Item 17 (b): Human Rights Defenders
We welcome the outstanding efforts of the Special Rapporteur, Ms Hiva Jilani, which merit strong support from the Secretariat and continued cooperation with NGOs.
We may broadly say that there are two types of human rights defenders: those who choose the role and then often join NGOs specialized in the defence of human rights, and those human rights defenders who are thrust into the role due to the need for self-defence because they belong to a category of people who are suddenly cast by a government into the role of "subversives" or outcasts.
Similar to the practitioners of Falun Gong in China.
The Falun Gong practise a series of Qigong exercises which facilitate the circulation of energy throughout the body. They uphold a certain number of moral principles, as in Chinese thought, the body, mind, and spirit are seen as closely linked. Falun Gong practitioners come from all walks of life and most regions of China. Many persons chose to practice Falun Gong for reasons of good health and as a guide to a better life. There is no common political position among the practitioners.
Suddenly, in July 1999, the movement was banned. Practitioners were arrested, sent to reform-through-labour camps; they lost their jobs and schooling rights. Thus, Falun Gong practitioners had to learn about the legal and human rights provisions of the Chinese legal system, the prohibitions against torture, the right to assembly and publication. They had to become human rights defenders in order to protect those arrested and tortured in violation of the Chinese legal system.
Unfortunately, repression continues and both Chinese and international human rights provisions are broken daily. The evidence of repression and torture has been brought to the Commission by Falun Gong human rights defenders.
One was Mrs Wang Yuzhi, whose testimony on arrest and torture is available. Only a few days after her speaking here to an NGO meeting, her brother and two sisters were illegally arrested in China, in retaliation, even though they were not Falun Gong practitioners. We call for their immediate release. This is a key example of the dangers faced by human rights defenders whose families become targets of repression. Thus we pay homage to their courage and we must redouble our support for human rights defenders.
Thank you Madam Chairman.
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