Austria: Speech by the Rev. Franz Sieder, Co-Founder of Amnesty International in Austria, at the Opening of the International “Truth-Compassion-Tolerance” Art Exhibition in Amstetten City Hall

In May and June 2006, the Austrian arts and culture club "Ars Cara“organised a touring exhibition entitled "Arts for Human Rights” in Austria. They exhibited pictures from the International Truthfulness Compassion-Tolerance Art Exhibition from May 26th until May 28th in Amstetten, which was the fourth stop of a tour.

The art exhibition has been touring around the world since 2004. Some of the artists have personally experienced how much the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) disregards human rights. Some of them were imprisoned in labour camps and tortured. Their works describe how they managed to stay alive despite experiencing daily tortures. Their spiritual convictions are centered on “Truth, Compassion, Tolerance”. These principles, taught by Falun Gong, a cultivation system within the Buddha School, ran foul of the official CCP ideology which gave the impetus for the horrible persecution that started on July 20th, 1999.

Speech given by the Rev. Franz Sieder, co-founder of Amnesty International in Austria:

I have always admired China because this huge country with a population far greater than one billion has not experienced major starvation like other countries including, India, Africa or Latin America where millions of people died from hunger. The other thing I love about China is the food. I like to eat in Chinese restaurants. Other people admire China because of their incredible economic expansion. However, I would never like to live in China because it has never stopped being a dictatorship. There isn’t a single dictatorship on earth where there are no arbitrary executions or torture because dictatorships cannot exist without executions or torture. This is not to say that there are no human rights violations in democracies but they are especially pronounced and cruel in dictatorships.

In addition to numerous executions and cases of torture in China, I’d also like to point out several other severe human rights violations in that country. Some of them concern the rights of labour representatives which are severely curtailed and the lack of free speech and assembly. Independent labour unions are prohibited. The current economic expansion is largely based on the exploitation of the workers in the factories. The human rights of women are also severely restricted. As part of the government sponsored family planning, women and girls are forced into having abortions and sterilisation. According to one Amnesty report, Mao Hengfeng, a Chinese woman, was sentenced to eighteen months in a labour camp and was forced to have an abortion because she became pregnant again. At the labour camp, she was bound, tied to the ceiling, brutally beaten and subjected to electric shocks. During the last year, Amnesty International has recorded six thousand cases of the death penalty and 3,400 executions.

I would also like to point out the position of Amnesty toward the spiritual movement Falun Gong: This spiritual movement is one of the main targets for government sponsored repression, particularly the arbitrary mass arrest of its followers. The majority of the arrested are sent to forced labour camps for‘re-education’ without trial where they experience torture and mistreatment especially when they refuse to give up their belief. Many have died from the consequences of torture and mistreatment. I am reminded of the persecution of the Christians at the hands of the Roman Emperors during the first few centuries of Christianity. A brutal dictatorship reigned during those days, too. Some of the artists of this exhibition were detained in such labour camps and tortured.

Falun Gong is a cultivation method of the Buddha school and its principles of „Truth, Compassion, Tolerance“are not concordant with the principles of the CCP. Their principles are more in line with brutal power and disregard for human life. Although Falun Gong is not a Christian organisation or movement, they still deserve the solidarity of Christians. Falun Gong has chosen values for their banners which are sacred to us Christians as well. In general, we must regard the freedom of religion as a supreme value for which we should be willing to fight no matter where in Austria, in China, or in any other country on earth. The Falun Gong artists are offering this exhibition to the world because they want to open our eyes to this shocking reality.

Living Christianity demands that we should open our eyes to the suffering of all people. Our responsibility as Christians is a universal responsibility and we can therefore not ignore the suffering of people in other countries. The New Testament teaches us the story of the Good Samaritan. The story teaches us metaphorically that we may not pass by the exploited and wounded human beings along the road. We have to help them whenever possible and tend their wounds. The Christian love for our neighbors not only demands that we tend to their wounds, it also demands that we fight the attacker. Concerning China, this means that we have to fight the government that continues to hurt and kill its people.

The exhibition’s goal is to touch us and tell us about the suffering of people in China.

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