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Helen Clark urged to take lead on China

Helen Clark urged to take an international lead speaking out on China

Amnesty International's latest reports on human rights abuses in China, released today, will give Helen Clark much to discuss when she raises human rights concerns during the signing of the Free Trade Agreement in Beijing on April 7th.

"We welcome assurances from Helen Clark that she will raise human rights concerns during her visit and urge her to take an international lead when she does so. New Zealand has a reputation globally as a respecter of human rights – the signing of the Free Trade Agreement (1) is the perfect opportunity to ensure that human rights are included amongst our exports to China," says Margaret Taylor, AINZ spokesperson.

The "China: The Olympics countdown – crackdown on activists threatens Olympics legacy" http://www.amnesty.org.nz/media_release/
report details the lack of substantial human rights reform, including the increased silencing and imprisonment of peaceful human rights activists in the pre-Olympics 'clean up', despite promises made by Chinese authorities to improve the human rights situation in line with internationally agreed norms.

Amnesty International is calling on the Chinese authorities to immediately end repressive measures against human rights defenders in China as well as protesters in Tibet and surrounding regions – "Crackdown on Tibetan protesters" (See link above).

The reports are also appealing to world leaders to speak out strongly about China.

Despite human rights worsening because of the Olympics, Amnesty International believes that there is still time for the international community to take a stronger stance with Chinese authorities to bring an end to human rights abuses. World leaders can build pressure on China by supporting Amnesty International's call to the Chinese authorities to:
• give immediate access to Tibet and surrounding areas to UN investigators and other independent observers;
• cease arbitrary detention, intimidation and harassment of activists;
• end punitive administrative detention;
• allow full and free reporting across the whole of China for all journalists;
• free all prisoners of conscience;
• reduce the number of capital crimes as a step towards abolition.

New Zealand must also meet its own international and domestic human rights obligations when it signs and implements the Free Trade Agreement. Amnesty International has raised specific labour and trade concerns with the New Zealand Government on how the FTA will address:

• products made by prison, slave and child labour and what guarantees exist to ensure such products don't enter New Zealand;
• endorsement of international labour standards, such as free and independent trade unions and collective bargaining, and an end to forced, compulsory and child labour.
• China's practice of selling the organs of death penalty prisoners.

Transparency in addressing such human rights issues within the agreement would do much to ease public concerns (2) about it suggests Taylor.

For Reference

(1) Amnesty International does not oppose this or any other free trade agreement. Rather, we call for any such agreements to clearly include and endorse relevant international and domestic human rights obligations.

(2) March 17th 2008 One News/Colmar Brunton Poll indicating 49% of New Zealanders don't think signing of the FTA should go ahead. March 31st 2008 Herald DigiPoll survey showing 32.4% opposing the signing.


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