OTTAWA—The Chinese communist regime today released a national human rights action plan for the next two years that has met with scepticism from Canadian rights activists.
The 54-page document promised rights for detainees, lawyers, journalists, religious believers, ethnic minorities, and others.
At the same time, it emphasized “priority to the protection of the people’s rights to subsistence and development, such as the rights to employment, education, medical and old-age care and housing,” according to the Xinhua News Agency, which reports to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
David Kilgour, former Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific, noted that as long as the communist party rules in China, you cannot have respect for rights and freedoms individuals and for freedoms such as of assembly, speech, and religion.
“Since 1949 the party has been doing its utmost to destroy all of those [rights and freedoms]—what we take for granted in rule-of-law countries. The two are totally opposed.”
“This could be called ‘whitewashing.’” said Dermod Travis, executive director of the Canada Tibet Committee.
“We’ve seen in the past from China a tendency to put forward great words that they fail miserably at living up to. We certainly saw this with the commitments that they made to the IOC in order to win the Olympic Games in 2008.”
China pledged to uphold the Olympic ideals of peace and dignity for humankind. But instead of fulfilling its promise to improve human rights, the country plunged into deterioration regarding people’s rights and freedoms, as reported by media and rights organizations worldwide.
While the action plan spoke to “detainees’ rights and humanitarian treatment” and prohibition against torture and illegal detention, Mr. Kilgour pointed to the torture of Chinese human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng.
The Nobel Peace Prize nominee, who has been called “the conscience of China” for his tireless defence of the disadvantaged and oppressed, was tortured for more than 50 days by Chinese authorities in 2007.
The torture occurred when he was abducted after writing an open letter to the U.S. Congress denouncing the state of human rights in China in the run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Mr. Gao was again taken from his home in Shaanxi province by more than ten security agents on February 4. His current whereabouts remain unknown amidst mounting fears for his safety.
Mr. Travis sees nothing “standing out” in the action plan about the rights to a fair or open trial and the rights to legal counsel, religious freedom, and peaceful assembly.
It’s also “tragic” that just last week, two Tibetans were sentenced to death for their alleged roles in last year’s uprising.
“Last year when a number of Chinese lawyers volunteered to defend Tibetans from charges arising from the uprising, it became abundantly clear that the government of China would not permit them to defend the Tibetans. And they had to withdraw from the cases,” he said.
People will be looking at what the Chinese regime does, rather than what it says, Mr. Kilgour said.
Mr. Travis agreed. “The proof is going to be in the pudding, and every pudding that China has produced to date has demonstrated its failure to live up to its own goals,” he said.
China has approximately 340 labour camps where an estimated 250,000 prisoners are held to engage in forced labour in “terrible conditions, half of whom are estimated to be Falun Gong practitioners,” said Mr. Kilgour.
“You cannot put out a 50-page statement like that and have any credibility if you’re going to keep these forced labour camps open,” he said.
“Those camps are perhaps the most blatant example of the fact there is no rule of law in China, because you can be sent to these camps without any trial or any proceeding for up to four years.”
International Trade Minister Stockwell Day is currently on a trade mission in China.
Mr. Travis said that, while the minister has indicated he plans to address human rights issues in China, “what we’re also looking for is actually to see progress on these issues.”