THE UNIVERSITY RECORD, Issue 5, Volume Four, Week Eight, Michaelmas Term 2000

(The Newspaper of The Students' Union)

On Wednesday November 22nd, 120 students and staff from Trinity laid siege to the Chinese embassy with support from students of UCD and DCU. Enraged over the detention and alleged torture of fellow Trinity student Zhao Ming, the students poured through the embassy gates, swarming the Ailesbury Road building.

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As neighbours looked on, the students demanded freedom for Zhao Ming, who has been interred and reportedly tortured in a forced labour camp outside of Beijing since May of this year. As angry protestors lowered the Chinese flag to half-mast and chanted slogans in both English and Chinese, a contingent of Donnybrook's finest arrived to secure the embassy grounds. They were more than happy to see that we didn't quite live up to the Oxford English Dictionaries definition of "donnybrook". The vocal and heated protest withdrew from embassy grounds and placed a picket outside the gates, preventing embassy staff from leaving for 4 hours. Following the arrival of sympathetic students from University College Dublin and Dublin City University, a smaller radical group broke through the police cordon and once again brought the demonstration to Chinese soil. A brief confrontation with attending Gardai ensued, but was defused when Rich Madigan, one of the primary organisers of the event and former GSU president, convinced the group of protestors to withdraw from embassy grounds and rejoin the peaceful demonstration outside. The demonstration was joined by a number of Ailesbury Road residents while rush-hour drivers accepted literature from the demonstrators and showed support with blasts on their car horns.

Earlier in the day, several hundred students and staff gathered in Front Square to show solidarity with Zhao Ming. Dr. Li Shao (University of Nottingham) and Jonathan Guinness, Lord Moyne, both personal friends of Zhao Ming, addressed the crowd and painted a picture of a kind, gentle man enduring unimaginable suffering in a brutal forced labour camp. Lord Moyne also highlighted the need for China to respect human rights if it expects to be accepted as part of the global community. Richard Madigan and Brian MacSharry, representatives of the GSU, then emphasised the need to support a fellow student - a valued and respected member of Trinity's academic community. "This is someone who would have been lecturing you, who could have sat next to you in the library or the dining hall. Ming is not a faceless human rights cause - he is a man, he is a student, he is our friend," said GSU President Brian MacSharry. Students' Union President Rory Hearne then made an impassioned plea to the Irish Government to inter- cede on Ming's behalf. Other student groups showing support were the One World Society, Amnesty, and the Socialist Worker Student Society.

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Ming, a student in the Computer Science Department, returned to his hometown of Changchun to visit his family last Christmas. He was placed under house arrest after appealing to the State Council Complaints Office to end the religious persecution mandated by the Chinese authorities against practitioners of Falun Gong. The GSU began campaigning for his return to Ireland in February and attempted several times to open a dialogue with Chinese officials. In April, the GSU and SU organised a demonstration outside the Conrad Hotel, where Chinese Vice Premier Li Lanqinq resided during a state visit to Dublin. The GSU also contacted Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Brian Cowen, who refused to address Ming's status with Chinese officials and claimed he had no consular authority to become involved. Soon after, authorities arrested Ming in Beijing, and his whereabouts remained unknown for several months. During this time, the GSU invited the Chinese Ambassador to confirm or deny reports regarding Zhao Ming's legal status and were ignored.
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In October, sources within China reported that Ming had been incarcerated in the Tuan He farm labour camp in Daxing County, Beijing. Reports emerged that Ming has been beaten severely with batons and cattle prods, been deprived of sleep, and endured other more gruesome tortures. Again, Chinese embassy officials ignored overtures from Trinity students to confirm or deny reports. However on Wednesday evening, 3 hours into the siege, the Chinese embassy did eventually fax a press release to the GSU office. The press release did not address any of the issues raised by the GSU regarding Ming's whereabouts or personal health, but instead offered a tirade of generic party propaganda decrying the prevalence of cults throughout the worlds and the need to "educate and convert the majority" of cult followers. It claimed that any allegations of torture were "fabrications aimed at slandering China", and assured us that "the law enforcement is not the torture in any sense [sic]." The fax concluded by saying that "this is an entirely internal affair which brooks no interference whatsoever by any country, any organisation and anyone in the world".

As news of Ming's health became more grim, the GSU and SU co-ordinated efforts with Suzy and Jonathan Guinness, Lord Moyne, friends of Zhao Ming from the UK, and local Falun Gong practitioners to highlight Ming's case in Irish and inter- national media. The GSU and SU have stated that they will step up their efforts until Ming is allowed to return to Trinity and continue his studies.

By Brian MacSharry and Richard Madigan