UK: Practitioners attend an Open Day at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

On 10th December 2002, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) held an Open Day to mark International Human Rights Day. The theme of the day was "My Rights, Your Rights, Human Rights". Leading politicians and human rights activists took part in the Open day, giving speeches and taking part in question and answer sessions with the public. A small group of Falun Gong practitioners visited the Open Day in order to raise the awareness of the persecution of Falun Gong in China and to thank MPs in the Foreign Office for all their ongoing support and hard work in raising the issue of human rights abuses against Falun Gong practitioners in China.

A leading MP in the Foreign Office gave a poignant speech about human rights stating that the championing of human rights was firmly rooted in the British tradition of standing up for those unable to defend themselves against abuse. He went on to explain why the British Government was so strongly concerned with human rights violations in other countries by saying: 'Domestic and foreign policy are increasingly entwined. Instability, unrest and conflict thousands of miles away have implications for our security, overseas trade and investment.' After the speech a practitioner mounted the podium and spoke to the MP, requesting a personal appointment with him to discuss the proposed Article 23 anti-subversion law in Hong Kong, which would severely limit the freedom of expression and right to practise Falun Gong in Hong Kong. The MP gladly accepted the practitioners request.

Later three practitioners attended a question and answer session. There were about 100 members of the public and a panel of well-known human rights defenders. The audience was invited to pose questions to the panel. A practitioner quietly composed a question and patiently waited for a suitable opportunity to raise it. The session was drawing to a close and a few people had their hands up. The practitioner who wanted to ask the question whispered to another practitioner, "how can I ask my question?". The other one whispered in a firm but quiet voice, "decide you will ask your question!" Almost immediately the Chairman looked in the practitioners' direction and the microphone was passed to another person, who had his hand up, standing next to the practitioner but the Chairman indicated that the microphone should be given to the practitioner. She said, "I am a British Falun Gong practitioner and my practice is being viciously persecuted in China. China has signed the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and has been admitted to the WTO. What is the panel's view of China's human rights record?" A leading human rights barrister showed great concern for the human rights abuses in China and said she had been working with the "grass roots" level in China, particularly in relation to the treatment of women. A top civil servant, who advises the FCO said that the FCO had spoken up twice this year against the persecution of Falun Gong to the Chinese authorities, and would continue to put pressure on China to end the abuses when meeting the Chinese officials.

At the end of the session the practitioners personally thanked the panel for their support.

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