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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Speak out on Falun Gong, PM urged

Harper not afraid to raise issue, says spokeswoman

Mike de Souza, CanWest News Service

The Province: Published: Thursday, August 30, 2007

OTTAWA -- A coalition of MPs, human-rights activists and protesters converged on Parliament Hill yesterday to urge Prime Minister Stephen Harper to confront his Chinese counterpart about the alleged torture of Falun Gong practitioners.

The prime minister and Premier Wen Jiabao meet next week at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in Sydney, Australia.

The Falun Gong supporters urged the prime minister to raise their concerns at the conference.

Falun Gong protesters line the sidewalk outside the Chinese Consulate on Granville Street in Vancouver. The organization, which claims to have 100 million practitioners worldwide, is banned in China and there have been accusations that its members have been tortured in prison and others executed and their organs sold. Various human-rights groups and western governments have condemned China for the alleged abuses.View Larger Image View Larger Image

Falun Gong protesters line the sidewalk outside the Chinese Consulate on Granville Street in Vancouver. The organization, which claims to have 100 million practitioners worldwide, is banned in China and there have been accusations that its members have been tortured in prison and others executed and their organs sold. Various human-rights groups and western governments have condemned China for the alleged abuses.

Jon Murray, The Province

A small group staged a news conference with NDP MP Wayne Marston and Amnesty International. They told stories about Canadians who have relatives in China who have been persecuted, drugged, brainwashed and tortured because of their beliefs.

They said that in many cases, the people who were allegedly targeted spent years in prisons, losing their possessions and, in some cases, their memories of the past.

A spokeswoman for Harper said the prime minister wouldn't be afraid to raise the issue.

"Wherever he goes, he always has a balanced discussion with world leaders on human rights as well as democracy, rule of law, freedom and the economies that we're working with," said Sandra Buckler.

Meanwhile, Canadian officials are hoping that Harper can help broker a breakthrough in global negotiations on climate change at the summit.

The officials said the issue, along with trade and human rights, was likely to be raised at the meeting of the 21-member group from the Pacific Rim.

"On climate change and energy, the APEC meeting offers us an important forum in which to engage a range of countries," said one official.

With important players such as China, the U.S. and Russia at the table, the officials said the meeting could bring the world one step closer to getting firm commitments required for future negotiations.

But environmentalists have criticized an early draft version of the APEC leaders' statement on climate change because it talks about achieving long-term "aspirational goals" instead of committing to a new global pact to succeed the international Kyoto agreement with mandatory reductions in the greenhouse- gas emissions that are linked to global warming.

"We need countries to start putting hard commitments on the table as well as commitments to a process that would lead to a real UN-led continuation of Kyoto after 2012," said Dale Marshall, a climate-change policy analyst at the David Suzuki Foundation.

"There's been lots of talk and lots of meetings, and the last thing we need is one more where nothing gets resolved and it's just a discussion."

Following the summit, Harper heads to the Australian capital of Canberra for bilateral meetings with Prime Minister John Howard and to address Parliament.

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