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Building an Asia Pacific Human Rights Framework: conference

Posted by Author on December 1, 2009

Sheridan Harvey, NTD TV, Sydney, Australia, Dec.1, 2009 –

It’s a very difficult — yet basic — question to raise: How to bring countries together in the Asia Pacific region that have vastly different standards for human rights.

Well that’s the focus for a recent conference at the University of Sydney. They’re talking about how to build a regional institution to monitor human rights in Asia Pacific countries.

[Hitoshi Nasu, Conference Organizer]:
“In the past the main focus has been on the content of the human rights rather than the institution, the framework of the human rights monitoring. So that’s perhaps the biggest difference in focus of this conference.”

Right now there’s no regional institution to protect human rights in Asia Pacific nations. International experts say establishing one is important so governments with poor human rights records are pressured to change.

One example is China. One lawyer says political influence keeps its court system from protecting people’s basic rights.

[Assoc. Professor Surya Deva, University of Hong Kong]:
“The real issue is that the institutional framework in China is not conducive to support the human rights there, whether the violator is the government department or the government officials or the Party officials or the violators are some private companies it does not matter. Because if they are powerful it is very, very difficult to enforce the rights. There is rampant corruption and there is too much nexus between the Party officials and the judges.”

Canadian human rights lawyer David Matas, is co-author of the book “Bloody Harvest: The killing of Falun Gong for their organs.” He’s been investigating and exposing the Chinese regime’s abuses against people who practice Falun Gong, a Chinese meditation discipline. The regime’s abuses include killing people and selling their organs in state-run hospitals. Over the past three-plus years, Matas has released several reports on this topic—and he says these reports have forced the regime to make internal changes.

[David Matas, Canadian Human Rights Lawyer]:
“If you just listen to the verbal reaction it sounds like nothing’s happening. But they also change their behavior to avoid the criticism. Now some of the avoidance isn’t really that useful. For instance, when we wrote our report about the killing of Falun Gong and their organs a lot of the information came from Chinese websites (Chinese official websites) from within China. So what we saw over time is those websites disappearing.”
But Matas says ultimately public pressure will have a greater effect.

[David Matas, Canadian Human Rights Lawyer]:
“No perpetrator can completely insulate themselves from global public opinion indefinitely. And it continues to undermine their support if public opinion goes against them, globally. Which is why we see China reacting the way they do in relation to organ abuse.”

When it comes down to it, meaningful change is what these lawyers want to see.

[Assoc. Professor Surya Deva, City University of Hong Kong]:
“The real issue in China is about the implementation. Can we implement anything which has been put on a piece of paper. That is the real issue, so let us see how it goes. It’s too early to conclude that it is going to be effective. But it is definitely better than not having anything.”


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