Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tiananmen Square Student Leader Captured

Tiananmen Square Student Leader Captured
CSN demands the immediate release of Zhou Yongjun

April 16, 2009 (CSN) -- From the China Support Network, I can tell my readers of a student leader at the Tiananmen Square uprising of 1989. His name is Majer Zhou (pronounce Major Joe) -- or if you are Chinese, his name is Zhou Yongjun (pronounce Joe Young Gin). He has been captured on a return visit to China, and is now the latest case of a Chinese political prisoner for whom we must demand freedom.

He has been living in the United States and has been an enthusiastic ally of the China Support Network. He spent some time being the North American Director of the Free China Movement. And, he has been a leading proponent of Chinese democracy from the days of Tiananmen Square to the present.

When university students rose up in Tiananmen Square, he led the first student march into the square -- that got the action started in the first place. Then he was the first leader elected by students in the Association of Student Unions of Beijing Universities -- the ad hoc group that was formed spontaneously to represent the student takeover of Tianamen Square.

Elected there, he was a spokesman of the students; and, he appeared in a famous scene during the state funeral of ousted (reform minded) Chinese leader Hu Yaobang. The scene is of students kneeling on the steps of the Great Hall of the People, as if waiting for the emperor to emerge and receive their scroll. Zhou was one of three students kneeling with a petition to Chinese Premier Li Peng.

One can read about Zhou in books about Tiananmen Square's 'June 4' movement. Now, on the eve of the 20th anniversary of June 4, 1989, we regret to report that such a blue chip student leader has again been captured in China.

This is his third stint as a political prisoner in China. He was jailed immediately after Tiananmen's 1989 atrocities, then released in 1991. He made his way to the United States to live the life of enforced exile that awaits many Chinese dissidents. In 1998, he attempted a return to China. That is when he was picked up by the authorities and sentenced to three years in a labor camp. In 2001, he was released nine months early, as a government gesture to win favor with the International Olympic Committee.

For the past half year, this has been the "rumored disappearance" of Majer Zhou. The China Support Network (CSN) is now confirming the story ahead of the newswires and the Chinese government. Mr. Zhou is being held at a prison in Shenzhen, as the CSN is learning from multiple sources.

In English, the only earlier report was on Dec. 19, 2008 when the China Aid Association (CAA) reported that Zhou was arrested on Sept. 30, and that authorities first charged him with "espionage," then changed the charge to "financial fraud." If true, the government undermined its credibility by changing its story. With his renown from Tiananmen Square, Zhou is certainly a political prisoner.

The China Support Network calls upon the government of China to immediately release 'Majer' Zhou Yongjun. Absent that, he is a natural high profile case, and we will surely press for his release during the upcoming 20th anniversary of the June 4 massacre. June 4 is a high profile time of the year in the cause of Chinese democracy. Inevitably, his case will soon come to world attention.

Monday, April 13, 2009

National Human Rights Action Plan of China fails to impress

'National Human Rights Action Plan'
Fails to Impress the China Support Network

April 13, 2009 (CSN) -- The State Council (cabinet) of China today released its National Human Rights Action Plan of China for 2009-2010. The Chinese government appears to be responding to the United Nations, which had challenged China to create a national human rights action plan. The China Support Network was reached for comment by a reporter for the People's Daily, and we have decided to make a public statement that encapsulates our response.

The report seems to be half humorous and half serious. It begins with self-congratulation for the Chinese Communist Party. Perhaps the CCP wants to fool the world into believing that it is "great, glorious, and correct" about human rights, while in fact the CCP has been the world's biggest human rights abuser. Can you imagine a man with a criminal record of 80 million burglaries, saying "Okay. I'm not going to burglarize any more." The government of China deserves the same amount of credibility that we would ascribe to the recidivist burglar in this analogy.

In that light, the report's first three sentences are sheer comedy:

"The realization of human rights in the broadest sense has been a long-cherished ideal of mankind and also a long-pursued goal of the Chinese government and people. Since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, the Chinese government, combining the universal principles of human rights and the concrete realities of China, has made unremitting efforts to promote and safeguard human rights. Hence, the fate of the Chinese people has changed fundamentally, and China has achieved historic development in its efforts to safeguard human rights."

This is the sound of government propaganda. However, the report turns serious as its third paragraph concludes: "China still confronts many challenges and has a long road ahead in its efforts to improve its human rights situation." Clearly, the report has more than one author, and at least one has his feet on the ground, and is doing his writing from the planet Earth.

Yes, in fact. China still has a long road ahead of it to emerge from its human rights hell-on-earth. The English version of the report is posted in 26 web pages by Xinhua, the state-run news agency.

What the report tells us is that Chinese authorities are learning to "talk the talk" of human rights. The bulk of the report is a review of the actual areas in which China has problems. Section 1 speaks of economic, social, and cultural rights. Section 2 speaks of civil and political rights. Section 3 mentions ethnic minorities, women, children, elderly people, and the disabled. Section 4 promises more education on human rights. Section 5 might be summarized, "We've done our homework."

The actual title of Section 5 is "Performing International Human Rights Duties, and Conducting Exchanges and Cooperation in the Field of International Human Rights." However, it reads like a student making a list of all of his school homework assignments completed. China has been submitting many reports to many international panels, and this section of the report makes China seem to be very fastidious, "crossing its t's and dotting its i's."

In this report, the high minded words are laudable. But, the China Support Network finds this immediate problem: the report is words, not actions. As noted above, Chinese authorities have learned to "talk the talk" of human rights. This is not the same thing as "walking the walk."

The Chinese government would not publish its "first working plan on human rights protection" unless leaders at the highest levels feel that it is imperative to do so. Economic conditions, social unrest, and Charter 08 (a renewed democratic movement) are the factors which make the high leaders feel "pushed into a corner." In fact, if the government cannot guarantee a growing economy, then it needs new legitimacy in the eyes of its citizens.

The party line has been that "China is successful because of our growing economy." The party leaders did not say, "China is successful because we are improving human rights." Now, the new working plan may does a splendid job of moving rhetoric around, but rhetoric is rhetoric -- words and not actions. The party leaders may have a new story: "We are improving human rights."

Before reporting that story uncritically, I hope that Western news organizations will check the facts on the ground. The China Support Network wants China to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. The human rights community will rightly have skepticism, if not suspicion, of this report. That is because we know that three factors: the falling economy, social unrest, and Charter 08 -- are eroding the last legitimacy of the CCP. The party leaders needed a new story line -- an excuse to rule, and a way to placate the people.

First, they raised expectations about economic growth and now they cannot deliver on those promises. Now, they are raising expectations about human rights, but when the promises are not kept the people will be very angry. Accordingly, the China Support Network calls upon the leaders of China to take the following actions to match their words:

1.) Unblock internet access to overseas human rights web sites, including Tibetan and Falun Gong web sites.

2.) Abolish Laogai and Laojiao systems (reform through labor camps and administrative detention).

3.) Respect the rights of the Dalai Lama as a resident of Tibet. Allow him to return.

4.) Free Wang Bingzhang, Peng Ming, and Zhou Yongjun. They were exiles; now, allow them to live in China and welcome ALL of the exiles home.

5.) Free Gao Zhisheng, Liu Xiaobo, and founders of the China Democracy Party.

6.) Free all related prisoners of conscience from, and apologize to, the following groups: the Dalai Lama and the Tibetans, June 4 victims, Uighur Muslims, and Falun Gong.

If the six steps above are performed, then we can herald a breakthrough on human rights. The new report from China's State Council, if not accompanied by decisive action, is not a breakthrough on human rights.

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