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Failure to address human rights in China-apathy or ignorance?

With the days drawing nearer to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, why are we silent?
The vague disappointment I first felt when combing indymedia for events boycotting the 2008 Olympics has grown into shock and dismay. In an area as outspoken as Portland (once dubbed "little Beirut" by Bush sr. due to our protests) I am apalled by the lack of interest and effort toward the human rights situation in China. China is a massive world superpower growing ever stronger with America's support and to not dissent, to not say anything is wrong! The human rights violations committed in China are horrendous and as dictated by U.N. charter, entirely unacceptable. We can not remain silent when there are poeple being tortured and murdered by the Chinese government, people that are only asking for the same basic rights we take for granted in our country, people who can not speak up for fear of severe consequence. Do we not have an obligation to speak on their behalf? Do we not have good cause to tell our own government that we do not want our American dollars invested in a country responsible for the oppression of billions? China's disregard for human rights extends beyond the current situation in China and Tibet. It also affects the situations in Darfur and Burma and has a deep impact on the world community as a whole. Our apathy and non-action is a silent endorsement of these atrocities. I have lived here long enough to know Portland has a conscience and I am pleading with it now. Please don't let the opportunity pass, say something! Tell the world the citizens of Portland do not accept the treatment of the people suffering at the hands of China.

Join the movement today:

hmmm 07.Jul.2008 22:25


I don't see why we should focus on China when we have not yet addressed the horrendous human rights violations in our own country. In fact, focusing on China is a way to avoid our real challenge, which is ourselves.

I'm inclined to agree 08.Jul.2008 00:48


As long as the human rights abuses of the US government far exceed China in number and scope I'd rather put my efforts toward addressing the problems with my government. US residents criticizing China can only be seen as hypocritical, and therefore be easily dismissed. Plus, to truly effect change with regard to humans rights people have to lead by example. The people of the US demonstrate how little they care about human rights abuses from their own government, why would the Chinese citizens or government care what we have to say on the matter?

nobody's DOING anything ... about CHINA 08.Jul.2008 10:27

so tell us what to do smart guy

Well well well, another passive consumer-of-activism strolls by indymedia to complain that Other People aren't organizing his campaigns for him and publishing his rants before he even has to bother to write them.

Human Rights 08.Jul.2008 10:56

Lew Church, PSU Progressive Student Union lewchurch@gmail.com

PSU Progressive Student Union did coordinate our PSU Conference on Darfur, Sudan and Genocide, in the Multicultural Center, with 12 workshops and speakers Mohamed Yahya (from Darfur) and Ruth Messinger (from NYC), with little/no media coverage. We had 52 planning meetings, 2x week for 6 months to plan this conference.

In terms of organizing on Darfur (and human rights in Burma, Colombia, Iraq, US, China, etc.), there is little access to mainstream media in Portland, and not everything sent to Portland Indymedia gets published either, actually.

In terms of China and Darfur specifically, and the Olympics protests, in August:

--Bush says he is going to opening ceremonies in Beijing so as not to 'insult' the Chinese people.

--some national NGOs on Darfur have not urged a boycott of the Olympics, but have urged letter writing to US and Chinese officials re Chinese oil contracts (PetroChina) with Sudan. Other Darfur NGO activists have targeted five financial investment houses, for those rich enough to own stocks, to divest, to protest those company investments in PetroChina, including UBS, Fidelity Financial, Berkshire Hathaway, etc.

--however, some student activists tend to agree with the two comments above, that simply "blaming China" on Darfur, in particular, doesn't really seem either ethical (re US foreign policy abroad) or effective (actually stopping the violence in Darfur -- too much of a Tinkers-to-Evers-to-Chance boomerang 'strategy').

--Mia Farrow, who has visited Darfur nine times, has urged concerned activists on the Left, in the middle, and otherwise, to switch to Pepsi from Coke, as Coca-Cola (with McDonalds) is one of the US corporate sponsors of the Olympic games. At PSU, we support alternative, local drinks, and three students activists have met with three university officials to try to get Coke-Odwalla kicked off the PSU campus. We have brought three speakers from SINALTRAINLAL, the food and beverage worker union in Colombia, to talk about the international Coke Boycott for human rights.

--Coke operates in 155 countries, including Sudan and Colombia. In Sudan, in violation of the international sanctions movement against the al-Bashir government over use of government and janjaweed militia forces against the people of Darfur, Coke operates a $150,000,000 plant -- and Coke has been fined several times for doing so, as a violation of the sanctions movement on Darfur.

--In Colombia, Coke's paramilitaries have harassed, intimidated and killed union leaders, workers and family members, to deter unionization at the Coke factories. Isidro Gil, union leader, was killed inside a Coke factory in Colombia, and, four years later, when his widow, Alcira Perez, was set to testify in the court case against Coke, she was dragged from her house and also killed.

--Several US colleges have kicked Coke off campus in support of the boycott, including Univ. of Illinois, DePaul, Rutgers, Smith, Bryn Mawr and NYU. So far, Portland State refuses to kick Coke off campus. No west coast college, so far, has, apparently.

--In India, Coke has been the target for years of a campaign to protect public drinking water. With Nestle, Coke has been involved with privatization campaigns against community drinking water in Latin America and in Asia.

--Targeted products of the Coke Boycott include: Glaceau, Minute Maid, Powerade, Coke, Tab, Sprite, Rambling Root Beer, Mello Yello, Fresca drinks. Most Coke products (which are increasingly targeted toward Third World consumers) are basically sugar water, while the bottle water market in the U.S. gets more attention from Coke marketers.

--Doug Daft, the last Coke CEO in Atlanta, made $105,000,000 in one year (2001); the current CEO, Neville Isdell, only made $23,000,000 in 2007. Isdell is set to retire in December, 2008.

--With Budweiser (Cindy McCain's fortune and Sen. McCain's source of wealth), and Miller beers, Coke has been 1 of the 3 main US corporations blocking passage in Congress of a National Bottle Bill. 10 states like Oregon have such recycling legislation, but 40 states do not.


In terms of China and human rights, the Portland Alliance recently featured a long story on Fulan Gong (religious cult that is, or isn't, being persecuted in China); China has been supporting Burma's dictatorship and Sudan's government; and, Oregon's David Wu, the only Chinese-American in Congress, voted against Bush's successful proposal that made China a 'most favored nation' re trade status.

In terms of the US and human rights, Noam Chomsky, Gore Vidal, Medea Benjamin, Michael Parenti and a host of other writers have documented US empire-building at least since WWII, in country after country, and probably since the Monroe Doctrine, specifically targeting Latin America.

The recent 'hostage rescue' in Colombia may well enable/encourage Northrup-Grummon's political supporters like Bush and McCain to push for US armed intervention in the Bolivarian region -- since there is oil in Colombia's neighbor, Venezuela, while not so much in Burma (and China has the oil contracted for already, so far, in Sudan). McCain has even said only he, and not Obama, has the needed "experience" to deal with protecting "our" (US) oil interests in Venezuela. McCain was in pro-free trade Mexico and Colombia recently (not in high unemployment states like Michigan or California), campaigning.


There is nothing wrong, per se, with targeting China on human rights. One question, however, is how to be effective? It also does seem important (if not more central) to target Bush-McCain on human rights, as well. How easy would it be for the US or the UN to remove the dictatorship in Burma, the Mugabe dictatorship in Zimbabwe, or to protect people in Darfur? Bush has said Darfur constitutes 'genocide' (the UN says it is not genocide, but a civil war), and Bush alone among 200 world leaders claims that Darfur is genocide. Mia Farrow asserts that calling Darfur genocide is one way/best way to work to solve the problem of violence there, in terms of visibility. The ICC has indited (so far) two Sudanese government officials for war crimes, over Darfur. But the ICC may not have jurisdiction over non-signatories in advancing war crimes charges against Bush-Cheney, over Iraq. (Although Manson family prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi does have a new book about 'Inditing Bush for Murder for the Bombing of Baghdad in 2003').

Targeted campaigns, as against Coke, seem to be one way to effect change for human rights and labor rights. At Portland State, Progressive Student Union's campus-community coalition succuessfully got Taco Bell kicked off campus, in support of the now successful national Taco Bell Boycott for a living wage for Florida farm workers (many of whom are from Haiti, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico). PSU, as a result, became the 9th college in the country to kick Taco Bell off campus, in support of the CIW-initiated boycott (Coalition of Immokalee Workers).

Electing Obama president may be a second way to effect change on human rights, from China to Burma to Sudan to Zimbabwe -- but, many on the activist Left are perhaps rightly conerned that Obama represents many of the same global, imperial positions that Bush-Cheney has implemented for 8 years, despite lofty rhetoric. Hopefully, these Left activists will be proven wrong by a progressive, activist, pro-human rights Obama presidency. (PSU Progressive Student Union, however, continues to organize, and we're not holding our breath re Obama, one way or the other).

A third tactic would be: building a mass-based movement, a real third party, in the US, to create a viable US global human rights foreign policy agenda. Randall Robinson, however, former TransAfrica director, writing about Bush's effective removal of the Aristide government in Haiti (in 2004, unlike Bush-Tenet-Powell's failed attempt to oust Chavez in 2002, in Venezeula) -- Robinson says he can't cite a single instance when the US has supported poor people or workers movements in Third World countries, but that the Democrats and Republicans always support profit, global capital, neoliberalism, abroad.

FDR's Good Neighbor Policy did have a better effect on people in Latin America in the 1930s than did RayGun's slash-and-burn wars in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua in the 1980s -- but neither 'approach' truly promotes human rights.

Just 'blaming China' for human rights violations does seem short-sighted, and hypocritical. While China just jumped ahead of the US as a greenhouse gas polluter (by one estimate) the US still has 5% of the world's poplulation, uses 25% of the world's energy, and spends 50% of the world's military budget to promote and expand US empire as the world's only superpower.


PO Box 40011, Portland, Oregon 97240

Whatever it takes 08.Jul.2008 14:03

M. Patton nolympicsinfo@gmail.com

I can see excuses here and little else. While it may be valid to argue that our own regard for human rights in the U.S. has slipped severely in the last 10 years or so it hardly compares to the brutality executed by the Chinese government. It is also very narrow minded to not understand how one affects the other. America supporting the Olympics being held in a place like Beijing (did we forget Tiananmen square?) is a reflection of our stance on human rights as well. This is about China, this is about Tibet, it's about Burma and Darfur AND the rest of the world as well. I have been involved in activism for quite some time and I have said plenty about civil liberties/human rights in our own country. Just a few years ago I protested outside of the FBI screaming about their spies infiltrating peaceful demonstrations. I've joined groups in petitioning our senators and congressmen to do something about the PATRIOT act and unconstitutional detainment of prisoners in gitmo. I spoke out against going to war until I was blue in the face, going to every march, demonstration and protest I possibly could. I am NOT unaware of the human rights violations in our country, believe me. While it is wrong, it does not entitle us to stay silent. In fact, it should be more a reason to do something. To show the world that while our government may choose to do business with a brutal, authoritarian entity like China, we, the people of the United States, do not. This is our chance to show that we do not accept this. It's a message to the government of China as well as our own. Don't make excuses just so you can rest easy, Portland knows better.

gr 10.Jul.2008 22:51


While it may be valid to argue that our own regard for human rights in the U.S. has slipped severely in the last 10 years or so it hardly compares to the brutality executed by the Chinese government.

What fantasy do you live in? No country is more brutal in the world today than the U.S. No country is more of a threat to launch nuclear war than the US. No country is more likely to bring about a new world war.

Even though China has 4 times the population of the US, the US has significantly more people in prison. It is the US corporations like Monsanto destroying small farmers around the globe. The US has military bases all over the world and regularly launches wars of aggression against nations no matter how far away. In the past 10 years the US has bombed 3 countries into rubble. Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq. At least a million dead in Iraq, millions more refugees. Iran is looming on the horizon. The US has dropped thousands of tons of radioactive DU munitions, poisoning countless people. Compared to the devastation wrought by the US, China is insignificant.

Focusing on China when it is this country which is the overwhelming threat to life on the planet is a form of denial and is part of the imperial arrogance that we are going to go fix other countries (when we are clueless fucks about fixing our own).