WHILE the Winter Olympics will open to great fanfare in China this weekend, a group of local protestors planned a rally outside East Perth’s Chinese consulate on Thursday to raise some uncomfortable questions for the superpower about its human rights record.
A coalition of Uyghur, Hong Kong, Tibetan, Taiwanese and Chinese human rights activists have vowed to boycott coverage of the games, but are hoping the publicity it brings will also give them the opportunity to let ordinary Australians discover the oppression their compatriots back home face. The rally will feature speeches and a display of material to back their claims.
“I think the political circle are aware, but for the general public they are not that aware,” says Perth Anti-CCP Association organiser Richard Lue.
In Hong Kong, for example, a lot has happened since 2 million protestors gained headlines for standing against a proposed law allowing suspected criminals to be extradited to the mainland and its notoriously opaque legal system.
Mr Lue said in response to the protests, Beijing introduced a national security law without consultation, banning gatherings and introducing broad definitions of subversion and terrorism that have seen a raft of pro-democracy advocates arrested and gaoled. Unless people could prove themselves a “patriot” they were banned from running for office.
A media crackdown also saw the main pro-democracy newspaper forced to close, and Mr Lue says that means any sign of opposition has disappeared. Once-regular images of people gathering in Victoria Gardens every year have stopped.
“Even people holding a banner are detained and sent directly to gaol,” he said.
He said the internment of up to 3 million Uyghurs in the concentration camps in the country’s northwest had been recognised by seven countries, including the US, as a form of genocide.
“People are forced to stay there – they are behind fences and they can’t leave – and they have to do heavy labour with little pay, or no pay at all.”
Mr Lue, who was born in China, says here in Australia protestors are regularly harassed by groups he believes are regularly communicating with the local consulate.
“The Perth Hong Kong students held protests, but many of those students experienced life threats and a car followed them home.” He said their family back in Hong Kong were subsequently harassed by officials as well.
He’s also been on the brunt of the threats himself, but said he’d worked with police to get restraining orders.
“For myself, working with the police was enough to stop them, but I think because of what their families might face, some of the students would be too scared to speak up,” he said.
Many countries have imposed a diplomatic ban on the Olympics this year and won’t be sending anyone other than athletes to the opening ceremony.
China has hit back strongly, with it’s UN representative last year taking aim at war crimes allegedly committed by Australian troops in Afghanistan: “…they are still at large today,” Jiang Duan said, while also taking aim at our offshore detention regime.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Ligian also described allegations about Uyghur mistreatment “the biggest lie of the century”.
by STEVE GRANT