Speech by Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International of Canada at a Press Conference on the Occasion of Shenli Lin's Arrival in Canada
Feb 26, 2002, Parliament hill, Ottawa
(Transcription from recording)
Thank you. [French: Evidently the fact that Shenli Lin has been liberated is good, good news and also evidently that he was able to leave China and that he was reunified with his wife is also good, good news.]* But any time there is good news on the human rights front we must pause and ask ourselves what next and who else. And while we rejoice in having Shenli Lin here with us today, it is an important moment for that pause and reflection because what it reminds us is that, first of all he never should have been detained in the first place. It reminds us as well that the thousands and thousands of other Falun Gong practitioners who have been detained should also not be in detention. It reminds us that the brutal practice of torture that has been experienced by so many Falun Gong followers in China is unjust and a violation of their most basic rights. It also reminds us though that more widely, China has ongoing serious human rights problems that it must address. The persecution of Falun Gong followers is one very serious example but we know also of extreme concerns about human rights in Tibet, in the XinJiang region of China, of pro-democracy activists and of other individuals that dare to speak their mind and express opposition or freedom of expression in the face of Chinese views.
So what do we need to do? Obviously we need to continue to press the Chinese authorities to enact the kinds of reforms necessary to ensure that basic rights are protected in China, that individuals are able to freely practice their religion and spiritual beliefs, are able to be involved in any political parties they want to, and are able to exert minority and ethnic rights across the country.
We also need though to turn to our own government and other governments around the world and demand more of them, and its an opportune time to remind ourselves of that, because in just three weeks now the world will gather for its annual human rights session at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and we know that year after year after year attempts that have been made to bring China's abysmal human rights record to the attention of that body and have the commission take some decisive action have failed in the face of intense lobbying and politicking by the Chinese delegation. In past years it has been the United States delegation which has been willing to take the lead on that and attempt to have the commission do something about China's human rights record. The United States is not on the commission this year; the United States will not be there. It's therefore more incumbent than ever on our government and other like-minded states to ensure that efforts are made to bring a resolution to the table in Geneva.
Secondly, we know in the past China has used procedural wrangling to find a way to, even once the resolution comes forward, keep it off the table through means of what is called the "no action motion." This year Canada, European states and many others must band together and decisively work against Chinese efforts to use the "no action" motion and ensure that any resolution that is brought forward actually comes to a vote.
Finally in Shenli Lin's case, the situation of Falun Gong and regarding so many other human rights concerns in China, the issue of torture is there as one of the most serious issues that need to be confronted. Efforts have been made over the years to encourage the Chinese government to allow the United Nations special expert on torture, the special rapporteur on torture to come to China to carry out an investigation to publicize findings and make recommendations for ending torture in China. In the past the Chinese government has imposed unreasonable restrictions on what that visit would look like, such that the special rapporteur would not have been able to do the job necessary. That needs to be reactivated and the Canadian government and all others should be pressing China now to allow the special rapporteur in, to allow the special rapporteur in with no strings attached to ensure that some international scrutiny can be brought to the issue of torture in China. Thank You
* bracketed words spoken in French.
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