SFT Canada heads to the Hill

With Prime Minister Harper in transit to China yesterday, I along, with Alex Neve (Amnesty International), and Cheuk Kwan (Toronto Association for a Democratic China) were able to represent the Canadian Coalition for Human Rights in China, at a  press conference at Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

The press conference called for Harper to speak out for human rights during his first official visit to China since being elected almost four years ago. The coalition, consisting of Amnesty International, the Canada Tibet Committee, and PEN Canada among other groups, has put forward a list of 11 names of political prisoners which we want action taken on by the Prime Minister while he is in China this week, including Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen.

There was also a rally held outside on Parliament Hill with supporters of the various coalition groups.

Below is the transcript of what was said on behalf of SFT at the press conference yesterday.

Good morning, my name is Tenzin Wangkhang and I am the National Director for Students for a Free Tibet Canada.  As a Tibetan-Canadian born in India to Tibetan parents who fled their home country in 1959 after China’s illegal and violent invasion of Tibet, I feel privileged to be able to speak out for human rights, and in my case, the right to self-determination for the Tibetan people, here in Canada, without the fear of arrest or death; something that Dhondup Wangchen, a Tibetan who is on our list of 11, was arrested and tortured for and who will be facing an unfair trial sentence any day now for filming the powerful documentary “Leaving Fear Behind” where he interviewed ordinary Tibetans inside Tibet about their feelings about the Beijing Olympics, and living under Chinese rule.

We in the Canadian coalition on Human Rights in China, believe that the Prime Minister’s first visit to China and meeting with Hu Jintao presents a strategic opportunity to make real progress towards putting an end to human rights abuses in China.

Like Alex mentioned, thousands of Chinese, Uyghur, and Tibetan  human rights activists continue to face arbitrary detention, harassment and imprisonment following unfair trials.  Recent examples include the executions of Lobsang Gyaltsen and Loyak on October 20th, two Tibetans in their mid twenties who were executed in the continuing violent crackdown following the March 2008 uprising in Tibet.

Since the uprising of the Tibetan people last year, there has also been thousands of arrests, detentions, disappearances, even stricter limits on lines of communication, and an increased military presence; all inducing a strong climate of fear in the day-to-day lives of Tibetans.   This situation is also very comparable to what is currently taking place in East Turkestan after the Uyghur people’s uprising earlier this summer.

With this in mind, Canadians expect Prime Minister Harper to show that Canada views human rights as a central plank of its relationship with China, and that Canadians will hold the Prime Minister accountable if he does not raise human rights issues while in China this week.

Deux-exemples récents démontrant des agissements directs de la part du gouvernement canadien envers des dissidents chinois, sont les cas de l’activiste Lu Decheng et du journaliste Jiang Weiping, qui ont tout deux été capables de s’établir au Canada avec leur famille suite aux actions de membres du gouvernement canadien.

D’autres exemples démontrant l’engagement et le soutien du gouvernement canadien afin de mettre fin aux abus des droits humains sous le gouvernement chinois actuel incluent la décision unanime d’octroyer le plus haute honneur, soit la citoyenneté honorifique canadienne, à Sa sainteté le Dalai Lama en 2006. Celui-ci est l’un des leaders en matière de paix les plus respectés de tous les temps. La population canadienne a aussi applaudi la décision du premier ministre de rencontrer le Dalai Lama dans son bureau du Parlement, le tout, malgré la forte opposition du gouvernement chinois.

With these examples of the Canadian government standing up for human rights, we trust and hope that Prime Minister Harper will continue to build on the trust that Canadians have placed in him to advocate for victims of human rights abuses, including the list of 11 political prisoners that the coalition has put forward.


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