance to issues such as human rights, democracy and freedom."

"We're quite happy to have world leaders talking about trade. It's very important. But they need to balance that with an understanding of the importance of looking after the rights of Chinese workers, Filipino workers and Australian workers, right across the spectrum."

Senator Nettle said that the current Australian government places trade with China far above human rights and democracy concerns.

"When I ask questions of the government in parliament about whether or not they have raised the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners, the organ harvesting that is occurring, or executed Chinese prisoners and I ask them questions about the democracy movement in China, they answer 'yes, we raise those concerns, once a year, in our annual human rights dialogue.'"

"Well, I don't think that's enough."

"[Prime Minister John Howard] needs to raise on every occasion, human rights and democracy in China. Because if you want to have a meaningful relationship with another person or with another country, you've got to be honest."

David Kilgour, former Canadian MP and author of a report into state-sponsored organ harvesting in China, said that a combination of "a totalitarian system of government and anything-goes capitalism" had brought about "a new form of evil" – the widespread harvesting of human organs from living Falun Gong practitioners.

"Is this issue even on the agenda this week in APEC?" said Mr Kilgour.

Mr Kilgour said that the CCP is undermining human rights and democracy wherever it can around the world. It is the principal backer of the military regime in Burma, and is sponsoring perpetrators of widespread massacres in Darfur, Sudan.

"Can you imagine that it gave Zimbabwe dictator, Robert Mugabe, an honorary degree, helicopter gunships, and economic help?" Mr Kilgour said.

"In my view…naming and shaming the government of China for its roles…is the most effective tool that the peoples of the world now have."

Dimyan Rahmet, president the East Turkestan Association of Australia, said that his country, now known as Xinjiang Province in China, had been used as a nuclear testing and dumping ground, resulting in thousands of deaths. Hundreds of thousands of his people had been given forced abortions and sterilisations and had been forced to assimilate culturally to China, including being forced to abandon their mother tongue, he said.