WASHINGTON, D.C.–The largest gathering of leaders of Asian human rights organizations in the nation’s capital gathered in the Gold Room of the Rayburn House Office building on Sept. 12, to discuss the post-Olympics human rights situation in China and throughout Asia.
Event speakers painted a picture of worsening human rights conditions in Asia post-Olympics. Abuses cited included ethnic cleansing, religious persecution, infanticide, territorial disputes, and genocide. China, in particular, was singled out by several of the attendees for the gap between its promise of a more open China sensitive to human rights and its record during the Olympics of increased religious persecution.
The event was hosted by Representatives Ed Royce (R, CA), Loretta Sanchez (D, CA), Chris Smith (R, NJ), and Frank Wolf (R, VA, and Co-Chair of the Human Rights Caucus), and co-sponsored by several organizations representing human rights abuses in China, Vietnam, Burma, Tibet, East Turkistan, Cambodia, and Laos.
Among the speakers addressing the groups were Congressmen Ed Royce and Chris Smith, Harry Wu of the Laogai Foundation, T. Kumar of Amnesty International, and Falun Gong spokesperson Erping Zhang.
The overall view of China just prior to, and during the Olympics, was recently summarized by Yang Jianli, founder and president of Initiatives for China, who writes:
“…although Beijing’s Olympic Organizing Committee had designated three public parks for protestors, no permits were actually issued, and many of those who were naive enough to apply for permits were instead detained by the Chinese government. A 79-year-old petitioner was interrogated for 10 hours and then sentenced to a year of 're-education through labor.'”
He continued, “The Foreign Correspondents Club of China, based in Beijing, announced 10 cases of journalists being beaten or roughed up by police who sometimes smashed their cameras. The Beijing games also took place under virtual martial law, with the revival of Mao Zedong’s ‘peoples warfare’ vigilante and the spying functions of the neighborhood committees in full effect.”
Erping Zhang said at the caucus that to put up a benign image in the lead-up to the 2008 Olympic Games, the regime wanted the international community to believe that Falun Gong has disappeared in China. “…the evidence suggests otherwise. Every day, reports of torture, abuse, abductions, disappearances, and deaths continue to leak out of China,” said Mr. Zhang.
Zhang cited mass arrests of 12,000 practitioners in China, and interference with foreign reporters covering taboo topics in China.
Zhang also told of China’s attempts to export its brand of repression to American shores as evidenced in (1) the disruption of U.S.-based New Tang Dynasty Television’s signal to China and parts of Asia since seven weeks prior to the Olympic games and (2) the assaults of Falun Gong practitioners on the streets of Brooklyn, Flushing, and Manhattan, NY Chinatowns prior to the games.
Mr. Zhang cited one graphic example of China’s policies during the Olympics.
Yu Zhou, a popular music star, had won a following among young Chinese for his “mellow folk ballads” and that his group had released two popular CDs.
“Yu was arrested on January 26 while returning home from a concert in Beijing. His family was called to the Qinghe district emergency centre on Feb. 6 to view his body, which was covered in a white sheet. Mr. Yu died of torture as part of the pre-Olympic purge against Falun Gong,” said Zhang.
Representative Smith said to an Epoch Times reporter, that it was a “mystery why the Chinese government has such hatred for Falun Gong.” He said he had seen videos of the violence in Flushing, New York where he said secret police were intimidating and maybe even hurting Falun Gong practitioners. Falun Gong has become “an obsession with the Chinese government,” said Rep. Smith. Instead of indicating strength, he said it shows “a manifestation of weakness on the part of the government to resort to such brutish and thuggish methods of beatings…”
Representative Chris Smith, who made a trip to Beijing in July to “see whether the Government was living up to its pre-Olympic commitments,” raised concern over China’s “manipulation of technology through its high-tech surveillance and censorship system as well as the post-Olympic shakedown of Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.”
A representative spoke on behalf of Ms. Rebiya Kadir, who is the spokesperson for the Uyghurs in East Turkestan but was unable to attend the event. She expressed the Uyghur Human Rights Project’s concern that Uyghur children are being targeted post Olympics.
In one case, 160 Uyghar children ages 8-14 years old were arrested by public security police for “participating in illegal religious activities.” The children’s parents were forced to pay 20 yuan for their release. Many parents could not pay, and most of the children remain under arrest.
Increased military action, prohibition on religious practice, and an increase in prisoner executions were cited as examples in East Turkestan of abuses immediately following the Olympics.
The head of the Free China Movement Foundation cited the 1948 United Nations Convention against genocide, which became U.S. Federal law in Dec. 1988, when accusing China of ethnic genocide in the case of the Uyghurs, cultural genocide in the case of Tibet, and religious genocide in the case of Falun Gong.
T. Kumar of Amnesty International expressed disappointment in China’s “arrogance and determination to abuse its own citizens.” According to Kumar, the best thing that could come out of the caucus is that the next administration will face a new challenge: “The unified countries of Asia.”
Jim Geheran of Initiatives for China echoed Kumar’s remarks. He expressed the need for caucus attendees to seek out a common agenda and become a more formidable force. He noted the Brookings Institution event, which featured a delegation from China led by the Directorate of Religious Affairs that has been making the rounds in Washington this week. He described how media from around the world had been gathered as one after another of the delegation spoke about the supposed great religious freedom in China.
An attendee from the Department of State’s International Labor and Corporate Responsibility expressed support for the gathering, but disappointment that policy recommendations and clear cut objectives were not defined by the caucus.