39th PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION
Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
The Chair (Mr. Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, CPC))
Ms. Xue Sheng (Vice-President, Federation for a Democratic China):
Ladies and gentlemen, honourable members of Parliament, first of all, I would like to thank the subcommittee for inviting me here.
My name is Sheng Xue, and I am vice-president of the Federation for a Democratic China, which was established by those who fled China after the Tiananmen Square massacre and other pro-democracy dissidents outside China. It is headquartered in Germany now, with more than 20 branches across the world, including Canada. Some of our members, including those from the Toronto area, are at the moment joining the rally on Parliament Hill to give our support to Prime Minister Harper for his courageous efforts regarding human rights in China.
The official bilateral Sino-Canada human rights dialogue has been going on for nearly ten years. Throughout this period the Chinese government has learned to be more cunning in its response to the international community's concerns and the criticism about its human rights record. They are at the moment hosting a large-scale Human Rights in China exhibition. This so-called “let the whole world witness the new development of China's human rights cause” is in fact a sham.
What is really going on? I am going to describe a few cases that are related to me directly. In the spring of 2004, in preparation for the memorial service for the 15th anniversary of the June 4 massacre, I e-mailed some pro-democracy friends around the world asking whether we should use the opportunity to try to visit China, since we had been barred from visiting China for 15 years. Soon after my e-mail, the newspaper office in Shanxi province, where the writer Shi Tao was working, issued a notice from China's central government that stated that pro-democracy elements of foreign countries should be strictly prevented from entering China during the 15th anniversary of the June 4 movement. After learning this, Shi Tao e-mailed the information to a friend in New York through Yahoo.
Shi Tao was then arrested and sentenced to ten years in prison on charges of leaking state secrets. One e-mail message landed him ten years in prison. This case makes me very sad, because I was the one who initiated the discussion of entering China. This is a picture of Shi Tao. He married just one year before he was arrested. His wife was forced to divorce him.
Another case is about Zhang Lin. He graduated from Tsinghua University, China's most prestigious university in the field of science and technology. Because of his pro-democracy activities, Zhang Lin was given a prison sentence for three years followed by two years in a forced labour camp. He came to the United States in 1997, but in 1998 he decided to return to China to continue implementing his vision. Because of his dream for a better China, he was sentenced to three years again of re-education through labour right after he entered China.
Last February, I sent him an e-mail invitation to join the memorial service committee for Zhao Ziyang, the former general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party who was ousted and put in house arrest for fifteen years for sympathizing with the June 4 student movement. Zhang Lin readily accepted. He was then stopped by police on the way to the home of Zhao Ziyang in Beijing to offer condolences. He was arrested at the train station on his way home. He has totally lost his freedom. On July 28, 2005, last year, he was sentenced to five years' imprisonment, a jail term even longer than before, on charges of inciting subversion of state power.
This was Zhang Lin with his wife and two-year-old daughter.
Mr. Jason Kenney had an experience when he was in Beijing where he was stopped by plainclothes police.
Finally I'd like to mention Yang Tianshui. He was a freelance writer who had already served a ten-year prison sentence between 1990 and 2000 for counter-revolutionary crimes. As a dissident in cyber space, he was sentenced in May 2006 to twelve years in prison for subversion of state power. The trial was rushed through in three hours. So he got an even longer sentence for the same reason.
Among the thirteen items of the so-called proof of guilt, two of them are related to me. First, a 500-euro donation for his lawyer's fee that I collected for him was labelled by the court as a fund to subvert the government. Second, my invitation to him to join the memorial service for Zhao Ziyang was defined as an anti-government crime.
Reports by Reporters Without Borders have shown that each and every year the Chinese regime has arrested and jailed more journalists and writers than any other country in the world. Hardly anyone who dares to advocate democracy or establish an organization based on this work can escape the fate of persecution.
In conclusion, I believe that in the past ten years there has been no progress in the improvement of human rights in China. The official bilateral human rights dialogue between China and Canada has not been helpful. Therefore, we call upon the Canadian government to suspend the closed-door human rights dialogue with the Chinese government and replace it with a more effective approach.
Second, if talks must continue, the Canadian government should invite non-governmental organizations, such as the Federation for a Democratic China, Canada, to participate.
Third, we call upon the Canadian government to develop a structure that will help organize and finance the human rights dialogue between non-governmental organizations in Canada and China.
Thank you very much.
Ms. Xue Sheng:
Of course, dialogue is very important, but dialogue is not just talking to each other; there are lots of other ways to have dialogue.
As I mentioned in my presentation, the Chinese government is holding a big human rights exhibition that the Chinese media are calling the biggest human rights exhibition in the world. It is the first one held by the state. Of course, the Chinese government has learned to be smarter on human rights issues. The Chinese government knows how to educate its own people to be proud of the human rights situation in China. But Chinese citizens don't have much information about the real human rights situation in the world. I think we need to do this, and in three parts: Canadian society, the Chinese Canadian society here, and the Chinese society in China.
We have a million Chinese people here in Canada. When Prime Minister Harper raised the human rights situation in China, I don't think every Chinese person here was happy about that. To me that's very funny, because why are we here? Why did we come to Canada?
We had a rally in Toronto yesterday, and I spoke to the crowd in the street. A lot of people were yelling at us, “Hey, you are here. Why are you saying something good about Harper? Aren't you Chinese?” I said, “Ask yourself why you are here, why you are in Canada.” It was pretty strange.
The Chinese community here is frightened by the Chinese government, even though they are in Canada. I think the Canadian government should invest in the Chinese community here in Canada, to educate them and let them know, to protect them and make them safe. A lot of Chinese organizations or social groups are very close to the consulate and to the embassy. Why is that? It's not because they don't understand the values, or they don't trust or agree with the values; it's just because they are so frightened. They know that the Chinese government is so brutal they could do anything.