Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Communist Official Advocates Cessation of Falun Gong Persecution

High level communist official and well known industrialist writes an open letter to China's leaders
By Wang Zhen The Epoch Times
Oct 30, 2007

Wang Zhaojun, standing member of the Anhui Province Political Consultative Commission, recently wrote an open letter to Chinese leaders Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao stating that Falun Gong is the most urgent issue for China.

Wang pointed out in the letter that the most urgent issue is to stop the persecution against Falun Gong and provide state compensation for the victims. After Jia Jia, a Shanxi provincial technology official, Wang is the second high level CCP official to call for the stop of the persecution against Falun Gong.

In his 400,000 word open letter, Wang talked about various "bombs" that exist in Chinese society— the damage to the environment and natural resources behind the over-heating economy; the bubble in the real estate market, reform of state enterprises and social injustice; governmental media suppression and the media's breach of duty; the Taiwan issue and China's political reform; policies of political reforms, etc.

Wang thinks political reform is inevitable. He calls on Hu and Wen to implement political reform, allow freedom of speech, free all political prisoners, open the gate to the return of overseas democratic activists to build a democratic China together, "I hope there will be a Gorbachev or Yeltsin in China!"

Stop the Persecution of Falun Gong Immediately

In his open letter, Wang says, "Freedom of belief is a universal value and is regulated in the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights and China's Constitution. However, after the Tiananmen Massacre, in order to continue the one party dictatorship, Deng Xiaoping's successors listed all non-communist organizations as 'unstable elements' that needed to be 'eliminated before budding.'

"They made an example of Falun Gong, a popular qigong practice at the time. Those [practitioners] who tried to explain themselves were regarded by the government as highly disrespectful of the authority and would be suppressed using all means." "The suppression against Falun Gong is in fact suppression against all people. It needs to be stopped immediately and victims should be given state compensation," said Wang. Wang suggested that the authority "send out a representative to talk to Falun Gong and claim criminal liability against the decision maker of the suppression.

"I am only suggesting, and the purpose of my suggestion is to end the persecution against Falun Gong as quickly as possible, so China's progression in democracy can move forward quickly."

Emergence of a Chinese Gorbachev or Yeltsin

Wang points out in his letter that China's society blocks human rights and the ideas of human rights. This is why things like child slave workers in brick factories can happen.

The Chinese government is short of support and supervision from the people and a counteracting force from society. "The current system and regime do not represent the people. If the leader who imposes and exists under this system and regime cannot lead his people to reform, it will be the biggest misfortune of the country," said Wang.

In the end, Wang said that this is a historical time to create great people, "I hope there will be a Gorbachev or Yeltsin in China!"

Wang Zhaojun's Background

According to Xinhua News, Wang graduated from the Beijing Electric Power College (currently the North China Electric Power University) in 1982. In 1983, he founded the Zhaojun Food Company that made bread in Anhui Province.

Later he founded Zhaojun Light Industry Research Institute to produce yogurt and Zhaojun Cola. The company also made the first ever "all purpose blown plastic molding machine" in China, which was exported to over thirty countries in the world.

In 1988, Zhaojun Cola won the gold medal at the first China Food Expo. The Zhaojun Light Industry Research Institute later became the Anhui Guobao Group Co. Wang, chairman of the company, was elected the standing member of the Anhui Province Political Consultative Commission.

In 2002, Wang was chosen the outstanding private technology entrepreneur in China by the National Industrial and Commercial Federation.

Click here to read the original article in Chinese

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Florida city proposes ban on goods from China

By Tom Leonard in New York
Telegraph UK: Last Updated: 2:24am GMT 30/10/2007

A Florida city may become the first in America to ban Chinese products amid mounting national concern about the Asian giant's effect on the US economy.

US city proposes ban on Chinese goods
Made in China: In 2006 the US imported goods worth $288 billion from China

John Mazziotti, the mayor of Palm Bay, proposed the ban after the latest spate of safety-related recalls of Chinese-made toys and pet food.

He not only cited the goods' questionable quality and safety but also China's human rights abuses, its pollution record and the loss of US manufacturing jobs due to cheap Chinese imports.

If approved by the city council, the ban would stop the city from buying Chinese-made products costing more than $50 (£25) or those which have more than half of their parts made in China.

A product could be bought if it were not available from any other country or if an alternative would cost 150 per cent or more of the Chinese version's price.


The ban would not affect residents and private firms, which could still buy whatever they wanted.

Mr Mazziotti said: "I don't think people have the slightest idea how much is from China. I remind people every day. Pick up that label and see where it's made. You might surprise yourself.

"Palm Bay is not going to change the world but this raises public awareness.

"We are losing out on this war of economics. It's free trade for them but not for us."

His idea had received considerable support from Palm Bay's largely blue collar, 107,000-strong population, said Mr Mazziotti.

His hope that other parts of America will follow suit may be fulfilled.

His sentiments are widely shared in a country that increasingly likes to blame China for its economic woes.

After millions of Chinese-made toys containing lead paint were recalled in August, 65 per cent of Americans said they were trying to avoid buying products made in China, a Gallup poll found.

Sara Bongiorni has just written a book about how her family boycotted all Chinese-made products for an entire year. She reported having great difficulty finding many items, including electronics goods, coffee makers, birthday candles and cheap sunglasses, not made in China.

China exported goods worth $288 billion to the US in 2006, including $65 billion in televisions and other electronics, $21 billion in toys, games and sports equipment, and $20 billion of clothes.

But although Chinese goods account for 16 per cent of foreign imports into the US, America's biggest trading partner is Canada.

Opponents of any move against Chinese imports point out their cheapness has saved American consumers more than $600 billion in the past decade, according to a Morgan Stanley report.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Protesters Accuse China of Abusing Human Rights

VOA: 29 October 2007

Watch Olympic Protest report / Windows Broadband - download video clip
Watch Olympic Protest report / Windows Broadband video clip
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Watch Olympic Protest report / Windows Dialup video clip

Human rights campaigners have created their own Olympic flame relay. The goal of the Human Rights Torch Relay is to shine a spotlight on alleged human rights abuses in China. The flame left Athens in August and, after running through 17 countries, it came to London for the final European leg. Protesters say they want China to free all prisoners of conscience before the Olympics in August 2008. VOA's Mandy Clark reports from London.

China Olympic, symbolism, carrying torch
Protestors are evoking the Olympic ritual of carrying a torch in an international relay
It had all the fanfare and symbolism associated with the Olympics. But this ceremony was far from a celebration of Beijing's upcoming games. Instead, protesters set-up a global torch relay to highlight China's alleged human rights abuses.

They claim China is cracking down on religious organizations and torturing prisoners of conscience.

Brian Coleman is a politician in the London Assembly. He says if the games were to go ahead in China, it would be a mockery of the Olympic spirit. "I call on all those politicians that are invited to all those expensive free trips next year, to send the tickets back to the Chinese Embassy with a note that they will only step foot in China when it is an open, democratic and free society."

Annie Yang says she was sent to a labor camp in China because she is a follower of the Falun Gong spiritual movement. She says she was denied sufficient food and water and was forced to sit rigidly for 20 hours a day. "They took all our basic human rights away. Last month, one practitioner I met in the labor camp, she died there. Even last week, the people went to my parents home and (are) still searching (for) me."

Chinese government officials were not available to comment on these accusations. China banned Falun Gong in 1999.

Protesters say the human rights flame was inspired by the Olympic games themselves. The Olympic Charter states it wants to encourage "the establishment of a peaceful society concerned with preservation of human dignity."

The protesters say if they can shine a spotlight on China's alleged abuses, Beijing might make human dignity the priority of the 2008 Olympics.

The march ended with a candle-lit vigil outside the Chinese Embassy. The flame now heads to Australia, South and North America, before ending in Asia by August 2008, right before the Beijing Olympic games are due to start.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Confucius say: Do not close eyes

IOL: October 30 2007 at 07:47AM

When I heard that a Chinese bank had invested R36-billion in Standard Bank, my heart swelled with pride. They had chosen my bank. Not one of the others. Mine.

I shouted and laughed and turn-ed up the music and danced with the cat. Then I began drinking hard and fast so I could reach the place that one must be in if one is to properly celebrate an occasion of great importance.

I was less than three beers short of the place when the repellent fruit of my loins walked in. Right away, he started sobbing like a girl. He said that when he saw me laughing and dancing he thought something terrible had happened to his mother.

Reassuring him that Brenda was out foraging for victuals, I invited him to join me in a toast. I tossed him a beer and he caught it awkwardly against the side of his head.

To cheer him up, I showed him how to open a beer with his teeth. It's a rite of passage for all boy-children. Spitting out bits of enamel, Clive asked what we were celebrating. I struck a noble pose and raised my bottle. "To China!" I shouted. The brat reacted as if I had rammed a cattle prod down his trousers.

Of course. I had forgotten. Something went terribly wrong during the early years of Clive's education. Instead of growing up to hate black people, he turned on the Chinese. None of his therapists have been able to explain how this happened.

I encouraged him to calm down through the judicious application of an inverted Indian deathlock, but, slippery with spilled beer, he wriggled from my grasp and took the moral high ground.

"China is taking over your bank and you're happy because why?"

I told him the benefits will be manifold. "For a start," I said, "with so much extra money, there will be no more bogus fees and trumped-up charges."

Clive snorted and called me an idealistic fool. I let it slide because modern parenting requires that verbal and physical abuse works both ways. Grabbing a piece of paper and a pen, he drew a picture of a dragon with a gaping mouth about to swallow what looked like a ping-pong ball.

"That's the earth," said Clive, giving me a withering look. "Funny you should say ping-pong. Want to know who the world table tennis champion is? Wang Liqin, that's who."

Spittle flying from his angry teenage mouth, he shouted: "Don't you see? First ping-pong, then the world!"

I was speechless, mainly because I had never heard the runt string so much as a coherent sentence together.

"They invented rockets and cannons and matches and gunpowder! Can't you see what's happening?"

I sucked on my beer and nodded wisely. "Yes," I said, "but they also invented stirfried broccoli with oyster sauce. That's damn good stuff."

Clive said I should read Sun Tzu's The Art Of War.

The closest I have come to reading anything by a Chinese writer is the menu at Tong Lok in Kloof Street and I intend keeping it that way.

"What about the gulags?" wailed Clive.

"Chicken, beef, gulags, I don't care. If it comes with noodles, I'll eat it."

He broke another tooth trying to open a beer. "Here. Take mine," I said, giving him my empty bottle.

"Don't you see, father? There are 1.3 billion Chinese. All they want to do is get their hands on Africa's natural resources. Buying into the bank is their way of..."

"Nonsense!" I shouted. "You watch. By Friday, that surly cow at my branch is going to cash my cheque with a smile and tell me there are no fees. She will say 'Thank you and enjoy your day'."

"No, she won't," said Clive. "But if she did, she'd say it in Mandarin."

The kid may have a point. It's common knowledge that Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka was recently summoned to Beijing. Not long after she got back, it was announced that Mandarin would be introduced at high schools around the country.

She also said that people of Chinese origin born in South Africa should regard themselves as Africans. Since we whiteys are having a devil of a job convincing the government that we are Africans, it might be easier for us to apply to the Department of Home Affairs to be reclassified as Chinese.

The Hon Dep Pres said agreements had been reached in several areas, including agriculture.

This is wonderful news, even if it means having to fly to Shanghai to sink my choppers into a couple of meaty Durban mangoes and maybe a paw-paw.

She also said South African farmers were already in China teaching the peasants how to cultivate apples. Oh, please.

When anthropologists uncovered the remains of Peking Man near Zhoukoudian, they found he had died half a million years ago while cooking some sort of duck casserole in an early version of the convection oven. Now we're teaching them to grow apples?

Are they teaching us how to harvest the organs of political dissidents?

Let's trade. One fresh Falun Gong liver for two Granny Smiths.

How much for Tokyo Sexwale's kidneys?

It's all starting to make sense. Ten years ago, the British gave Hong Kong back. The British don't return anything unless they are threatened with physical or financial retribution.

After meeting with the Dalai Lama the other day, American President George Bush said he was disappointed not to have been given "one of them free Tibet gizmos that everyone's talkin' about".

You think that's worrying? Check this out. China's boy-heavy birth rate means that by 2020 there will be 40 million frustrated bachelors on the streets. They can't all become monks.

What you can expect, then, is the stealthy appearance of inscrutably inspired, motivated and involved gay bank tellers at a branch near you. Welcome to the world's biggest Chinese takeaway.

Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika???????????

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Human Rights Torch Relay Appeals to Tournament of Roses Association over Beijing Olympic Float

Newswire Services - October 29, 2007 - A coalition of human rights groups held a news conference on Thursday in front of the Tournament of Roses headquarters asking the association to deny China's presentation of an Olympic float in the forthcoming Tournament of Roses Parade. In the letter, the coalition recommends the Tournament of Roses include the Human Rights Torch relay (humanrightstorch.org) in the Rose Parade and emphasized their position that Beijing should not be allowed to present an Olympic float in the Rose Parade. Such a float will legitimize Beijing’s wanton disregard of the Olympic spirit and ethical values, they said, and will divert attention from its unfulfilled promise to the International Olympics Committee that it will improve human rights conditions in China before the 2008 Olympics Games. The following letter was delivered to the chairman of Tournament of Roses Association by a Pasadena police officer:

Dear Chairman C.L. Keedy and Board of the Tournament of Roses Association:

We, a coalition of human rights groups, re-emphasize our position that Beijing should not be allowed to present an Olympic float in the Rose Parade. Such a float will legitimize Beijing’s wanton disregard of the Olympic spirit and ethical values, and will divert attention from its unfulfilled promise to the International Olympics Committee that it will improve human rights conditions in China before the 2008 Olympics Games.

The Beijing Olympic Games is the only Olympics awarded to a host based on that host’s promise of human rights improvement. Since the Chinese regime made that promise in 2001, China’s human rights condition has deteriorated to the point that it permits the harvesting vital organs from live victims. Furthermore, China has supported repressive regimes such as Sudan, North Korea, and Burma, plunging people there to horrendous human rights conditions.

The Olympic Charter proclaims that the "goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity," and that any "form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement." The Beijing Olympics Games, however, represents just the opposite of those principles, and like the 1936 Nazi Olympics, is an Olympics of Shame. The 2008 Olympics will be not a celebration of but rather a mockery of the Olympics spirit.

As a true celebration of humanity, we recommend that the Human Rights Torch be included in the Rose Parade. Starting from Athens, the Human Rights Torch relay has now been carried by citizens through 30 European countries. Presently, the torch is in Great Britain and it is expected that the torch will arrive in Pasadena in time for the 2008 Rose Parade.

Former president of the Czech Republic, Mr. Vaclav Havel, stated on Sept. 5, 2007 that "I support the human rights torch activity, I think this is the hope of our world. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) put huge investments and prepared lots of Olympics projects to cover its persecution of human rights. CCP didn't fulfill the commitment made in the process of Olympic application, that is to improve China's human rights. Hence, it is extremely necessary to make the CCP obey with this promise now."

Torch carrier Pelle Pettersson, Swedish Olympic medalist in sailing, 1964 and 1972, stated, "When one hears about how serious the situation is in China, and there is a possibility to influence the Chinese authorities through activities like this so that the lives of the people can improve, I will definitely support it."

If the Tournament of Roses is to permit the Beijing Olympics float, we urge you to include the Human Rights Torch as a reminder that the PRC government has yet to keep the promises it made to the IOC.

Thank you.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Friday, October 26, 2007

Beijing pollution still major Olympic concern

In a perfect world, one would think that Human Rights would matter more to the Olympic boss and Beijing's dictator than the filthy smog.

Telegraph UK: By Richard Spencer in Beijing

Last Updated: 4:01pm BST 26/10/2007

For Beijing's Olympics chiefs, the view from the bedroom window this morning could not have been worse.

A man crosses a bridge in Beijing (top) and the Olympic Stadium, also known as 'The Bird's Nest' (bottom)
A man crosses a bridge in Beijing (top) and the city's Olympic Stadium (bottom)

The day after a special "Environment Forum" dedicated to reassuring the athletics world that it had its air pollution under control, the city awoke to find itself engulfed by a thick pea-souper.

Visibility was reduced to less than 50 yards, flights were delayed, major roads into the city closed and, most importantly, the smog was so serious that children and the elderly were told to stay indoors by the city's weather bureau.

"Wear a face mask if you go out," its head, Sun Jisong, said. His office's report said the air was "heavy with particulate matter".

His warning came amid increasing signs of tension between the city authorities and the International Olympic Committee over whether the air quality will be safe enough for all Olympic events to take place as scheduled this summer.

Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, warned in the summer that some endurance events, like the marathon, might have to be moved if the days on which they are set to take place turn out to be too polluted. (more)

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Video: China's Olympic Lie

Unreported World: China's Olympic Lie" Produced by documentary maker Adian Hartly

A British journalist looks into Beijing's so called 'Black Jails' and makes this very impressive program. Look here to watch the video.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Monday, October 22, 2007

HRW-China: Take Concrete Action on Burma Now

08/08/08: Celebrating the Chinese Olympics or Commemorating a Burmese Massacre?

HRW: (Washington, DC, October 17, 2007) – The Chinese government should immediately take concrete steps to help end state repression in Burma, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to President Hu Jintao. China is one of Burma’s largest investors and suppliers of weaponry.

" Chinese officials have publicly called for ‘cooperation’ and ‘dialogue’ between the Burmese generals and their critics, but said nothing when these critics were arrested, ‘disappeared’ or killed. Even worse, the Chinese government has blocked most of the international efforts to effectively address the crisis. "

Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director of Human Rights Watch.

“Chinese officials have publicly called for ‘cooperation’ and ‘dialogue’ between the Burmese generals and their critics, but said nothing when these critics were arrested, ‘disappeared’ or killed,” said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director of Human Rights Watch. “Even worse, the Chinese government has blocked most of the international efforts to effectively address the crisis.”

Human Rights Watch noted that August 8, 2008 will not only be the opening date of the Beijing Olympics, but will also mark the 20th anniversary of the 1988 pro-democracy protests in Burma, during which an estimated 3,000 people were killed. Although the Chinese government chose 08/08/08 for symbolic reasons, recent events in Burma, and China’s ties to the military government, mean that the spotlight on that date will also be on the continued suffering of the Burmese people.

Human Rights Watch urged President Hu to take seven steps:

* Immediately place an embargo on all weapons transfers from China to Burma and suspend all military training, transport, assistance, and cooperation.

* Support or abstain from vetoing UN Security Council resolutions calling for sanctions or other collective action to address the crisis in Burma.

* In the absence of Security Council-imposed sanctions, China (along with other countries) should act to impose targeted sanctions to encourage the steps outlined above.

* Uphold the 1951 Refugee Convention and customary international law and allow anyone fleeing persecution in Burma to cross the border into China.

* Suspend involvement by state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation and Sinopec, both official Olympic partners, in proposed Burma-China oil and natural gas pipelines until the conditions specified above in relation to multilateral sanctions are met.

* Instruct Chinese firms, including stated-owned firms, with business ties to Burma to publicly and fully disclose all payments made to the Burmese military, directly or through the entities it controls.

* Continue to urge the Burmese military government to engage in dialogue with its critics, and end its repression of them. The Seven Step Road Map to Democracy, which is merely a cover for continued military rule, must be scrapped and replaced with a plan that has the genuine support of Burma’s political parties and ethnic groups.

* Urge the Burmese government to reconvene a truly representative and participatory national convention that operates through an open and transparent consultative process that could lead to a new constitutional settlement that genuinely reflects the views of all parties and leads to the creation of a civilian government.

“If China takes a strong stand on Burma now, it will be credited rather than criticized on 08-08-08,” said Richardson. “Doing so isn’t just right; it’s also in China’s self-interest.”

Related Material

Beijing 2008: China’s Olympian Human Rights Challenges
Thematic Page

Letter to President Hu Jintao on Burma
Letter, October 17, 2007

More on human rights in Burma
Country Page
OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008


Address by Hon. David Kilgour

Dublin, Ireland

17 Oct. 2ÖÖ7

The human rights torch relay is already having an impact on the Government of China because of its concerns about the success of its Beijing Games next summer.

All of us involved with the relay are asking the party-state to:

· End the persecution of Falun Gong immediately and release all practitioners,

· Stop harassing the friends, supporters and lawyers for Falun Gong victims, such as Gao Zhisheng, Li Hong and Li Heping, and

· Hold discussions to open up forced labour camps, prisons, hospitals and related facilities for inspection by independent organizations.

David Matas and I of Canada have done an independent report into allegations of organ pillaging from Falun Gong practitioners. We looked at 33 avenues of proof and disproof. For example, we interviewed the ex-wife of a surgeon, who told us he removed the corneas from about 2ÖÖÖ anaestesthetized Falun Gong prisoners in Shenyang city during a two-year period before October, 2ÓÓ3. Her testimony was credible to us.

It's easy to take each piece of evidence and say that this or that one does establish the case conclusively, but it was the combination of all of them, each pointing in the same direction, that led to our chilling conclusion that over six years “the government of China and its agents killed a large number of Falun Gong prisoners of conscience and sold their vitals organs for high prices often to organ tourists.” Virtually no independent reader of our report we know has not been been convinced of the validity of our conclusion, which can be accessed in 18 languages at organharvestinvestigation.net.

This new crime against humanity is incompatible with the Olympic Charter and Olympic movement. It also violates the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and many other international instruments dealing with human dignity.

If the role of the government in organ pillaging had been known by the International Olympics Committee when it awarded the 2öö8 Games to Beijing, I choose to believe that no such choice would have occurred. Similarly, the activities of the same government since both domestically and abroad, particularly in Sudan/Darfur, Burma and Zimbabwe, and in its ongoing abuses of China's natural environment, should also disqualify it.

If anyone is not persuaded that the efforts by many across the world on the particular issue that brings us here today are not paying off, consider some recent media reports. One of them in the Sydney Morning Herald on Oct. 1Öth was headed, ''Olympic jitters behind China's organ pledge." The first part of the article reads: ''China has conceded that international pressure before the 2ÖÖ8 Olympic Games is behind its latest pledge to crack down on illegal organ transplant."

The vice-chair of the Chinese Medical Association, Chen Honshu, is quoted in the article saying that ''huge international pressure'' led to the latest commitment. He added to the South China Morning Post,’ China is worried that if it doesn't take a stand on this, some countries may use this issue as a pretext to boycott the Games''. In short, the torch relay is taking China's government in a human rights direction.

This verbal undertaking by the Chinese Medical Association must now be followed by deeds because there have been similar promises in the past. When will it take effect? Does it apply to military surgeons, who are now doing so many of the transplant operations in both civilian and military hospitals? Matas and I are told they are not included.

Governance Reform Needed

Permit me to add some thoughts about related issues of governance in China. Why does the Hu-Wen regime not allow open political competition? Why not respect basic liberties for all the people of China? Why does it still imprison more journalists than any other government on earth? Why does the rich-poor gap continue to widen across the country? What kind of 'harmonious society' has a penal code which prescribes capital punishment for 65 offences, including 'undermining national unity'? Why does the legal system regularly use torture to induce confessions? Why is there no such thing as independent judges and the rule of law in China?

Tibetan Buddhists, Muslims and Christians face frequent harassment and sometimes much worse. Thousands of North Koreans refugees who manage to enter China are sent back to face arrest, torture and sometimes death.

Over the past weekend, the new figure on the EU trade deficit with China was released: 185 billion US dollars for only the first nine months of 2OO7. If this trend continues, will any European have a good job with good wages twenty years from now? We have, of course, a similar challenge in Canada. For example, Goodyear Tire put 85O employees out of work near Montreal about five months in order to move production to China. We've since seen our neighbor recall large numbers of tires made in China for safety reasons.

Natural Environment

Last week, the Nobel Peace Prize went to former US vice-president Al Gore and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Is anyone in the Hu-Wen government thinking seriously about what three decades of virtually 'anything goes' capitalism is doing to the natural environment of the people of China, their neighbors and the world as a whole?


· Nearly half a billion Chinese citizens now lack access to safe drinking water, yet many factories continue to dump waste into surface into surface water with impunity.

· Last spring, a World Bank study done with China's environmental agency concluded that outdoor pollution is causing 35O, OOO-4OO,OOO preventable deaths a year across the country, Indoor pollution contributed to those of another 35O,OOO persons for a total in the range of 75O,OOO a year.

· Coal now provides about two thirds of China's energy and it already burns more of it than Europe, Japan and the US combined. Sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides from coal plants in China are now reaching South Korea.

· Some multinational companies from Europe, North America and elsewhere are full partners in degrading China's natural condition by dumping waste into its rivers and dumping smoke into its sky. Have such businesses not heard of corporate social responsibility (CSR)?

· The Hu-Wen government in office since 2OO3 has failed to achieve anything substantive concerning water, air and soil. Many experts have concluded that China cannot go green without political change.

Why doesn't the government introduce surcharges on coal and electricity to reflect the true cost to the environment? Why does it subsidize the cost of driving cars by controlling the price of fuel oil below market levels? Why does the regime treat advocates for clean water and air as larger threats than the degradation that causes such patriots to speak out?

Lake Tai

Let me illustrate this last key point with the case of Lake Tai, which has been much in the news about China lately. The large lake, located inland from Shanghai, was for centuries one of the Middle Kingdom's most beautiful natural endowments. Here's what the International Herald Tribune said about it in a front page story on Oct. 15th under the heading, ''In China, a lake's champion imperils himself,'' Writer Joseph Kahn makes a number of points, including:

The lake succumbed this year to industrial and agricultural waste by turning fluorescent green. At least two million people who live among the rice paddies and chemical factories on its shores must stop drinking or cooking with their main source of water.

Local farmer Wu Lion had protested for more than a decade that the chemical industry and its friends in the local government were destroying one of China's ecological treasures.

In 2OO1, for example, when then vice-premier (now prime minister) Wen came to inspect a typical dye plant located near Lake Tai, word of his visit was predictably leaked. The canal beside the factory was quickly drained, dredged and refilled with fresh water. Shortly before Wen’s motorcade arrived, thousands of carp were placed in the canal and farmers with fishing rods were positioned along the banks. Wu courageously wrote to Wen that he had been “deceived”.

Shortly before the pond scum erupted on Lake Tai this year, Wu was sentenced to three years in prison on what Kahn describes as ''an alchemy of charges that smacked of official retribution". At trial, Wu testified that his confession had been coerced by deprivation of food and being forced to stay awake for five days and nights by police. The judges, however, ruled that since Wu could not prove that he'd been tortured his confession remained valid.

In contrast, consider some of the points carried by the China Daily, the party-state English paper, about the same Lake Tai on Oct. 16th:

''To curb the problem, some 3OOO small- and medium-sized chemical plants, many located on the banks of the lake, are to be closed down by the end of 2OO9. 17OO of the plants…have been shut down.''

''(The) province will require all companies to pay in advance for any waste or sewage they discharge into (Tai) lake from next year."

Li Yuanchao, party secretary of the province, is quoted as saying, ''with this series of measures, we are confident of being able to return (Tai) lake to its beautiful natural state within 2O years".

Which dailies' version of the lake's past, present and future do you take as more realistic? The larger tragedy, of course, is that Lake Tai is only one instance of what unregulated capitalism since 1978 has done to much of China's water, air and soil. The party-state punishes the heroic Wus and promotes the Lis. All of us on the planet are victims of the environmental abuses going on in China and everywhere else.


In conclusion, please go on your computers and send emails to MPs, editors, friends and blogs. 'Naming and shaming' the government of China in this pre-Olympics period is working. We must all do even more to support the Global Human Rights Torch relay as it visits an expected 1OO cities in 35 countries in the cause of human dignity for all and the Olympic movement.

Thank you.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Thursday, October 18, 2007

AI - China: Reform of abusive detention law vital to Beijing Olympics human rights commitments

Amnesty International: Posted: 18 October 2007

'Re-education Through Labour' - detention without charge, trial or judicial review for up to four years - should be abolished, said Amnesty International today in an open letter to the Chinese National People's Congress.

Beijing police have used China's hosting of the Olympic Games as a pretext to extend abusive detention practices such as 'Re-education Through Labour' (RTL) and 'Enforced Drug Rehabilitation', in the name of 'cleaning up' the city in the lead-up to the 2008 Olympic Games.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

'Locking people up without charge or trial in the name of 're-education' may 'clean up' Beijing's streets ahead of the Olympics, but it will also dirty China's reputation.

'Chinese officials have publicly committed to improving human rights in the run-up to Beijing 2008. If they are serious about this promise, they have a real opportunity to improve human rights by abolishing 're-education through labour'.

'We all want a positive Olympics, with a positive legacy for China and its people. There is still time to make this a reality.'

Hundreds of thousands of people are believed to be held in RTL facilities, many in harsh conditions. RTL is used against people considered by the Chinese police to have committed offences not serious enough to be punished under the Criminal Law. These include petty criminals, critics of the government and followers of banned beliefs.

According to official Chinese media, the Standing Committee of China's legislature, the National People's Congress is due to discuss a new law, the 'Illegal Behaviour Correction Law', to replace RTL this month. The reform of RTL, and the discussion on the new law, has been stalled for more than two years.

The proposed reform of RTL has been on China's legislative agenda for more than two years. Amnesty International has long raised concerns about the use of RTL, and urges the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress in the lead-up to the Olympics to ensure that any legislation adopted to replace RTL complies fully with international human rights standards, including the right to fair trial.

* Find out more about our human rights work on China

Related article: China Uses Detention Law to Clean Up for Olympics, Amnesty Says

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Beijing’s Demonstration Sports

NRO: Olympics preview.

By John Derbyshire

[Our president has announced that he will attend the Beijing Olympics next year as an honored guest of China’s Communist government. The president is keen to go because, said a spokesman, “he loves sports.”

The president may not be aware that under Olympic procedures, the host nation may stage as “demonstration sports” some events not usually represented in the Games. These items are typically sports characteristic of the host country’s folkways and culture.

From a contact in China’s Olympic Committee, I have been able to obtain a list of demonstration sports the Chinese may stage for the entertainment of their distinguished visitors. Because the Games schedule is not yet finalized, I can’t guarantee that all the events listed below will appear on the program. I can, however, assure the president that all of them have been practiced in the People’s Republic, and most are still played today.]

Tibetan Snow Shooting.
In their bid for a future Winter Olympics, the Communists will demonstrate their skills at picking off Tibetan refugees attempting to cross snow-covered Himalayan passes into Nepal. (This event may be scrapped because of a dispute with the Olympic authorities over the use of telescopic sights and snow goggles.)

Synchronized Slimming.
Competitors here have to devise an agricultural policy so irrational that 30 million peasants starve to death simultaneously. Traditionally the winning contestant has his portrait hung in a prominent position overlooking Tiananmen Square, but for Olympic purposes a medal award will be substituted.

Organ Extraction.
A test of speed and skill in wielding surgical instruments. A succession of convicted criminals, or members of obstreperous religious sects, are strapped to operating tables and their organs are removed without anesthetic, to be sold to intermediaries for transplant into wealthy foreigners. Points are awarded based on the total market value of the removed organs.

Competitors have to bluster continuously for six hours, maintaining an attitude of sustained righteous indignation about the Opium Wars, the burning of the Summer Palace, the Siege of Peking, the Chinese Exclusion Acts, and other wrongs inflicted on the long-suffering and ever-righteous Chinese people by cruel, dastardly foreigners. (Some other traditional events — the 10,000 meters Self-Pity, the Triple Emotional Blackmail — have been folded into this one for Olympic purposes.)

Buddha Tossing.
Infant children declared by the Dalai Lama to be incarnate Buddhas must be seized and tossed into a barbed-wire enclosure, where they will spend the rest of their lives eating rice gruel and sewing export-quality gunny sacks. Extra points for family members of the living Buddha rounded up and incarcerated. (Half points for those dead on delivery to the enclosure.)

Korean herding.
Competitors operating in groups of four must surround parties of North Korean refugees and hustle them back across the Korean border to the warm embrace of the Dear Leader.

Chest thumping.
In this rather advanced event, competitors attempt to intimidate each other by shooting down satellites, threatening to nuke major cities, asserting ancient claims to other people’s countries, and setting up missile installations aimed at long-independent provinces.

Student Crushing.
Yet another attempt to introduce motorized sports into the Summer Olympics. Competitors driving tanks are let loose among crowds of student protestors with the aim of crushing as many students as possible beneath the tank tracks.

Toy Painting.
In a test of manual speed and dexterity, competitors try to load as much lead-based paint as possible onto small children’s toys.

Currency Manipulating.
In this financial-trading sport, competitors struggle to keep their currency undervalued and nonconvertible against pressures from foreign bankers and trading partners. The competitor who, beginning from a fixed stock of currency, amasses the largest amount of foreign reserves, gets the gold.

Fingernail Pulling.
Developed by the Communists’ superbly trained security police, competitors in the fingernail-pulling event race against the clock, equipped only with pliers, to remove as many fingernails as possible from Falun Gong practitioners in a fixed time period.

Land Seizing.
A modern Chinese team sport in which teams must drive peasants off their land to make way for commercial or industrial development. Points are lost for dead peasants and residential structures left intact after the designated period.

Electric Hurdles.
Middle-aged women who have been seen practicing meditation are driven over a 110-meter hurdles course with the aid of electric cattle prods, the hurdles wrapped with electrified barbed wire.

400-Fetus Relay.
Teams of competitors administer forced abortions to women who have violated the one-child policy. A complicated scoring system awards points to each termination based on age and sex of fetus.

Internet Blocking.
In this completely new event appropriate to the computer age, hackers must try to block access to all websites containing a long list of key words and phrases: “democracy,” “liberty,” “rule of law,” “East Turkestan,” “Dalai Lama,” “Taiwan independence,” and so on.

Petfood Doping.
A popular sport that has emerged quite recently from China’s crowded factories, petfood doping involves trying to kill off as many domestic pets as possible with a single can of contaminated pet food. (The variant form, practiced in south and southwest China, in which the winner of the event is determined by aggregate body weight of dead pets, is not favored by the Olympic monitoring committee.)
OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

WSJ - China's Olympic Opportunity

October 17, 2007; Page A18

WSJ - Hong Kong: When President George W. Bush accepted President Hu Jintao's invitation to attend the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, Mr. Bush's press secretary said that he was going to the Games as "a sports fan, not to make any political statement." I too am a great sports fan -- especially of the Soccer World Cup -- but I would encourage President Bush to take a broader vision of the possibilities for the Beijing Games. He should use the next 10 months to press for a significant improvement of basic human rights in my country, including press, assembly and religious freedoms.

This should be possible, since Chinese leaders have promised to make these improvements anyway. In their pledges to the International Olympic Committee while bidding for the Games and since, China's leaders at all levels repeatedly assured the world that they would use the Games to go beyond improving the country's physical infrastructure.

"By applying for the Olympics, we want to promote not just the city's development, but the development of society, including democracy and human rights," one of China's key Olympic figures, Deputy Mayor Liu Jingmin, told the Washington Post in 2001. Then, Mr. Liu said, "If people have a target like the Olympics to strive for, it will help us establish a more just and harmonious society, a more democratic society, and help integrate China into the world."

I couldn't agree more. But instead of the hoped-for reforms, the Chinese government appears to be backsliding on its promises, including in Hong Kong where we have near total political paralysis, not the promised road to full
democracy. That is no reason to give up on the prospects for reform in China. But it is reason to step up the direct engagement on these pressing issues.

In accepting the invitation to attend China's Games, President Bush said this would be "a moment where China's leaders can use the opportunity to show confidence by demonstrating a commitment to greater openness and
tolerance." Instead of a "moment" of change, China needs structural and long-term reforms: placing the Communist Party under the rule of law, unshackling the media and Internet, allowing religious adherents to freely
practice their faiths, ceasing harassment of civil-society groups that work on AIDS and the environment, and addressing modest calls for accountability in the political system. Mr. Bush and other world leaders planning to attend the Olympics should not wait for the opening ceremony, but must start now with sustained efforts to achieve this agenda.

One reason for optimism about the possibilities for progress in China is recent Olympic history. When South Korea bid for the 1988 Games, the country was a military dictatorship. Due in good part to the prospects for
embarrassment and international engagement, the Olympics helped kick off an overdue peaceful political transformation in South Korea just six months before the launch of the Seoul Games. Since then, South Korea has endured as one of Asia's most stable and vital democracies. The parallels between South Korea and China are not exact, but the lesson is that the Olympics certainly present an opening to raise these issues in the context of the Chinese government's own promises.

In the U.S. and elsewhere, there are campaigns to boycott the Beijing Games over the Chinese government's trade with and support for regimes in Sudan and Burma. As a Chinese person, I would encourage backers of these efforts to consider the positive effects Olympic exposure could still have in China, including scrutiny by the world's journalists. This is certainly the time for Chinese leaders to step up and constructively use their clout in Asia and Africa. In so doing, Beijing should open a new chapter of responsible foreign policy and convince the world it is not oblivious to these issues.

Chinese people around the world are proud that China will host the Games. China has the world's fastest growing economy, and may indeed put on history's most impressive Olympic Games next August. But how does it profit
our nation if it wins gold medals but suffers from the continued absence of democracy, human rights and the rule of law?

It is my hope that the Games could have a catalytic effect on the domestic and foreign policies of the Chinese government, and that the Chinese people will remember the Games long after they are held -- not merely for medals won, but also because they were a turning point for human rights and the rule of law in China. That would be something worth cheering.

Mr. Lee is a democratically elected legislator and the founding chairman of Hong Kong's Democratic Party.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Behold the power and glory that is China!

Statesman: Earlier the salesman pitch used to be: “You cannot afford not to be in China.” But now corporate CEOs are so eager to apologise to China for its own egregious behaviour.

Last month Mattel’s executive vice-president Thomas A Debrowski delivered a well-structured diplomatic apology: “Mattel takes full responsibility for these recalls and apologises to you, the Chinese people, and all our customers who received the toys.”

It is just like a rape victim apologising to the rapist: Pardon me for tempting you, sir.

Cleverly staged mass media propaganda and lobbying by people in high places, including some of the top CEOs of major US corporations and university professors, has helped the Chinese authorities in blurring facts with fiction, creating the perception of China’s relentless and inevitable rise as a global superpower. China fascinates corporate America with its myth of bountifulness but more so with its ruling party’s collective mind that controls the obedient masses that produce cheap goods for American markets and whose 1.3 billion worker-consumers would one day buy every branded product made in the United States.

You have heard the drumbeat, repeated ad nauseam, which China has come to believe that since Americans cannot do without its cheap goods, so why to worry about intellectual property thefts, currency manipulation to fuel exports, humongous trade surplus, defective toys, and tainted food products.

Consider, for example, 2008 Olympics, which the **Wall Street Journal** childishly put it as an event “to refashion the Olympics from a sports and merchandising extravaganza to an engine of political and social change.” That’s expecting too much from an organisation like the IOC that has been paying little attention to its own widespread problems, bribery scandals and drugs, for example.

If human rights were the deciding factor in determining the choice of the host city for the Games, Moscow under the Soviet Union and Berlin under the Nazis would not have been selected to host the Olympics.

China will be showcasing the Games in spite of its abominable record of suppression of human rights of the people of Tibet, the followers of the banned spiritual movement Falun Gong, political dissidents and scholars rotting in its jails without recourse to a fair trial.

In an Op-Ed piece in **The New York Times**, Slavoj Zizek wrote last week that in Tibet, the Chinese authorities “in addition to military coercion, they increasingly rely on ethnic and economic colonisation. Lhasa is transforming into a Chinese version of the capitalist Wild West, with karaoke bars and Disney-like Buddhist theme parks... in a decade or two, Tibetans will be reduced to the status of the Native Americans in the United States.” He forgot to mention gambling casinos, drugs, booze, and obesity.

Doing business with China is more important than human rights, though Americans along with rest of the world go on paying lip service to the problem. Trade and the Olympics had no civilising effect upon the Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union; therefore, to expect a miracle to happen in China because of the Olympics in 2008 or increasing international trade is puerile and silly. Rising prosperity would not force China’s Communist Party to give up its monopoly over power and become democratic. Since Deng Xiaoping took the road to capitalism, replacing communist brutality with capitalist brutality, about three decades ago, China’s economy has been opening up and growing rapidly with its gross national product (GNP) rising to more than two trillion dollars.

The rate of annual economic growth has remained above 9-10 per cent. Made-in-China goods, apple juice, toys, shoes, electronics, and even golf clubs and handguns are found in every shopping mall of the world. Huge economic benefits are expected from the 2008 Games because it has necessitated an investment of billions in infrastructure and information technology to modernise and showcase Beijing for the events. Millions of tourists who would pour into China, perhaps take a train to Lhasa and visit the Three Gorges super-dam, nonetheless, are expected to remain silent observers.

The Deng Xiaoping market economy revolution unleashed China’s vicious capitalist energies, but not without the help from the outside world, especially the United States, which magnanimously opened its markets to China. Today China is a healthier, better-fed and better-educated nation than most other developing countries but it remains a closed society ensconced in pollution. Who needs freedom? That’s why George W Bush never preaches freedom to China though he repeatedly asks that it should let its currency rise.

China feels that it can compete with the best, but can it tolerate the noise and chaos of an open society like the multicultural and multiracial United States, where the people demand accountability from their political leaders?

Beijing with the help of Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, and Cisco has been trying to expand its control into the digital domain and expects to have the same control over cyberspace as it has over Tibet. The Internet might bring about tremendous political upheavals in China, so be warned: Don’t move my cheese.

Large centralised political systems break down due to internal pressures triggered by communications technology, unless they have built-in capabilities for adjustment, which China does not have at present. And so it is difficult to say what might happen in China in the age of the Internet, satellites, cell phones and hosts of other wireless, digital, and interconnected sensing devices that are becoming available. China wants to control the uncontrollable, the digital generation swapping billions of text messages on cell phones, the generation that could self-organise itself into a smart mob. Look at Myanmar’s recent Buddhist monk uprising, which must be giving the Chinese rulers sleepless nights.

The authoritarian regime is getting ready to open its doors, skies, and cyberspace to a worldwide audience during the 2008 Olympics. But will it be able to close the skydome once the crowd is gone? Yes, of course, with the help form corporate America, which one day might become a dancing bear for China, if others follow Mattel’s obsequious behaviour?

(Dr ND Batra is working on a new book, This is the American Way)

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Monday, October 15, 2007

Take Action Enviro Day: China

Not only overseas athletes will feel the impact of the environment at the 2008 Olympics, but the quality of life of China's citizens is directly affected every day by this astronomical filthy brown smog--created by the Communist Party's greed for money--which has become an unforgivable silent killer along with widespread torture and forced organ harvesting of dissidents and political prisoners destroying many more lives. How long can Beijing continue to shamelessly destroy the environment and its people under the guise of harmony and stability without blinking? They definitely deserve the top award for the worst environment possible all across the board. Below are just a few examples illustrating how this negative environment affect peoples' health and struggle for survival. This is hardly the place to hold the prestigious Olympic Games ... paging Jacques Rogge!

Excerpt from David Kilgour's Speech:

Permit me therefore to start with some indicators about the overall state of human health across China today. The major source is a long article by Joseph Hahn and Jim Yardley carried in The New York Times on August, 26, 2007 under the heading, "As China Roars, Pollution Reaches Deadly Extremes".

Among their important observations:

Nearly half a billion Chinese lack access to safe drinking water. Their country has only one fifth as much water per capita as, for example, the US, but many factories and farms dump waste into surface water with few legal or other consequences.

The Ministry of Health in China itself admits that ambiant air pollution alone causes hundreds of thousands of deaths yearly. Only one per cent of the nation's city dwellers, add the jounalists, are breathing air considered safe by the European Union. Rapidly expanding car ownership and low grade gasoline have now made vehicles the leading source of air pollution in major cities across China.

One coastline of China is so polluted that a section of it no longer sustains life.

Much of the world outside China has become pre-occupied with global warming just as China has begun the most robust phase of its industrial revolution, which inevitably means that air and water pollution there will become significantly worse.

China's environmental problems are becoming those of the world. Japan and South Korea, for example, are now hit by sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides from coal-fired plants in China. Coal provides about two-thirds of China's energy and it already burns more of it than Europe, Japan and the US combined.

Leaders in Beijing note that multinational companies building manufacturing facilities in their country are partners in degrading the natural environment there by dumping waste in rivers and pumping smoke into the sky.

Last spring, a World Bank study done with China's environmental agency concluded that outdoor air pollution was already causing 350,000-400,000 preventable deaths a year, with indoor air pollution contributing to the deaths of another 350,000 persons, for a total in the 750,000 range a year. You'll recall that this part of the report was removed from the published version of the study, but received wide coverage outside China regardless.

Since the Hu-Wen government was formed in 2003 and the commitments then from them as president and prime minister both have clearly failed in this policy area. Many experts, the piece continues, have concluded that "China cannot go green in other words without political change."

Hahn-Yardley conclude their piece:"The government rarely uses market-oriented incentives to reduce pollution. Officials have rejected proposals to introduce surcharges on electricity and coal to reflect the true cost to the environment. The state still controls the price of fuel oil, including gasoline, subsidizing the cost of driving...at least two leading environmental organizers have been prosecuted in recent weeks, and several others have received sharp warnings to tone down their criticism of local officials..." One reason given was the need for social stability before the Olympic Games.

In short, unregulated capitalism has run amok across China for almost three decades and is doing terrible harm to the health and living conditions of its hard-working and long-suffering people.What is the present condition of health care systems in their country to help them in their time of great need? (more)

China to Move 4 Million from Three Gorges

Reuters via Epoch Times
Oct 11, 2007

A cleaner collects floating rubbish from a boat on the Huning River, a branch in the Three Gorges Reservoir area. (China Photos/Getty Images)
A cleaner collects floating rubbish from a boat on the Huning River, a branch in the Three Gorges Reservoir area. (China Photos/Getty Images)

BEIJING—China is to relocate at least 4 million more people from the Three Gorges Dam reservoir area in the next 10 to 15 years to protect its "ecological safety", state news agencies said on Thursday.

The $25 billion dam near Chongqing, in southwest China, is the world's largest hydropower project, but even senior officials who have defended the project as an engineering wonder now warn that areas around the dam are paying a heavy environmental cost.

They cite erosion and landslides on steep hills around the dam, conflicts over land shortages and "ecological deterioration caused by irrational development".

The dam, whose construction flooded 116 towns and hundreds of cultural sites and displaced 1.4 million people, is a work in progress, but state media have said it could be completed by the end of 2008, just after the Beijing Olympic Games.

"More than 4 million people currently living in northeast and southwest Chongqing, where the Three Gorges Reservoir extends for 600 km (360 miles), would be encouraged to resettle on the urban outskirts about an hour's bus ride from downtown Chongqing," said a report on the sina.com news site.

No details about the relocation were available, but Yu Yuanmu, vice mayor of Chongqing, was quoted as saying the ecological safety of the area was at risk from the growing population.

Environmentalists have long criticised the project, saying silt trapped behind the dam is causing erosion and warning that the dam's reservoir will turn into a cesspool of raw sewage and industrial chemicals backing onto Chongqing.

The State Council had approved a plan which was of "great importance to the environmental protection" of the area, Jiang Yong, director of the Chongqing development plan bureau, was quoted by the China Daily as saying.

"One of the key elements in Chongqing's new development plan is to further our efforts to protect the environment of the reservoir area since the environment here has changed greatly due to the Three Gorges project and massive population relocation."

Relocation has also been a flashpoint for unrest over the dam. Many object to being moved away from their communities and livelihoods, and petitioners have accused local governments of pocketing much of their compensation.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Chinese Communists Pursue 'Openness' and 'Harmony'

By Patrick Goodenough
CNSNews.com International Editor
October 15, 2007
(CNSNews.com) - Chinese President Hu Jintao opened a key communist party gathering Monday with references to reform, openness and social harmony, but reports of rights violations persist and a spokesman reiterated that the rulers of the world's most populous country have no intention of following Western models of democracy.

Addressing a twice-a-decade national congress that establishes policy direction for the next five years, Hu called on the 73 million members of the Communist Party of China (CPC) to hold up the banner of "socialism with Chinese characteristics" and strive to build "a moderately prosperous society."

Ahead of the opening of the 17th CPC Congress, spokesman Li Dongsheng told a press conference in Beijing the objective was to reform institutions and improve "socialist democracy."

"But we will never copy the Western political system model," he said.

Party congresses, which typically run for a week, are largely scripted affairs: Hu's keynote address Monday, for instance, had been distributed beforehand to thousands of leading figures for their comments before delivery on Monday, Li said.

Nonetheless, the meetings give China-watchers important clues as to CPC priorities, possible future leaders and the balance of power between factions. The 2,230-strong gathering elects a Central Committee of some 200 members and, the day after the congress ends, that body appoints a new top leadership for the next five years.

The congress is also expected to endorse a pre-approved amendment to the party's constitution, to include Hu's slogans of "scientific development" and a "harmonious society."

A recent CPC document explained that this refers to "people-centered" development being coordinated between China's urban and rural areas, among different regions, between man and nature, and between domestic development and opening up to the outside world.

The concepts will be added to others already in the constitution, including Marxism-Leninism and key theories introduced by party stalwarts Mao Tse-tung, Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin.

Chinese media have been previewing the congress for weeks, and the People's Daily in an editorial Monday also highlighted the issues of "reform, opening up and building of a moderately prosperous society," saying great progress had been achieved in those areas in the past five years.

In the run-up to the congress, however, authorities carried out a clampdown on dissent in a bid to prevent disturbances from taking attention of the solemn event, according to human rights monitoring groups.

Among those detained are longtime democracy campaigners, human rights lawyers and other activists - as well as numerous "petitioners" who head for the capital from across the country during significant gatherings to lobby officials directly about grievances.

The group Human Rights in China (HRIC) reported on a number of typical cases, including that of a family who has clashed with authorities before over housing demolitions, and which has been forcibly removed from their home to another area. HRIC said police told the family to remain there for a month, and linked the order to the party congress.

In another recent case, a Beijing-based lawyer who has defended human rights campaigners, dissidents, church leaders and Falun Gong practitioners was abducted and assaulted for several hours by unidentified assailants who warned him to leave the capital with his family or face the consequences.

HRIC has organized an open letter to top security officials about the assault on Li Heping, signed by more than 110 lawyers and rights campaigners, urging an end to kidnapping and assault of lawyers and others, and calling for a safe environment in which lawyers can work.

HRIC executive director Sharon Hom said the harassment of rights campaigners and petitions undermined China's promises of greater openness and respect for citizens' rights ahead of next summer's Beijing Olympics.

Bob Fu, president of the Texas-based China Aid Association and a friend of Li's, earlier expressed concern about the incident.

"If China can't tolerate a moderate lawyer like Mr. Li, who should have any confidence in the Chinese leaders' other international commitments?" he asked.

Li visited Washington in 2005, when he met with lawmakers, State Department officials and others concerned about religious freedom in China.

Meanwhile in Brussels last week, critics of China in the European Parliament organized a press conference involving dissidents who spoke by phone from China. One of them, prominent activist Hu Jia, said through an interpreter that many thousands of dissidents had been removed from Beijing in advance of the congress.

As the congress begins Monday, a China-European Union human rights dialogue also gets underway in Beijing.

European Parliament vice-president Edward McMillan-Scott, a British Conservative euro-lawmaker who organized the press conference, said if the repression continues, the E.U. should press for the Olympics to be moved to a different host city.

The press conference discussed the case of Gao Zhisheng, a Christian human rights attorney under house arrest who disappeared from his home last month, shortly after he wrote an open letter to the U.S. Congress reporting rights abuses and saying that the CPC was using the hosting of the Olympics to gain legitimacy.

Willy Fautre, director of the Brussels-based group Human Rights Without Frontiers, told the event that world leaders should not accept invitations to visit for the Olympics while violations are continuing.

"The world should focus on the real China, in which hundreds of thousands are being repressed because of their religious faith or belief," he said.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008