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Australia must push China to release WTO activists

Australia must push China to release WTO activists

AID/WATCH today joined the international call to action to ensure the release of 14 protesters detained for almost a month after opposing the World Trade Organisation ongoing negotiations on December 17 2005. Australian supporters will protest outside the Chinese embassy in Sydney, 39 Dunblaine St., Camperdown, at 1pm on the 9th January.

The 14 protestors from South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and mainland China are facing charges of unlawful assembly’ for their protest near the vicinity of the 6th World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference site in Hong Kong.

The 14 protestors charged remain on bail but are unable to depart Hong Kong from the more than 1,300 people arrested on the night of December 17. The protesters were attempting to voice their frustration and desperation at yet another round of the WTO Ministerial conference that yielded no measures to alleviate poverty or to address their concerns.

Although all 14 are released on bail, it is our understanding that the Hong Kong government has formally charged them with "unlawful assembly" and they are considering adding new charges.

Australia, which hosted the Chinese head of state in 2004, has made much of its special relationship with China yet refuses to grasp the nettle of supporting human rights standards in favour of its economic interests.

Tim O’Connor from AID/WATCH stated, “for too long Australia has been complicit in allowing China to get away with human rights abuses. The detaining of these civilians is a clear opportunity arising from an international forum where Australia was present, where Australia should be pushing for a quick release so the people involved can return to their families.

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The excessive use of force by the Hong Kong Police during the night of the 17th, including the indiscriminate use of electric shock batons and the firing of "beanbags pellet" has left many injured – a matter being closely documented by a number of international rapporteurs.

We urge that an impartial and thorough inquiry into the human rights violations and the violence used on the part of the Hong Kong police be pursued.

A failure to properly investigate and rectify human rights violations reflects negatively on the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong and further blackens the sooty Human Rights record of China.

AID/WATCH is joining today with the ACTU, Australian Fair Trade Investment Network AFTINET), ASU, Via Campesina, Korean Struggle Mission, Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, Korean Peasants League, Korean Catholic Farmers Association, Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions and the Hong Kong People's Alliance to demand the immediate release of the 14 protestors.

AID/WATCH will be staging a protest today at 1pm, outside the Chinese Embassy in Sydney, 39 Dunblaine St, Camperdown.

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