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Turner condemns Government inaction on Tibet

Turner condemns Government inaction on Tibet

UnitedFuture joins with other parties in strongly condemning the actions of the Chinese Government and the People’s Liberation Army in quelling the protests in Tibet and Southern China. The right to political protest is a crucial plank of the right to freedom of speech - to see that suppressed through violent means indicates to the world that China has a long way to go before fully deserving the respect of the international community it so desperately seeks.

At times like this, UnitedFuture would expect to join with all parties in strongly condemning the Chinese Government’s violent response to the protests in Tibet. However, it is sadly obvious that the Labour Government has bigger fish to fry than to uphold an oppressed people’s political freedoms and fundamental human rights. Worst still, it appears to the world New Zealand’s timid response has simply been bought by Chinese Yuan.

The first response of the Government was to stall, saying more information is needed. Hopefully it will blow over, they are thinking - maybe if the People’s Liberation Army can crush the dissension quickly enough we might be able to sneak over to Beijing, sign on the dotted line and still gain the plaudits for being the first country to sign a bilateral free trade agreement with China.

So, how much is it to buy New Zealand’s moral conscience? It seems to be about $2 billion over 20 years in real GDP terms if MFAT has its figures right.

New Zealand has a fine history of standing up for what we know is morally right; take the anti-apartheid movement, the anti-nuclear stance or our annual commitment to refugees. But this Government now seems reluctant to use its privileged relationship with China to express New Zealanders outrage.

While UnitedFuture does not argue that we should cut off our nose to spite our face, a Free Trade Agreement is a two-way street. At present the Government makes it seem as though China is doing us a favour, but it must be remembered that China stands to increase its GDP by US$14.7 billion through this agreement. New Zealand is thus in a strong bargaining position, stronger in fact than most other nations. It is up to this Government to strongly voice our nation’s concern.

As a proud New Zealander the very least I would expect is for the Prime Minister to summon the Chinese Ambassador and in no uncertain terms express our nation’s disappointment and disapproval. Or are we so subservient in this relationship that we cannot even do that?

UnitedFuture leader Hon Peter Dunne hosted the Dalai Lama last year, an honour made strange by the fact that the Prime Minister refused to meet with the Tibetan leader. At the time, not a lot was really made of this.

Maybe now we are truly seeing which side of the fence this Labour Government sits on. With our Government’s abdication of responsibility, it is now sadly up to individuals, in particular our athletes to voice our nation’s concerns.

While too late to question whether China should have ever been granted the Olympic Games, the upcoming event is the obvious opportunity for New Zealand along with the rest of the international community to make a stand.

The Olympic Charter states that:

“Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement…. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.”

The events in Tibet and countless other human rights violations in China, not only now but historically have made a mockery of these words and ideals.

I truly hope that New Zealand athletes are given the option and opportunity to make a peaceful protest if they so wish and that the NZ Olympic Committee backs them to do so in what I am sure will be challenging circumstances.

ENDS

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