Fri, Jun 03, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Berlin panel criticizes rights abuses

FREEDOM BEFORE PROFIT German politicians, rights groups and activists warned that economics alone could not provide China with a blueprint for progress


On the eve of the 16th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, exiled Chinese pro-democracy activists joined human-rights groups in Germany to urge the EU not to lift its arms embargo against China because of the scant respect the country affords human rights.

During a panel discussion titled "China and Taiwan: Where does this road lead?" held on Monday in Berlin, participants expressed concern about the emphasis many countries are placing on economic ties with China at the expense of political and social freedoms.

"You cannot work with China without dealing with human-rights issues first. If China still fails to know the true value of democracy, the country has no future at all," German parliamentarian Walter Link said.

Former German parliamentarian Rainer Funke said that since the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989, the abuse of human rights in China had become intolerable to Western nations. He said that in China, mistreatment in jails continues, the number of death penalties remains very high, followers of religious beliefs are persecuted and there is still no freedom of speech.

"In March, China again made the rest of the world worry about its diplomatic policy toward Taiwan after [passing the] `Anti-Secession' Law. I think Germany will not allow the lifting of the arms embargo because it will be a sign to encourage a war," Funke said.

Exiled Chinese pro-democracy activist Wei Jingsheng (魏京生) said that most Chinese people had been misled by fanatical nationalists in regard to Taiwan.

"Chinese people know little about the outside world and how other people are thinking. This can be attributed to the Chinese government's strict media controls," he said.

Wei said that the death of the Chinese Communist Party would be the beginning of the solution for a diverse range of problems besetting the country.

"If the political system doesn't change, even non-sensitive environmental protection problems in China cannot be solved," Wei said.

Taiwan's representative to Germany, Shieh Jhy-wey (謝志偉), said that the Tiananmen students had only asked for basic human rights but received no positive response.

"No democracy, no peace. We Taiwanese people know this well because we've fought for these rights for decades," Shieh said.

Meanwhile, the Frankfurt-based International Society of Human Rights yesterday held a press conference in Berlin to spotlight the UN "giving in" to pressure from China over its refusal to issue passes to Taiwanese journalists covering the World Health Assembly last month.

Spokesman Martin Lessenthin said that most German journalists would not accept Chinese interference with press freedom.

"We will continue working with human-rights activists to condemn the Chinese government on the issue," Lessenthin said.

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