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Human Rights in Taiwan and China Today (5): Speech by Hon. David Kilgour

Posted by Author on December 27, 2008

Paper prepared by Hon. David Kilgour, J.D. for An International Forum on the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Garden Villa Hotel, Kaohsiung City, Taiwan, 11 December, 2008 – (cont’d)

Human Dignity Today

Anyone with uncensored Internet access, which unfortunately excludes 1.3 billion Chinese, can obtain the latest details about the condition of human rights across China from among other independent sources the following:

Human Rights in China:
Human Rights Watch:
Amnesty International:

I’ll highlight only a few points made in China’s Great Leap, the book published earlier this year by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on the Beijing Games and the Olympian human rights challenges the country faces. It begins with a quote from Ai Weiwei, designer of the Beijing National Stadium (known as the ‘Bird’s Nest’). Ai refused to attend the opening ceremony, saying, “I very openly criticize the tendency to use culture for the purpose of propaganda, to dismiss the true function of art and the intellect…If you read newspapers today, you see the problems created by this structure and by the effort to maintain power. It is against everything that human society should be fighting for.”

Minky Worden, the book’s editor, notes that workers building the ‘Bird’s Next’ and dozens of other Games facilities were exploited, from child labour on assembly lines to deadly working conditions on construction sites. She quotes contributor Phelim Kine on what an unfree media costs China: “The truths of corruption, public health scandals, environmental crises and abusive local authorities may be inconvenient…( but to)smother the reporting of these truths has contributed measurably to other global debacles, including recall of tainted food and toys.”  A number of men and women of origin in China have told me that no-one of discernment believes anything they hear, read or see in any of China’s Party-controlled media today –except the date at the top of newspapers. Worden correctly concludes that as long as the CCP is above the law China will have only “rule by law.”

79% vs. 87%

The chapter on China’s international image by John Kamm is insightful. For example, he points out that in a May 2007 UPI/Zogby opinion poll 79 percent of Americans said they had a favourable opinion of the Chinese people, but 87 percent had an unfavourable opinion of the Chinese government. My guess would be that a similar survey done in Canada and other rule-of-law countries today would produce very similar findings. What would the vast majority of the Chinese population tell a pollster, if they could without serious risk of consequences, about the CCP? What would they say about capital punishment being applicable in China for 68 offences?  The recent abrupt execution of Wo Weihan is only the most recent example of the lack of transparency and independence in China’s judicial system.

Like many other independent observers, HRW concluded after the Games ended that they constituted a setback for human rights in China. In the year leading up to them, HRW documented extensive violations linked to the hosting. “The 2008 Beijing Games have put an end – once and for all – to the notion that these Olympics are a ‘force for good,'” said Sophie Richardson, HRW’s Asia advocacy director. “The reality is that the Chinese government’s hosting of the Games has been a catalyst for abuses, leading to massive forced evictions, a surge in the arrest, detention, and harassment of critics, repeated violations of media freedom, and increased political repression.” Richardson: “Not a single world leader who attended the Games or members of the IOC seized the opportunity to challenge the Chinese government’s behavior in any meaningful way…Will anyone wonder, after the Games are over, why the Chinese government remains intransigent about human rights?” (to be cont’d)

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