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Rights Group Speaks Out In Beijing

Amnesty International criticized China’s human rights record Tuesday. So what’s new?

The venue. This attack was mounted in the Chinese capital, marking the first time the worldwide human rights organization has been allowed to operate above-ground in China.

Having its human rights record scrutinized on its own soil is the price China must pay for the honor of holding the U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. Amnesty International, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has an official tie to the United Nations, and China had little choice but to let its campaigners enter the country.

Criticism can be expected from other human rights groups during the Sept. 4-15 conference, notably Human Rights Watch and Human Rights in China, but no one has hinted just how bold they will be.

Amnesty International is a longtime critic of the Chinese government, and it went straight on the offensive Tuesday. Secretary General Pierre Sane cited the arrest and harassment of dissidents and churchgoers, and the execution of up to 16 criminals in a pre-conference cleanup of the capital.

“We have heard virtually every excuse from governments to justify human rights violations, but this is simply unbelievable. To welcome the world to Beijing, must people die?” he asked.

“Sitting here in the capital of a country whose government has a grave human rights record, we cannot be silent.”

China and other authoritarian Asian governments maintain that some human rights, like freedom from hunger, are more important than the kind of individual rights advocated by London-based Amnesty International.

Sane said: “You don’t have necessarily to torture people in order to feed them. … You cannot just pick and choose in the universal human rights those that really fit your own political agenda.”


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