Thursday, August 7, 2008

Voices for the Voiceless

The Chinese authorities have arrested British and American activists for demonstrating in support of human rights, ahead of the opening of the Beijing Olympics tomorrow. Among the activists detained by police were three Americans who protested in Tiananmen Square against the country's repressive population policy and the persecution of religious groups. They said in a statement:

"Today we stand as a bold and prophetic witness against the tyranny and brutality by the Chinese government against their own people. As the Summer Olympics are being celebrated, millions of Christians and those with other faith traditions are routinely oppressed, tortured and jailed by Chinese officials. It is a privilege and honor to be able to stand with those who are persecuted.

"China also promotes the barbaric practice of forced abortion and sterilization, while those who speak out against human rights abuses by the Chinese government are crushed and trampled. And, the peaceful citizens of Tibet have been brutalized by Chinese leaders."

As they held their banner, they called out: "End the brutality. To those who are forced to go through forced abortions and have no voice, we are your voice."

I commend the courage of these people in drawing the world's attention to an atrocity the West continues to support. In London and Sydney, Australia, groups of young people are to hold silent demonstrations outside the Chinese Embassy in these cities. They are calling for an end to human rights abuses in the name of the one-child policy and stand in solidarity with those who face torture and imprisonment for daring to criticise the Chinese authorities.

As Fiorella Nash, the co-ordinator of the London event said: "As a mother, it is incredible to me that any government regards itself as having a right to prevent women from having children. Many people I have spoken to about this subject, including women who would regard themselves as feminists, shrug their shoulders as if it isn't that important. I wonder if people would be so accepting of such an abuse if it were going on in England? Would people still shrug their shoulders and refuse to comment if, during my second pregnancy, my husband had been told he would be thrown out of Cambridge University if I didn't abort, or if I had been forcibly detained at Addenbrooke's hospital during an ante-natal check and woken up from the sedation to find my baby had been killed and I had been sterilised? Reproductive rights just aren't that important when the woman actually wants to have a baby. The hypocrisy is disgraceful."

The protest in London will be held tomorrow between 2pm and 8pm.