On September 23rd, 2004, the second annual World Leaders Forum held a special panel discussion at Columbia University on the topic of how to eliminate violence and discrimination against women. The panel was composed of female world leaders, including former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Minister of Foreign Affairs Kristina Ojuland from the Estonian Republic, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ilinka Mitreva from the Republic of Macedonia, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Dodo Aichatou Mindaoudou from the Republic of Niger.
After each of the foreign ministers presented her opinions on how to protect the rights of women, Ms Albright moderated the discussion and answered questions from the audience. One Falun Gong practitioner asked, "When it comes to abusing women, we cannot ignore China. Ever since former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin started the persecution of Falun Gong in 1999, there have been over a thousand confirmed deaths due to the persecution. Among them, over 50 percent have been women. Many female Falun Gong practitioners have been sent to forced labour camps, some are being tortured in prisons and mental hospitals, and many of them have been raped by police. My question is; how should the world leaders take actions to help these Chinese women and stop the persecution?"
Ms Albright asked Foreign Minister Ms Ojuland from Estonia to answer the question. Ms Ojuland said that China needed to reform its system in order to correct the current situation. She went on to say that what the leaders of democratic countries around the world are able to do has only a limited effect, but they must continue to apply pressure.
After the panel discussion, a woman walked up to the practitioner and said, "Your question was excellent. I saw a Falun Gong parade in Boston, it was so touching ..." She hugged the practitioner with tears in her eyes, and kept wishing her good luck, "I'll always stand by you."
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