Speech by Ms Mary Lawlor [Head of Irish NGO}

It seems rather unreal to be standing here knowing that on the other side of the world Zhao Ming, who should be here, has been detained and tortured for being involved in such a gentle peaceful movement as Falun Gong. It seems so unreal that Zhao Ming went home for holidays and ended up under house arrest. It seems so unreal to imagine him now in a Labour Camp where according to reports he was unable to walk normally for two weeks after vicious beatings. It seems so unreal to imagine him forced to sit in a basin, shoved under bed whereupon his torturers sat on the bed to cause more pain. And all this because he has the audacity to believe in Falun Gong.

I am always stunned by the bravery of human rights defenders who assert the rights of their fellow citizens as proclaimed in the Universal Declarations of the Human rights.
Zhao Ming has the right to article 18 – freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Article 19 – freedom of peaceful assembly and association. He has a right to article 5 – no one shall be tortured or subjected to cruel inhuman or degrading treatment. China, continues to violate his rights – the very rights that we, as we stand here are experiencing and taking for granted. China as a member of the UN adopted the UDHR.

When I read that Zhao Ming broke house arrest to attend a rally in Tiananmen square, it brought back to me all the emotions I felt as I stepped over barriers into Tiananmen Square some years ago knowing that the tanks had rolled in crushing the students, their tents and bicycles to death in the 1989 pro-democracy movement. Thousands were killed, injured and arrested and many of them are still not accounted for – many of them are still in prison, their youth and dreams destroyed by a brutal government. As I walked through the square I wondered whether this was a spot where a young person had been crushed. Unlike Zhao Ming, I was not brave enough to demonstrate in Tiananmen even though I was a foreigner – my excuse to myself was that we’d all be expelled from the conference and it was more productive to be there. Zhao Ming would have known the risk he took in attending a rally in Tiananmen and yet he was willing to risk it.

Last March in the UNCHR China successfully avoided scrutiny of its human rights record. Having been there, it is clear that the Chinese government will go to any lengths to escape censure and public humiliation. So let us say out loud and clear to the Chinese government: you cannot hide – wherever you go and wherever you are the truth will be known.
It matters to us here that the Chinese government systematically violates the universal human rights of its citizens. We condemn the wide-ranging crack down on peaceful dissent in China in which thousands people have been arbitrarily detained for peacefully expressing their rights to freedom on expression, association and religion. We condemn the unfair trials, which are nothing but shames. We condemn the widespread inhuman barbaric torture. We condemn the rush to executions. We condemn the harsh repression of the Tibetan people and the Uighirs and the continuing arrests and harsh sentencing during the past years of the China Democracy party. We call on you to allow Buddhists, Christians, Muslims to exercise their internationally recognized rights of freedom of conscience, belief and peaceful assembly. We condemn the increasingly severe measure taken against Falun Gong members.

We call on the Irish government to re-evaluate their approach to the EU-China Human Rights dialogue, which has turned out to be a dialogue of the deaf. If it is to mean anything at all – then the Irish government must ask the embassy in Beijing to follow up on the Taoiseach’s discussion with the Chinese Premier. He must not be allowed to forget Zhao Ming now that his visit to Ireland is over. The Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs must pursue this case until Zhao Ming is released.

It is clear that the case of Zhao Ming is gathering momentum and will not go away.

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