Montreal, March 28, 2000: More than 20 groups from across Canada have signed a letter to Prime Minister Jean Chr'tien asking him to instruct Canada's delegation to the UN Commission on Human Rights to co-sponsor the draft resolution on China. The UNCHR opened its six-week deliberations last week in Geneva and is expected to begin discussions of country resolutions tomorrow.
"Co-sponsorship of a mildly-worded resolution in support of human rights in China is the minimum we should expect from our Government" today said Warren Allmand, President of the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development, adding that "the arrests and long sentences handed out to trade union activists in the past year represent a clear escalation of repression in China".
The China resolution is set to be introduced by the United States, in what many view as a deal between the US administration and Congress over approval of China's application to join the World Trade Organization (WTO). However, the US has been unsuccessful in its bid to obtain the important co-sponsorship of other countries. Traditional support from the European Union has not been forthcoming this year, due to France's intransigence. Other western nations hesitate to jeopardize their bilateral human rights dialogue with China, which NGOs describe as soft talk processes producing no practical result.
"We don't object to bilateral dialogue on human rights", said Charles Foran, Chair of Writers in Prison Committee of PEN/Canada. "But we do object when bilateral dialogue constrains other forms of pressure in appropriate fora, such as the UN Commission on Human Rights. PEN is very concerned with the growing number of violations perpetrated against religious groups, democracy activists, writers and journalists. Many of these have been given very long prison sentences for simply expressing their point of view," he added.
Canadian representatives of so-called "minority" groups in China have also endorsed the call for co-sponsorship of the UNCHR resolution. They describe systematic abuse of their cultural and other rights in the highly militarized areas of Tibet, East Turkestan and Inner Mongolia, including the ongoing detention of the 10-year old Tibetan boy, Gendhun Choekyi Nyima.
"The Chinese have learned that they can violate human rights with impunity as long as they open their markets to export-dependent countries such as Canada," said Thubten Samdup, President of the Canada Tibet Committee. "I believe that the people of Canada want another international image for this country and I hope they let the Prime Minister know how they feel".
US officials sent Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy's office a copy of the draft resolution on February 9, but Canada has yet to make its position known.
Text of the letter sent to Prime Minister Jean Chr'tien and list of the 24 signatories can be found at www.ichrdd.ca
For more information:
Isobel Harry, PEN Canada, (416) 703-8448, #22
Cheuk Kwan, Toronto Association for Democracy in China, (416) 804-1527
Patricia Poirier, ICHRDD (514) 283-6073
Thubten Samdup, Canada Tibet Committee, (514) 867-6770
John Tackaberry, Amnesty International Canada, (613) 744-7667, #236
Michael To, Democracy China Ottawa, (613) 727-0941