Rallies were held around the world recently to mark the 14th anniversary on the 20th July of the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners by the Chinese regime.
Peter Westmore, the president of the National Civic Council delivered the following speech at a rally held in Melbourne's City Square.
China is a country whose civilisation goes back thousands of years. I
have had occasion to visit China briefly, and have found people in China
to be polite, friendly, hard-working and extremely interested in what is
happening in other parts of the world. The same can be said of the many
Chinese people who have come to live in Australia. It is a delight to me
that you have come to live here, to enrich our country by your gifts and
by your presence here.
Yet the government of the People's Republic of China continues to treat
the people of China badly, persecuting those who have had the courage to
call for freedom of speech, freedom of belief, and respect for human
rights. Western NGOs such as Human Rights without Frontiers and Human
Rights Watch have consistently documented the abuse of human rights in
The government in China has conducted not one election over the past 60
years, because that government is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.
The Chinese Communist Party, despite claiming a membership of tens of
millions, is itself not a democratic organisation. It is a
self-perpetuating oligarchy, run from the top, which captured the
government of the largest country in the world in 1949, and has not let
go of power.
There have been no elections for leadership of the Communist Party,
despite the fact that the recent Party Congress decided to replace the
retiring Party leader, Hu Jintao, with a new leader, Xi Jinping.
The persecution of Falun Gong practitioners is one part of this policy
of suppression. Comparatively little has been said about this in the
West. You may ask why.
In my view, our own government, as exemplified by the Department of
Foreign Affairs and Trade, fears offending China, which is Australia's
largest trading partner. The media silence can be attributed in part to
the media's preoccupation with local issues. Events taking place in
distant countries, such as China, North Korea and Vietnam, are just too
far away for them to be interested.
But I think that Australian media organisations also want to maintain
and expand their presence in China. They know that persistent criticism
of the Chinese regime's human rights record will result in Beijing's
imposing restrictions on them, just as Beijing restricts the operations
of the internet, restricts bloggers, and imprisons journalists who have
criticised its human rights record.
Countries which voluntarily sign international treaties to respect human
rights are agreeing to be held accountable by the international
community and to have their conduct judged against international standards.
The University of Minnesota's Human Rights Project lists the
international human rights instruments which China has signed and
ratified. They include:
* the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or
Degrading Treatment or Punishment, ratified in 1988;
* the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of
Genocide, ratified in 1983;
* the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial
Discrimination, acceded to in 1981; and
* the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
against Women, ratified in 1980.
In all these areas, the Chinese regime's human rights record is
appalling, and is rightly subject to international scrutiny. It is no
longer merely an "internal affair" of China's.
The evidence of China's persecution of Falun Gong, a peaceful
meditational practice based on the principles of Truth, Forbearance and
Compassion, is well established.
Equally, it is clear that imprisoned Falun Gong practitioners have been
subjected to the most appalling treatment, including indefinite
detention without trial, being sent to forced labour camps, and, most
sensationally of all, execution --- not for crimes they are alleged to
have committed --- but simply to be cannibalised for their organs, such
as kidneys, livers, hearts, lungs and corneas.
The appalling practice of human organ-harvesting has been documented by
two Canadian human rights lawyers, David Kilgour and David Matas, in
their ground-breaking reports, available on the internet and published
in the book, Bloody Harvest.
It is interesting that the Chinese regime has responded to these reports
by introducing new laws which supposedly protect the rights of organ
donors. But, until there is a full accounting for the thousands of Falun
Gong practitioners who have simply disappeared in China, and prosecution
of those responsible, the new laws are not worth the paper they are
Worse still, they simply disguise the continued arrest, imprisonment and
killing of Falun Gong practitioners which continue to the present day.
For those of us who are not culturally or ethnically Chinese, we
nonetheless feel an obligation to stand alongside our Chinese brothers
and sisters, and demand an end to this terrible persecution.