Appeal from Amnesty International to the Australian Government

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Mr. John Greenwell, from Amnesty International Australia, delivered a strong speech to the Falun Dafa Hearing at the National Press Club in Canberra, Australia, August 12, 2002. The Hearing was held to coincide with the 6th Annual Bilateral China-Australia Human Rights Dialogue being held in Canberra this week (August 12 to 16). The speech closes with the following appeal:

"Amnesty International Australia calls upon the government at the talks this week to do something about this ineffectual dialogue process and declare to the Chinese delegation that unless persecution of Falun Gong ceases it is apparent the bilateral dialogue policy lacks reality and should be abandoned."

Full text of the speech follows:

Amnesty International Australia is pleased to join with Falun Gong on this occasion.

What we have witnessed over the past 3 years is not some sporadic outburst of brutality by an irritated and authoritarian government, but organized and systematic repression designed to destroy once and for all non-conforming belief. In all, some 50,000 practitioners have been detained in detention centres, prisons or Labour Camps. The persecution of practitioners in such Labour Camps as Masanjia, Wanjia and more recently in Changchun City has been horrific.

Now a striking feature of the persecution over this lengthy period has been the absence of a collective and public condemnation by those countries, including Australia, which proclaim the universality of international human rights.

In April this year Amnesty International Australia asked the government to approach like-minded countries to join with Australia in a public condemnation of the treatment of the Falun Gong. That request was rejected. My brief comments this morning examine that response.

But first let it be noted there is no question about the facts. The Australian Government accepts that the Falun Gong has been repressed and that China has committed very serious human rights violations.

Since 1997 the Australian Government, and other governments, have engaged in annual bilateral dialogues with China on human rights. Another is to be held here this week.

What of the situation of the Falun Gong in the context of these dialogues?

The first thing to note is that these [talks] are secret. No report upon them is made to Parliament. No questions may be asked in the Parliament about what took place or, at least, if asked, need be answered. No disclosure at all is made except to selected NGO's who are bound by confidentiality. Neither Parliament nor public is aware what the Australian delegation will say about the persecution of the Falun Gong or what the Chinese delegation will say in reply; whether in the past the Chinese have given any assurances to mitigate the persecution or whether, on the other hand, they have refused to do so. It may be, though neither public nor Parliament is aware, that the Chinese delegation will strongly defend the use of torture against the Falun Gong and maintain China's intention to continue using it. Certainly the three dialogues since July 1999 have not led to the slightest change. It may be, in the face of all the evidence, that the Chinese delegation has denied and will deny that persecution and torture is taking place.
Neither you nor the Australian public generally will know.

It may be said that notwithstanding the lack of accountability, international and national, and the ignorance of what goes on, we should nonetheless trust the dialogue process.

In considering this we must look at its results.

The Minister, speaking of the dialogue process, has himself said that of course we must get results.

His own response to this is less than encouraging. He referred to the worthy Human Rights Technical Assistance Program. But to talk of seminars, training courses and the erection of primary schools in the context of torture, deaths in custody, strike hard campaigns, prohibition of political dissent and religious freedom or denial of the claims of minorities, is ludicrously inappropriate.

What have we witnessed since the inception of the dialogue process? The unrelieved persecution of Falun Gong; the destruction in 1998 and 1999 of political dissent. The China Democracy Party, which sought to express dissent peacefully, is proscribed and its leaders imprisoned. Xu Wenli, Wang Youcai, Qin Yongmin, She Wanbao are all locked up for terms rather longer than a gang rapist would receive in this country. But let us go further afield to the deaths in custody, the death penalty, the procedural abuses of the strike hard campaigns, the treatment of minorities -- the nuns in Drapchi prison or the Uighurs in Xinjiang -- the protestants or Catholics, --- in whatever area the situation is no better and is in some respects worse since the secret bilateral dialogue began 5 years ago.

Only the release of the occasional high profile prisoner -- a Wei Jing Sheng, a Wang Dan or a Ngawang Choephel timed to coincide with Presidential visit.

But it is said that outside the dialogue, representations are made at ministerial or diplomatic levels on behalf of Falun Gong. We cannot of course know what has been said. As a matter of literal accuracy Amnesty does not question such representations that have been made. But it is not consonant with commonsense to suppose that a diplomat will, with the slightest degree of firmness, be exhorting his Chinese counterpart about Falun Gong one day and discussing an economically important trade negotiation the next. The two things are incompatible.

Lady Thatcher, who knew a thing or two about this, recently wrote that 'some western leaders adopt a relaxed demeanour in private discussion with the Chinese leadership, making no more than a few mild admonitions about Chinese abuses. Then they tell the outside world that they behaved like lions'.

The Minister in discussion with his Chinese counterpart may have been a lion regarding Falun Gong. We do not know. Perhaps though one would not have expected a lion to have issued certificates under the Vienna Treaties Convention restricting Falun Gong's protests on the occasion of the visit of the Chinese Minister for Foreign Affairs.

I mentioned that there was no international accountability. It is of the essence of this policy that there should be no collective discussion of these issues in international forums. It is important for China that the issues be discussed severally when maximum economic leverage may be deployed and it comes down rather heavily on any nation transgressing this imperative. Chris Patten recounts what happened to Denmark when it sought to raise the matter in the Commission on Human Rights. Contracts were cancelled. Both Denmark and the Netherlands were in Patten's words scolded and sent to the doghouse. Sweden has been similarly treated and Canada threatened with the loss of power station projects. None of this will surprise Falun Gong practitioners who recently witnessed the pressures put upon the government of Iceland by the Chinese government in connection with a Falun Gong gathering.

There have been some defensive comments made by the Minister about this. He says that it is no use shouting at the Chinese all the time. That is not the proposition. Indeed the proposition rejected is the converse of that. It is the assertion that the human rights violations of the Chinese should never be raised publicly which is in question and which is rejected.

Let me then sum up the position in this way.

If you were a dictator and an inveterate human rights abuser and you had to devise the most effective system to enable you to perpetuate your human rights abuses, I suggest you could hardly do better than:

  • Confine all discussions of your human rights abuses to one to one meetings of officials;

  • Ensure that these meetings were in secret;

  • Ensure that the outcome is not disclosed to the legislature or media in any country;

  • Insist that there be no discussion of your human rights abuses in any multilateral forum;

  • Ensure that all discussions of your human rights abuses takes place with countries individually;

  • So that you can maximize your economic power and, in case of recalcitrance, threaten the country concerned with remission to the doghouse.

Amnesty International Australia calls upon the government at the talks this week to do something about this ineffectual dialogue process and declare to the Chinese delegation that unless persecution of Falun Gong ceases it is apparent the bilateral dialogue policy lacks reality and should be abandoned.

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