Rob Hallam

#DemocracyNowHK Solidarity Photos

Thanks to everyone who took part, you guys rock. Since the situation in HK is so fluid right now I thought it would be best that these get sent out as soon as possible. They’re being tweeted, and Milia has said she will post them to Facebook.

Reminder: There will be supporting rallies tomorrow on Library Hill and George Square.

Keep an eye on #DemocracyNowHK, #OccupyCentral and #UmbrellaRevolution

Ellen MacAskill

Organ Harvesting & the Battle Between China and Falun Gong

“There is enough circumstantial evidence to the alert the international community to what amounts to genocide.” – European Parliament Vice President on reports of Falun Gong practitioners being killed so their organs can be sold for transplants.

Falun Gong, otherwise known as Falun Dafa, is a spiritual practised based on a combination of ancient oriental philosophies including Buddhism and Taoism. Truthfulness, kindness and tolerance are its three pinnacles of belief. It has no formal organisation or leader. Practitioners focus on meditation to find harmony between the mind and body and look inside themselves for spiritual fulfilment. It can benefit physical as well as mental health.

Since July 1999, the Chinese Communist Party has been condemning the practice as an “evil cult.” It was branded illegal. The millions of people who had found solace in the practice since the early 1990s were persecuted. Slanderous propaganda was circulated to schools and the public, and a process of “re-education” was announced by the CCP. These terrifying Orwellian tactics continue to this day.

A growing body of evidence shows that China are using prisoners of the Falun Gong practice to fatally harvest organs from, which are sold on for profit. China does not have a formal transplantation system, so the huge amount of organs that they provide to national and international patients each year is unaccounted for. In the past they have harvested organs from executed prisoners, however the total is kept a secret.

Apparently, many of those arrested for practising Falun Gong refuse to give their real names to the police. These people then fall off the record so if they are killed it is undetectable. At a press conference in 2013, China’s Vice Minister of Health, Huang Jiefu, described the current organ procurement system as “profit-driven, unethical, and violating human rights.” He also admitted that the number of transplants performed yearly grew from several hundred in 1999 to over 10,000 in 2008. MEP Edward McMillan-Scott has stated that: “It is clear that Falun Gong is to the communist regime what the Jews were to the Gestapo.”

This week we were visited by Yuyu, who returned to Amnesty to raise awareness of this issue. She screened a film entitled “Free China: The Courage to Believe” which details the stories of two campaigners who are fighting against the punishment of their spiritual practice.

Jennifer Zeng is a former Communist Party member who went through a year of testing before being allowed to join the Party. She was convinced that it would give her a leg up in society. After the birth of her first child, she was forced to abort her second due to the one-child policy. Her health suffered. When she found Falun Gong, however, she felt transformed – she says learned to stop trying to control other people and to only control herself.

Then the CCP which Jen was loyal to, who actively promoted the practice initially, turned against it in a drastic move. Falun Gong practitioners at that point outnumbered Party members. The widespread dedication to it went against state values of Marxism and atheism, first enforced by Mao in 1949. What was once such a positive thing for China lost its influence in a heartbeat. The CCP essentially run a totalitarian regime which does not tolerate anything which will pose an ideological threat to its motives. People found and benefited from spirituality in a country which prioritised consumerism and commercial gain in the 20th century.

Jennifer was arrested for attending a Falun Gong gathering in 2000 and sentenced to one year in a forced labour camp. Police used force and electrocution and humiliation to control her, and she was denied an appeal. In the camps, prisoners work for hours each day making consumer goods such as hand-knitted sweaters. Jen even made toy rabbits for the Nestle chocolate company. All were exported to the West.

Charles Lee is an American-Chinese businessman who practised Falun Gong. When he heard about the prosecutions, and the way that the internet and media were being used to survey the “crime”, he felt compelled to return to his native country from America. Charles attempted to intercept TV channels and broadcast pro-Falun Gong information. However, he was forced to flee the country after a near miss with the police. When he returned to China a year on, he was arrested at the airport. In jail he went on near-fatal hunger strike. His case became a study for the US Congress as they began to address the issue.

Those held in labour camps for their spiritual practices are forced to display reform before they are released. Jen did this so that she could continue the fight outside. It was an extremely difficult thing to do, particularly when she was held up an as example to others who shared her beliefs.

After release, Charles and Jen were eventually reunited with their families in different parts of the world, and continue the fight for the protection of Falun Gong practitioners.

Joining Yuyu was lawyer Mrs Grace Xu, who spoke to us first-hand about her experience. She found the healing properties of Falun Gong through a roommate at university, well into the 2000s and years after the CCP launched their attack. After a decade of practising Falun Gong, Grace was arrested on her doorstep one morning. She tried to relate to us how brutal life was in the camp she was sent to, and how difficult it is for us to imagine, living in a free democratic country like the UK. She was transferred to a camp reserved for Falun Gong practitioners. Now seeking asylum in the UK, Grace has not seen her daughter for two years.

Yuyu expressed her happiness at the turnout to the event, saying that growing up in China she was faithful to the CCP and shielded from human rights issues. Only when she left did she become aware of what is hidden.

GUAI member Milia Hau, who grew up in Hong Kong, was shocked to learn the truth about Falun Gong. She says: “In Hong Kong the CCP’s influence is not as strong as in China; there are always campaigns about human rights like lawyers disappearing, political prisoners etc. But because Falun Gong is a non-mainstream religious group that most people avoid and ignore in Hong Kong, the fact that Falun Gong practitioners were tortured in China was ignored, despite loads of constant campaign booths in the city’s shopping areas. I personally think it is equally unfair torturing this group, just because their view opposed the party’s view, as torturing other groups inside China.”

Zoom out of the personal pictures, and what is being done globally? The internet has been a big hurdle in the battle between the CCP and campaigners. China censors everything online; however, people out of surveillance’s eye have managed to intercept the “Great Firewall” to provide safe and true information about Falun Gong, available without trace to Chinese internet users.

Ethan Guttman, a human rights investigator and China analyst, gave a talk at Amnesty’s annual Student Conference in Edinburgh this month, which committee members Ali and Maisie attended. He is currently completing a history of the clash between Falun Gong and the CCP. He estimates that approximately 65,000 Falun Gong adherents may have been killed for their organs between 2000 and 2008.

Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting started a petition to the UN last year, urging them to “call upon the Chinese government to immediately end the brutal persecution of Falun Gong, which is the root cause for the forced organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners.” It received over 1.5 million signatures in less than 5 months. The European Parliament also passed a motion last year condemning the practice. As Yuyu said, these steps are all positive, but the bureaucracy that must be broken down before real change is made means that campaigning is still as vital as ever.

Find out more about Falun Gong: http://en.falundafa.org/

Sign DAFOH’s petition to the UN: https://www.dafoh.org/petition-to-the-united-nations/

Watch the film for free: http://freechina.ntdtv.org/

Read recent article from EP Vice President: http://fofg.org/2014/01/we-recall-the-holocaust-we-should-recognize-genocide-in-china-today/ (this website also has information about how Falun Gong has been banned in Russia).

 

answering questions (2)AI student (2)ai members (2)

Ruth

Tuesday 11th March: Film Screening ‘Free China: The Courage to Believe’ and AGM Announcement

Hellooooo,

Well what an incredible week for GU’s first International Women’s Week! Thank you to Domi for organising our events, I think we covered just about all the most important reasons why International Women’s Day exists. We are also very grateful to Eileen from Rape Crisis Scotland for coming along to screen ‘Consent’. If you missed any of the events, here’s what happened.

We’ve had a very busy year, and I can safely say that even in the last few weeks, we are not slowing down!

**TUESDAY 25TH MARCH: ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING (AGM) see below for more details**

Tuesday 11th March: Film Screening ‘Free China: The Courage to Believe’

5pm, Boyd Orr, Lecture Theatre 222

A film about organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners in China, with guest speaker Mrs. Xu who is coming to share her experiences of imprisonment and brainwashing before coming to the UK to seek asylum.

Event page

Tuesday 18th March: Guest Speaker – Young People and Trafficking

5pm, QMU

There will be a presentation by Jillian McBride from the Aberlour’s Guardianship Programme, a project in Glasgow supporting young people and children who are victims of human trafficking.

Tuesday 25th March: AGM and Ceilidh, QMU

Our AGM will be our last official Tuesday meeting of the year, but afterwards we will be having our annual ceilidh with GU Red Cross and STAR Glasgow to cheer us up and celebrate the newly elected committee!

The positions up for election will be:

President
Vice President
Secretary
Treasurer
Campaigns Coordinator
Fundraising Officer
Publicity Officer
Press Officer
Website Manager

2 x Ordinary Board Members will be elected at the beginning of term next year. This is to allow new members the opportunity to get involved, although these positions are open to all members, not just those who are new to the society.

If you are interested in running for a committee position, we will be putting together a detailed description of each role in advance of the AGM but if you have any specific questions, you can email me president@guamnesty.org.uk or the relevant committee member.

Thursday 27th March: Film Screening – ‘Blood in the Mobile’

 

6.30pm, Boyd Orr, Lecture Theatre 203

‘Blood in the Mobile’ documents the filmmaker’s journey from Nokia HQ, Finland all the way to the mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo to discover the truth about the link between our mobile phones and worst conflict in the world today.

Other events

Wednesday 12th – Saturday 15th March: Citizens Theatre – ‘Refugee Boy’ and ‘Belong’

12th – 15th Main stage production – ‘Refugee Boy
Post-show discussion following the performance on Wednesday 12 March.
15th March – ‘Belong’
‘Since January we’ve been working with the Citizens Theatre Learning Department on bringing together refugees, asylum seekers and local people to explore ‘belonging’ through poetry, song and storytelling. These workshops will culminate in an event called Belong next Saturday, 15 March, 4.30-6.30pm at the Citizens Theatre, prior to the Citizens main stage production Refugee Boy by Lemn Sissay. There will be food, fashion, music, singing, poetry, storytelling.’

Tickets are free – if you would like to go along book online or call 0141 429 0022. http://citz.co.uk/

Friday 14th March: LUSH Event

Lynn from LUSH Sauchiehall Street:

We’re holding a campaign in store next week regarding the ongoing conflict in Colombia. Our particular interest is in the Peace Community of San Jose, who we financially support through their provisions of cocoa butter for a number of our products in store. They are a self-declared neutral peace community, taking no part in the conflict between the government and rebels. Despite assassinations, intimidation and conflict they uphold the highest values of justice and peace. It would be wonderful if any of your representatives were available and would be willing to come in-store, between 1pm and 3pm, and help us to raise awareness of these human rights issues.

We will have a petition in store which we will be urging people to sign which will be presented to the Colombian government. The petition will also be available to sign online at lushpetitions.co.uk which we would be grateful if you could publicise to your social network community, in an urge to make more people aware.

Saturday 15th March: A Campaign Day with Campaign Against Arms Trade

10.30am-5pm, Renfield Centre, 260 Bath Street, Glasgow, G2 4HZ
What’s the link between Edinburgh and drones, or Ayrshire and the teargas turned on democracy protesters in the Middle East? What does Dundee have to do with the repression in Bahrain? Find out at an info and skills-sharing day in Glasgow on 15 March.

Sunday 23rd March: Glasgow West Amnesty International Concert Fundraiser

3pm at Wellington Church, 77 Southpark Avenue (off University Avenue), Glasgow G12 8LE. Free entry, donations at the end.

Sandie Bishop, Lamond Gillespie, violins
Flora Tzanetaki, piano

Leclair Sonata for 2 violins
Mozart Violin Sonata KV 454
Prokofiev Sonata for 2 violins
Handel Trio Sonata in G minor

See you in the BOYD ORR on Tuesday,

Ruth

 

 

 

Rob Hallam

Take Action for Chen Guangcheng

Chen Guangcheng

Chen Guangcheng

An ad hoc legal adviser and his family are facing the very real prospect of starving to death in their own home in the Shandong province in China.

Since his release from prison on 9 September Chen Guangcheng and his family have been under house arrest imposed by village leaders in Dongshigu village, Shandong province. Chen Guangcheng is in urgent need of medical attention and he and his family are running out of food, but the authorities have refused to let them leave their home.

Get more information and take action here.

Rob Hallam

Chinese Police Dressing As Monks

We were recently sent a number of images (shown after the jump) by someone close to what is going on in Tibet. I personally don’t want to identify them as it could potentially compromise their safety (whether this is likely or not is another debate, I dont think it’s worth the risk).  One of the images depicts what appears to be Chinese police (the People’s Armed Police – PAP) being distributed orange garbs. The text accompanying the pictures read:

Dear —-

In one picture you will see chinese young policemen with Tibetan monk’s robe in their hands. We heard chinese policemen are dressing themselves as Tibetan monks and Tibetan laymen and trying to create roits and voilence between Tibetans and Han chinese living in Tibet.

With love, —-.

Police dressing up as monks?

(click for larger version)

The insinuation is that there are Chinese servicemen who are mixing with the demonstrating monks who are then causing violence (which is subsequently seen around the world), so as to cast the demonstrators in a bad light. Read the rest of this entry →

Rob Hallam

More Torch Troubles, And Why The Relay Is Fair Game For Protests

The Olympic torch saga continues, with the flame having a “secret parade” (a phrase which Libertyblog took exception to). Chinese officials recently declared that ‘no force‘ could stop the relay, and that any protests during the Tibet leg would face “severe punishment”.

The disruption and turmoil (well, protests and riots) surrounding the torch is causing the IOC much embarassment, though they say they will recover from it. The article also notes that Barack Obama has joined Hillary Clinton in calling for President Bush to boycott the games. The torches heads to Buenos Aires next.

I’m going to take a moment’s break from the news to deal with a question: Are the Olympic fair game for protest? I won’t do into too much detail as there have been others before me that have answered this eloquently. I did, however, happen to read a bit on Nearsighted Man’s blog that raised this particular question. There is one paragraph in particular:

I do hesitate to bring this up because my own personal knowledge of the Tibetan situation is limited, but when I see people trying to tackle the athlete carrying the torch and extinguish the flame I am left wondering how this helps the people of Tibet. How does preventing or boycotting the Olympics free Tibet? If anyone who happens to read this wants to offer insight, I’m all for it.

First, to answer the questions he asked.

It helps the people of Tibet by raising awareness. There are those that aren’t aware of how brutal China is being in Tibet against the protesters. Those people may see the protests and try and find out about them. Or perhaps they are aware there is something going on and are not sure what. When they see the protests they may be compelled to find out what is causing these people to feel so strongly that they have to riot. The question of how it frees Tibet is a bit leading – of course it doesn’t directly, but mindshare is a powerful thing. Ask any big brand or advertising agency. If the protesters cause people to find out more, or clarify what they know, or even debate (such as we’re having here) what is going on in Tibet, then they are doing a valid thing in getting people to realise what is going on. Heck, they might even get a few converts.

As for the games being an apolitical event – that is up for further debate! There is a long and varied history of protests of some form or another, which even the US participates in to this day.

And since we’re on opinions… I am of the opinion that by granting China the games, we are validating and acknowledging that they are worthy of hosting the biggest athletic competition. It is akin (but not exactly alike) to governments officially recognising other governments or countries. Of course, that may be a case of “we don’t like you but we have to deal with you”; whereas the Olympics is a prestigious and elite competition with history – should we really be sharing that honour with countries that have terrible human rights records? In the practical sense this point is moot, of course – China will host the Olympics. But we can certainly debate the validity of the decision.

To Nearsighted and others, does this offer you insight? Does it change any of your views? Do you agree, but for other reasons? Or do you agree with some of my points and disagree with others? Comments are – as always – welcome.

Update: It was in the linked BBC article (“Olympics to ‘rebound from crisis'”), but I thought I should make a couple of things explicit. Firstly, the US House of Representatives has recently passed a motion condemning China’s actions in Tibet. Secondly, the Dali Lama has stated that China has deserves to host the games, although people have a right to non-violent protest. The International Herald Tribune has more on this. He said that he supports (and always has supported) China having the Olympics, but they were using outdated methods to try and silence protesters in Tibet. he also said that nobody “has a right to tell them to shut up”.

He’s a sensible man. He’s supporting the games, but he’s still able to make a point about Tibet. What he says can be applied worldwide – the right to peaceful protest should be a basic human right.

Rob Hallam

Olympic Torch Sparks Protests

By now, the olympic flame has made its way through both London and Paris, garnering the attention of both protests and One China ‘anti-protests’ alike. As usual, the BBC has a good writeup of what happened in both London and Paris. Points of interest include:

  • accusations of heavy-handedness against the Met police
  • two attempts to extinguish torch
  • one attempt to steal torch from former Blue Peter presenter Connie Huq
  • deviation from planned route through Chinatown
  • 4 arrested in Paris, 37 arrested in London
  • no boycott from Gordon Brown

Also, in our previous post, we referred to a report by Amnesty International that claimed that China was clamping down on dissidents in the run-up to the Olympic games. It would appear this claim hhas some merit – the day after the report was published, Hu Jia, a prominent human rights activist was jailed for three and a half years for subversion.

With the Olympic flame due to travel to San Francisco next as part of its 20-country worldwide tour, and with the death toll from protests in Tibet ranging from 19 to dozens, what form will further protest take (if any) before it reaches Beijing?

Spielberg pulls out of Olympics

So, the latest development on the Olympics, according to the International Herald Tribune is that director Stephen Spielberg has refused to have anything to do with the opening and closing ceremonies because China is not doing enough to help with the crisis in Darfur. Spielberg’s choice to add his name to organisations like Reporters Sans Frontières who, amongst others, are boycotting the games has been linked to his 2005 film, ‘Munich’ which looks at the killing of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics.

Read more here: http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/02/13/sports/AS-SPT-OLY-Beijing-Olympics-Spielberg.php

Also, the organisers in Beijing have now commented on the ‘gag’ imposed by the BOA, also in the IHT: http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/02/12/sports/olympic12.php

You can also read more at the Human Rights Watch website: http://china.hrw.org/

And more about the Human Rights situation at the Amnesty site: http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/asia-and-pacific/east-asia/china

[UPDATE]

The Chinese foreign ministry have expressed ‘regret’ over the decision, and (imho) waffled a bit about Darfur:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/7244133.stm

While Tessa Jowell, Olympic Minister, says the Olympic boycott has no purpose. Surprise:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7244137.stm

Watch this space.

Rob Hallam

British Athletes [Not] Restricted From Criticising China On Human Rights (Updated)

Update: It seems like the truth lies somewhere in the middle. The BOA has clarified it’s position (BBC coverage this time) saying:

“I accept that the interpretation of one part of the draft BOA’s Team Members Agreement appears to have gone beyond the provision of the Olympic Charter, this is not our intention nor is it our desire to restrict athletes’ freedom of speech and the final agreement will reflect this.”

Which is still somewhat unclear – will the clause remain in some form in the final agreement? Hopefully it will be a recommendation or guideline rather than a strict rule of “no criticism”.

From The Daily Mail (only source carrying this at the moment, picked up by a few blogs):

British Olympic chiefs are to force athletes to sign a contract promising not to speak out about China’s appalling human rights record – or face being banned from travelling to Beijing. The move – which raises the spectre of the order given to the England football team to give a Nazi salute in Berlin in 1938 – immediately provoked a storm of protest. The controversial clause has been inserted into athletes’ contracts for the first time and forbids them from making any political comment about countries staging the Olympic Games.

Should a competitor agree to the clause but then speak their mind about China, they will be put on the next plane home. The clause, in section 4 of the contract, simply states: “[Athletes] are not to comment on any politically sensitive issues.” It then refers competitors to Section 51 of the International Olympic Committee charter, which “provides for no kind of demonstration, or political, religious or racial propaganda in the Olympic sites, venues or other areas”.

However, The BOA (British Olympic Association) denied it was suppressing the right to free speech:

“Clearly what we are not trying to do is suppress comment or debate from our athletes. If an individual is asked a direct question and makes a response that’s fine.”

Amnesty International campaigns director Tim Hancock said:

“People in China can’t speak out about human rights without fear of reprisals; people in Britain can. It’s up to each individual to decide what they think and what they say about China’s human rights record and that goes for athletes too.”

Of course, while this looks like an infraction of the athletes right to free speech as countried like Finland have stated, it should be noted that it’s the Daily Mail that is reporting and it doesn’t look like other news agencies have picked it up (though if anyone has a link that says otherwise, post it in a comment below and I’ll edit the post to reflect that). While the Olympic Games is not meant to be a forum for expressing political or idealogical protests, it is surely within the competitors’ rights to state their views or report any abuse they witness?

Amnesty has other things to say about the Olympics too. You can also keep an eye on other Beijing 2008 news stories over at the China section of Amnesty UK’s website and also at OlympicWatch.

Rob Hallam

Chinese Protestation of Internet Censorship Grows

Zhu Nan had been itching to say something about the country’s pervasive online censorship system, widely known here as the Great Firewall. When China’s censors began blocking access to the popular photo-sharing site Flickr, Zhu felt the moment had come. Writing on his blog last year, the student, who is now a freshman at a university in this city, questioned the rationale for Internet restrictions, and in subsequent posts, began passing along tips on how to evade them.

Chinese censors have tightened controls over the Internet, often blacking out sites that had no discernible political content. In the process, they have fostered a backlash, as many people who previously had little interest in politics have become active in resisting the controls. And all of it comes at a time of increasing risk for those who choose to protest. Human rights advocates say that the government has been broadening its crackdown on any signs of dissent as the Olympic Games in Beijing draw near.

from: http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/02/04/asia/wall.php

Please check out the China 2008 campaign, which is just one of the campaigns we and Amnesty are running this year. We will be organising an event to raise awareness of Chinese human rights problems on March 13th, so watch this space for more information.