Thursday, May 15, 2008

The controversy comes home

Uptown, Canada -Marlo Campbell

Events at local Global Human Rights Torch Relay mirror global conflict

A rally to raise awareness about human-rights violations in China ended
up demonstrating just how polarized Winnipeggers feel about the issue.

About 100 people showed up at the Legislature on May 9 to support the
Global Human Rights Torch Relay, a grassroots campaign that's winding
its way around the world in advance of this summer's Olympic Games in
Beijing. However, the local event was repeatedly disrupted by a group of
about 20 pro-China protesters who waved Chinese flags, sang and chanted

The campaign's goal is to draw attention to the actions of the Chinese
Communist Party (CCP) in the hopes of creating change. Representatives
from several groups criticized the CCP for its support of oppressive
regimes in Myanmar (also known as Burma) and Sudan, as well as for its
systemic persecution of political dissidents, democracy activists,
Tibetan Buddhists, and followers of Falun Gong, a Chinese spiritual
practice that was banned by the CCP in 1999.

Allegations from the latter group are particularly disturbing. They
claim that tens of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners have been
arrested, imprisoned and killed so that their organs can be harvested
and sold - accusations that were corroborated in a 2006 report
co-authored by David Matas, a prominent local human-rights lawyer who
spoke at the Winnipeg rally.

"Crimes against humanity are crimes against us all," Matas told the
crowd. "These are matters that we must speak out against or else we
cease to be human."

Similar rallies have been held in 37 countries since the Global Human
Rights Torch Relay began in Greece last August, initiated by the
Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong. Matas has
attended a number of them - both in North America and in Europe - and
told Uptown that Winnipeg's was the first at which Chinese nationalists
have attempted to shout down the speakers.

For the most part, however, cries of "Stop Lying!" and "Tell the Truth!"
were ignored by those who spoke. Instead, they emphasized the need to
show solidarity with people who are oppressed under the current CCP

"It's our responsibility, we who have the right of free speech, to stand
up and speak for those who don't - those who are arrested, beaten,
imprisoned, tortured and killed, simply because of their religion, their
ethic background or their beliefs, or simply because they stand up and
speak out against injustice, as we are doing here today," said Dorothy
Kotler, on behalf of the Canadian Tibetan Buddhist Society of Manitoba.

"If we don't use our rights and freedoms to help bring human rights to
others, then what's the use of having them?"

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

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