Jan. 30, 2002

(Clearwisdom.net) Amnesty International welcomes the good news that Shenli Lin has been freed from detention in China. It's good news and we celebrate.

Over two years of imprisonment as a "prisoner of conscience" have come to an end and we now await his arrival in Canada and eagerly anticipate his reunion with his wife, Jinyu Li. And that reunion must be allowed to happen.

That he was detained at all is a glaring abuse of his basic human rights. Further injustice came, when his original term of imprisonment, 18 months in a labour camp, was, at the time of his anticipated release, suddenly and inexplicably extended by another 6 months. His release now is no more than what is his right. Shenli Lin was imprisoned for reasons of conscience, the mere fact that he is a practitioner of Falun Gong.

Amnesty International supporters right across Canada campaigned tirelessly for his release over these past two years. We called on Chinese authorities to allow him to be free. We urged the Canadian government to intervene forcefully and actively on his behalf. I have in the past shared the podium with Jinyu Li and others in support of her effort to bring her husband's case to the attention of Canadians. So we join her and others in celebrating Shenli Lin's freedom.

At the same time, however, as Irwin [Cotler] has pointed out, we must pause and remember the countless men, women and youth who are unjustly imprisoned all over China. Scott [Reid] has drawn attention to one particular case. There are many other Falun Gong followers, pro-democracy activists, individuals who have spoken out about minority rights in places such as Tibet and XinJiang, and so, so many others.

For them, this campaign must continue.

The repression of Falun Gong followers in China continues to be a particularly pressing human rights concern. Since the movement was banned by Chinese authorities in 1999, Falun Gong followers have experienced a relentless campaign of persecution, including widespread arrest and imprisonment, frequent, serious torture and ill-treatment, and many instances in which that torture has led to death in custody. Amnesty International and many other groups and individuals concerned about basic human rights have consistently maintained that the repression of Falun Gong followers in China must come to an end.

Widespread human rights reform more generally is long overdue in China and there is much, much still to be done. It bears emphasis at this point in time that one such critical opportunity will soon be upon us. On March 18, this year's session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, perhaps the most important international human rights body, begins its annual round of meetings. The Commission has consistently failed to tackle or take action of any sort with respect to China's dismal human rights record. The United States, which is not a member of the Commission this year, has in past years been one of the only states willing to raise these concerns at the Commission. With the U.S. absent this year, the importance of Canada taking the lead in pressing for action, rather than the silence that has marked Canadian policy in this area for the past 5 years, is evident and pressing.

As Shenli Lin's case has highlighted, the Canadian government and individual Canadians can and must be part of the effort of pushing for a new human rights reality in China. It's an effort which seeks simply to ensure that the promise of true rights protection becomes a reality for all Chinese people regardless of spiritual belief, ethnic background, or political views.