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SDC Contributes to Amnesty International Event
Chants of "Human Rights in China" and "Democracy in China" echoed across the UC Berkeley campus on a recent warm Saturday afternoon, as members of Support Democracy in China (SDC) and Amnesty International (AI) held a successful rally titled "A March Against Repression in China". The march, attended by over 100 high school, was part of AI's April 27 Day of activism, a day of workshops for high school AI groups. While most of the attendees came from the San Francisco Bay Area, some came as far away as Washington State and San Diego.
Marchers signed postcards asking for the immediate release of Wei Jingsheng, the much publicized Chinese prisoner of conscience, and Tong Yi, his assistant and translator. Tong Yi is also a prisoner of conscience serving a sentence of two and a half years of "re-education through labor" without being charged or tried. The three mile march snaked through the UC Berkeley campus, down busy Telegraph Avenue to the Berkeley main post office where the postcards were mailed to Chinese government leaders.
Michelle Cheng, co-founder and former SDC chairperson, was one of the featured guest speakers. "Michelle's speech focusing on the Free Harry Wu Campaign was very educational for the students," said Sunil Gupta, student program coordinator of the AIUSA Western Region. "She gave a good example of how letter writing, rallies, marches and other campaign techniques work and can be applied to cases today."
Susan Sharfman, executive director of SDC, and Chuck Lau, co-founder of SDC, led brainstorming sessions focusing on the same themes presented in Cheng's speech of how the tactics used in the Free Harry Wu Campaign could be used to free Prisoners of Conscience in China today.
The plans of action from the student brainstorming sessions ranged from holding bake sale on campus to raise funds and increase student AI membership, to fasting at lunch to publicize the plight of prisoners and sending Internet chain letters.
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Carol Bridgewater did not have any Chinese friends prior to June 4, 1989, but now she has many. Some are acquainted with her personally, while some know her from her musical composition -"Freedom's Light" .
"Freedom's Light" was written within a month after the Tiananmen Massacre. When asked why an ordinary American sings praises for the Chinese students' democratic movement, Carol said that she has always cared about social issues: abused children, violation of women's rights, and deprivation of human rights. These issues all caused her to react from her strong sense of justice. "I am not a politician, and everything I am interested in and react to are based on my instincts as a 'human being'."
With a Ph.D. in psychology, Carol is a marketing consultant by profession, but her first love is music. She plays the piano, the guitar, and she writes songs and sings. "I use my remuneration from work to support my amateur music creations." Ten years ago, Carol founded the not-for-profit "Heart Connection" tape company to record music that she creates.
"My music is mostly based upon serious social issues, usually having to do with the world news reported on television." As a woman, a mother, and especially as a "human being", she often has instinctive impulses: "I have things to say, but my mode of speaking is through music." The more than twenty songs that she has written are all about serious current affairs, except for one written to her husband at her marriage. They include songs devoted to children suffering from AIDS, the people in the ex-USSR who suffer from the effects of radiation from the nuclear power station disaster, and the suffering of the people brought about by wars all over the world.
"I still remember June 4, 1989. I saw on television the students at Tiananmen Square being suppressed by the PLA with their tanks and machine guns. The scene of blood and fire intensively shocked me." When Carol talks about what happened seven years ago, she is still emotional. She had been watching television during that time, following the progress of the students' movement at Tiananmen Square, and she lamented the high price the students in China had to pay to strive for democracy. The guns of Tiananmen made it impossible for her to ignore what was happening, and in two or three days, she wrote a poem "Freedom's Light". A Bay Area Chinese student translated it into Chinese, and both the English and Chinese versions were faxed to Beijing. The poem exhorts the students with the words - "Freedom's day will come". Subsequently, Carol set the poem to music, and she sings it herself in English and Armenian. She asks other people to sing it in Chinese, and she has recorded them in tapes and sent them gratis to radio stations, and friends in the democratic movement. Carol's company does not distribute those tapes. She has recorded her creation in order that the work can be legally used. The station "Voice of China" in the East Bay plays "Freedom's Light" every year around June 4, and every year when Chinese democracy activists hold their candlelight vigils for Tiananmen, she sings her song again. On June 4, 1992, Carol was then nine months pregnant, and her son was born two weeks after. At the United Nations World Human Rights conference held in Vienna in 1993, Carol compiled five songs including "Freedom's Light", and sent the tapes to every delegate at the conference to take back to their own countriey.
She wrote those songs on socially sensitive subjects firstly to encourage those who fight for freedom, democracy and human rights in all countries in the world, and secondly, to remind the American people to treasure the democratic rights and free environment that they now possess, so that they will look further and to support all the people in this world who fight for the truth.
On June 4th, 1996 Carol again sang "Freedom's Light" at the candle vigil in front of the PRC consulate, to express the feelings of grief for the victims of the June 4 Tiananmen Massacre.
For the 6th year in a row, the Chinese government avoided condemnation of its human rights record at a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva. On April 23, the Commission voted 27 to 20 with 6 abstentions to take no action on the China resolution after a two hour debate. The resolution, which was sponsored by the European Union and the United States, was mildly critical of China even though human rights groups had provided the Commission members with detailed information on human rights in China.
Human Rights in China (HRiC), cites two principal factors to account for this result. "Since last year's Commission session, when a resolution on China was defeated by only one vote, Beijing has devoted substantial economic and diplomatic resources to lobbying Commission members. In contrast to 1995, the resolution's sponsors this year employed significantly less effort in lobbying for its passage. Only in the third week of the session was it clear that the sponsors had decided to support a China resolution at all," HRiC said in a press release after the vote. "The treatment of dissidents is a crucial barometer for the enjoyment by all Chinese citizens of the basic rights such as freedom of expressions and association. Therefore the decision to take no action on this deterioration of China's treatment of peaceful human rights and democracy activists is a serious blow to the credibility of the Commission as the highest governmental body on human rights." said Xiao Qiang, executive director of HRiC, who attended the Geneva session.
Amnesty International also sharply criticized the UN Human Rights Agency saying that member states are placing economic interests ahead of justice in allowing China and other countries to escape reproach. Amnesty singled out the EU, especially France and Germany, for allowing the prospect of lucrative trade deals to weaken its resolve to condemn China's human rights record. "Trade contracts worth millions of dollars are determining the European Union's policy on human rights in China. With promises of increased trade, China successfully derailed Europe's supposed committment to human rights." AI's statement said.
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