Congressional Human Rights Caucus (CHRC) meeting
Key Speaker: T. Kumar
Advocacy director for Asia, Amnesty International, USA
To CHRC staff:
Mr. H. Brett Dody, Legislative Fellow (Congressman Frank R. Wolf)
Mr. Hans-Joachim Hogrefe, Legislative Assistant, Director of Congressional Human Rights
Caucus (Congressman Tom Lantos)
Feb 15, 2001, 2015 Rayburn Building
The meeting started at two o'clock in the afternoon. Mr. Hans-Joachim Hogrefe, director of Congressional Human Rights Caucus (CHRC), introduced Mr. T. Kumar, Advocacy Director for Asia in Amnesty International's Washington Office, to the audience.
Mr. Kumar gave a speech on the latest human rights report. The report, "People's Republic of China: Torture ?A growing scourge in China ?Time for action," was published by Amnesty International on Feb 12, 2001. Mr. Kumar started the speech by saying Human Rights situation in China has deteriorated. There are now a wider variety of victims. Amnesty International is anxiously waiting for the actions of the State Departments to either reflect the reality of the situation in China or cover it up due to business concerns. He urged the Bush Administration to take steps to change the Human Rights situation in China. In particular, he mentioned two opportunities for Bush Administration. One is the coming United Nations Human Rights Commission Geneva this March. The other is President Bush's visit to Shanghai, scheduled for October 2001.
Mr. Kumar expressed deep concern that impunity has been enjoyed by quite a few officials in China. Torture is not uncommon; what's uncommon is the death increases. Groups of officials, not even judiciary officials, were involved in these cases. He gave two examples to illustrate this point. One example is family-planning officials, who enforce the "One Child Policy." They torture victims and use abuses as means of deterrent. The other example is Falun Gong Practitioners. Mr. Kumar said, "according to our report, until mid January 2001, at least 120 practitioners were killed due to torture. It's a large number, a large number of people ..."
Mr. Kumar also commented that Chinese judiciary system doesn't give defendants sufficient support, therefore giving rise to unfair trials. Chances of innocent people get sentenced or even executed are far higher in China because torture is used as means to extract confessions from defendants. The purpose of the Human Rights Report is to bring the issue to the forefront of the international arena so that good people in China and good Chinese officials will have some say in fighting for basic human rights.
Mr. Kumar cautioned Bush Administration that, by not supporting the House Resolution or the United Nations Resolution condemning China's human rights records, the Bush Administration is:
Handcuffing itself in raising similar issues in other countries. If it does raise similar issues in other countries, the issues will tend to be politicized. Losing a great opportunity to help with human rights issues in China. If Bush Administration is not going to sponsor a resolution in United Nations Human Rights Commission, a multilateral non-political forum, where else would he raise the issue?
In the end, he reiterated Amnesty International's purpose of this report of human rights situations in China. This report was not written to punish China, nor was it against Chinese people. "We just want to urge Chinese government to treat its citizens the way in which international communities think every country should treat its citizens."
A question and answer session followed Mr. Kumar's speech.
An unidentified Chinese man asked Mr. Kumar a question regarding 2000 Olympic games. Mr. Kumar replied that Amnesty International only deals with human rights issue and does not take a position on Olympic games.
A reporter from China Youth Daily asked whether Mr. Kumar had been to China. He also probed the discrepancies in perceptions of human rights issue in China. He said Chinese people all thought human rights situations were greatly improved, while Amnesty International reported that they had been deteriorated. He questioned about reports on secret trials. If western reporters have last opportunity to know what's going on, how did Amnesty International get the report at the first place?
Mr. Kumar replied that he had never been to China. Amnesty International was never officially allowed to China and Amnesty International does not do any underground operations. He mentioned that even United Nations Human Rights Representative did not have access to China. If Chinese government is so concerned with human rights situations, why it does not allow Amnesty International or UN Human Rights Representatives to do third-party investigations there? He also reminded the reporter that Amnesty International was an international organization, not a "western" organization. Amnesty International never talked about secret trials per se. There are many cases that victims were executed within an hour of "close-door" trials and their family members did not know. These trials should be fair and should be open at least to defendants' family members. They have the right to know what is going on.
At the meeting, Director Hans-Joachim Hogrefe echoed Mr. Kumar's points by giving an example of a woman by the name of Rabiya Cadir, in Xijiang Uighur Autonomous region. Her husband came to the Congress to testify for human rights situations in China. She was scheduled to meet Congressional Research Service (CRS) members in a hotel in Xijiang. On her way to the hotel, the Chinese government arrested her and quickly sentenced her 3 years in prison. CRS members thought she just did not show up. Only recently were they informed that she was arrested. She is now still in prison. Director Hogrefe said the Congress was deeply concerned of Rabiya Cadir's safety. What's more, Chinese government's actions undermine human right issues in the World at large because this diminishes the World's ability to have people testify for human rights issues. This reminds the author a quote from Martin Luther King Jr., "An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
The gentleman from China Youth Daily asked why the House Resolution for UN Human Rights Commission "failed." Director Hogrefe explained that it did not "fail". The gentleman changed the wording to "not passed". Director Hogrefe again explained that it was not true. The House simply has not had time to discuss it yet. As far as what the author knows, there is an on-going effort of passing this resolution on Capitol Hill.
A gentleman from US Commissions on International Religious Freedom asked Mr. Kumar the factors in the deterioration of human rights in China. Mr. Kumar listed three reasons. One was the continued suppression of Falun Gong practitioners in China. The second was that Chinese government has been giving a green light to torturers. Executions of people with different political opinions in Xinjiang also contribute to the deterioration.
A gentleman from the World Indian Institute asked Mr. Kumar about reactions of Chinese government to this report. Mr. Kumar said, "There's no question that thousands or even tens of thousands of people were tortured in China. I'm sure that Chinese people will applaud this report. Chinese officials denied the report today. We want to inform Chinese government that if there is any misinformation regarding any case, please tell us. Please do not just make general denials." He also commented that although Amnesty International has no access to China, Amnesty International has a great many sources and Amnesty International double checks information it receives. He emphasized that the Chinese government signed the International Conventions against Torture and then ratified it. "If you [Chinese government] are not happy with it, why did you sign it?"
At the end of the meeting, Mr. Kumar again urged the Chinese government and the Bush Administration to take this report seriously and seek for a solution at the UN Human Rights Commission in March.
Category: Voices of Support Worldwide