but Rod was allowed to hold a Tibetan flag outside the New Zealand parliament on 26 May to try to prick the conscience of visiting Chinese politician Wu Bangguo, the chair of China's Standing Committee of the National People's Congress.

The head of Chinese security didn't like it though, and tried to force New Zealand police to move him. In thanking the Speaker of the House, and NZ security, for affirming and protecting his right to be there, Rod said:

"We are a democracy, not a dictatorship. This the forecourt of parliament not Tienanmen Square. China locks up or shoots it citizens who cry out for democracy. New Zealand prides itself on protecting the freedom of speech of its citizens.

The way the Chinese Government suppresses free speech should not be acceptable anywhere, but it's illegal in our country. I posed no threat to Mr Wu, and my protest was discreet and respectful. Clearly, my silent vigil holding the Tibetan flag was a more powerful criticism of the Chinese regime that I realised.''

See a photo of Rod's vigil and read more at http://www.greens.org.nz/campaigns/humanrights/

Keeping up his campaign to get the government to face up to what it is doing in seeking a preferential trade deal with China, Rod said on 27 May 'Don't let Beijing duck human rights at tonight's dinner'

He sent a copy of Amnesty International's just-released Annual Human Rights Report to Helen Clark urging her to raise the latest abuses in China at her state dinner with Wu Bangguo.

"If she only has time to look at the report's introduction on China, she would at least be able to discuss, over pre-dinner drinks, the tens of thousands of people imprisoned in violation of their fundamental human rights, the thousands sentenced to death or executed and the many people forced off their land.

"Over the main course, they could discuss in depth the at least 3400 people who were executed by the Chinese Government last year - possibly up to 10,000, if a member of Mr. Bangguo's own National People's Congress is to be believed.

"Over dessert they could talk about the more than 100 Tibetan prisoners of conscience who remain locked away. Three of those, two monks and a layman, who were sentenced to three years last year for simply putting up posters promoting Tibetan independence. Following this, she could ask him why China continues to occupy Tibet and oppress its people.''

Rod said Miss Clark should reflect on what she said in Parliament on 18 November 1998 about Jenny Shipley: "Instead, we have had this pitiful simpering about there being a distinction between business issues and issues of human rights and democracy. If that value had been applied in 19th century England and North America, then we would still have slavery, because the representatives of those who employed slaves would claim that there was no connection between that issue and their business values."

More at http://www.greens.org.nz/searchdocs/PR8721.html

Further, said Rod on 25 May, "Too many countries shy away from challenging China on human rights because it is an economic powerhouse. Our government, no matter how keen for a free-trade agreement with China, must take a more principled position."

China has an appalling record on labour standards, refusing to sign core International Labour Organisation conventions and to abolish forced labour, he said.

"China operates prison labour camps believed to house seven million inmates, who are forced to work up to 16 hours a day, without health or safety protections or adequate food, producing a variety of products for export.

"Some of these slave-made products would receive preferential trade access to the New Zealand market were the Government to sign the free-trade agreement with China it's pursuing. That's why the Prime Minister must include a discussion of human rights issues in these talks with Mr Wu Bangguo, and make clear that New Zealand won't even start negotiations on a free-trade agreement until core ILO conventions are ratified.

"We can't be seen to turn a blind eye to the Chinese Government's human rights abuses at the same time as trying to do business with them," said Rod.

More at http://www.greens.org.nz/searchdocs/PR8702.html and check out the Parliamentary questions of 1 June on human rights in China, and the articles, in Analysis, below, for more from Rod and Amnesty International on this issue.

China and Human Rights
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