Go to the
JustPeace Campaign Page
- NZ Should Offer Refuge To Chinese Defector.
- Human Rights Sacrificed To Trade And The ‘War On Terror’.
- Forced Deportation Leads To Death.
- SAS Commitment To U.S. Afghan War Will Tarnish NZ
- Reject Peters’ Anti-Migrant Gestapo.
Keith argued that New Zealand should offer former Chinese diplomat, Chen Yonglin, asylum.
Mr Chen is in hiding after walking away from his job at the Chinese consulate-general in Sydney, and has claimed that China has a network of spies in Australia that regularly kidnap dissenters and send them home.
“You don’t need to be a brain surgeon to know that Mr Chen will get it in the neck if he is forced to return to China,” said Mr Locke, the Green Party’s Human Rights and Foreign Affairs Spokesperson.
“Mr Chen is getting mucked around by Australian officials desperate not to offend China. An offer of refuge from New Zealand could embarrass the Howard Government into giving Mr Chen his rightful asylum. And we would be providing Mr Chen with a fall back in case he doesn’t succeed in Australia.
“Offering asylum would be a humanitarian gesture showing that the Labour-led Government does take human rights in China seriously”.
The human rights abuses stemming from the so-called ‘war on terrorism’ continue to mount, and these in turn can be related to the economic and social injustices being perpetrated by the greed of global corporations backed by the most powerful military states. ‘Security’ and ‘free trade’ are such nice-sounding words, but they can cover a multitude of horrors.
Just before she came to speak at the New Zealand Green Party’s annual conference in Christchurch 3-6 June, Australian Green Senator Kerry Nettle put out the media release below. At the conference she showed images of the inhumane detention centres in Australia, and of the babies who have been born in them while their parents await proper attention, and told stories of the asylum-seekers she has come to know who suffered great trauma in their homelands and have been doubly traumatised by their treatment in Australia.
Rod Donald also highlighted the issue of human rights abuses in his address to the conference, and what he said can be read under Analysis, below.
For more on what Greens are saying and doing on human rights issues go to the
human rights page
on the Green website – and check out last week’s special human rights edition of
. An immediate action on human rights from that issue which you can take is reproduced under Action, below.
Reducing asylum appeals means more forced deportations: Deported Iraqi dies in Baghdad
Australian Greens Senator Kerry Nettle warned on 2 June that moves to restrict court appeals by asylum seekers will lead to more forced deportations, often to dangerous situations.
“Today we have information that an Iraqi asylum seeker returned from Nauru in 2003 has been killed in Baghdad This case highlights the potentially tragic consequences of returning asylum seekers,” Senator Nettle said.
The Iraqi man was working as an interpreter when he was killed by unknown attackers. His photograph was seen on Iraqi television and news of his death relayed back to friends in Sydney.
“Had this man been allowed to come to Australia he would surely be alive today. If [Treasurer; Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party] Peter Costello’s plan to deport asylum seekers sooner succeeds then these tragic consequences may become more common.
“Does Peter Costello really want to remove legal rights and risk increasing injustice so people with valid claims are forcibly deported back to persecution or death?
“Peter Costello has missed the point – there is no need for people to be held in detention while their cases are processed. Asylum seekers can and do live in the community whilst their claims for asylum are assessed.
“The government should take note of the public mood and move toward a more compassionate policy rather than seeking to restrict asylum seeker’s rights even further.”
This release and Kerry’s other recent releases can be found at
– check out her comments on the Australian government’s plans to mine and export more uranium, including to China.
said Keith Locke on 1 June, stating that New Zealand’s human rights record will be further tarnished by the new SAS commitment to Afghanistan to fight alongside US forces.
“It is mind blowing that our Government should choose now, in the midst of the Bagram prisoner abuse scandal and following Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s criticism of the US conduct of the war, to send the SAS back to Afghanistan,” said Keith.
“The unavoidable question is whether our SAS on ‘direct action’ missions will hand over Afghan prisoners to the US forces for possible torture and death, as was recently exposed by the New York Times.
“Just last week, the US blatantly rejected the Afghan Government’s demand to be consulted before US forces raided homes and villages and that Afghan prisoners in Guantanamo should be returned to Afghanistan”.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the ditch… a demagogue was going on the campaign trail with a proposal that New Zealand citizens form their own ‘deportation squads’. Green Human Rights Spokesperson Keith Locke commented on this on 27 May, saying that Winston Peters’ immigration policy looks like it was drawn up in Nazi times.
“Mr Peters’ Immigration Inspectorate sounds like another Gestapo. There are echoes of Hitler’s Germany in his new “flying squad” searching the homes of “undesirables”, to be imprisoned or ejected from the country.
“The Inspectorate’s programme of “random double checks” echoes the dawn raids of Muldoon days, although this time the ethnic cleansing seems more directed at Asians than Pacific Islanders,” Keith said.
“I can hear Mugabe and other dictators cheering. Any dissident they convict as a “terrorist” will be excluded from a refugee hearing in New Zealand under Mr Peters’ heartless policy.
“The Refugee Status Appeals Authority is to be emasculated. Instead of remaining independent, as the 1951 Refugee Convention prescribes, it will become a tool of Parliament.
“Under New Zealand First, New Zealand would lose its compassion and become an inward looking society deaf to the cries of those being persecuted in other countries,” Keith said.
- Support One Prisoner Of Conscience – Call For The Release Of All.
- Spread The Word.
Mao Hengfeng is just one example of the hundreds of thousands of Chinese (many of them human and labour rights activists) who have been subjected to brutal treatment in a ‘Re-education through Labour’ (RTL) detention centre. Her case has been documented by Amnesty International, which is calling for her release and an end to the RTL system. The details are below. For more information – and to record that you have written – go to
”China: release ‘Re-education through Labour’ prisoner of conscience”
Mao Hengfeng is currently held in an RTL facility in Shanghai. She has petitioned the state authorities for many years over her coerced abortion, her right to work, and other basic rights. In April 2004 she was sentenced to 18 months RTL by the Shanghai Municipal Public Security Bureau.
Mao Hengfeng has reportedly been subjected to torture and ill-treatment in the labour camp. In October 2004, she was suspended from a ceiling and severely beaten. In November 2004 her wrists and ankles were bound with leather straps and her limbs pulled in opposite directions. This continued for two days, during which time she was also denied food.
Her refusal to confess to any ‘wrongdoing’, even under torture, appears to have influenced a decision in December 2004 to increase her original sentence by three months.
Subsequently she has reportedly been held in solitary confinement for short periods, and strapped down on her bed for hours on end. It is also reported that she has been force-fed with an unidentified substance that is turning her mouth black.
‘Re-education through Labour’ (RTL) has been used in China since the mid-1950s as an extra-judicial form of detention. People receiving RTL terms have no access to a lawyer, there is no court hearing, and ‘sentencing’ is usually decided by the police alone. Under the current system, people can be detained in an RTL facility for up to four years. Those serving terms of RTL are at high risk of being beaten or subjected to other forms of torture or ill-treatment, particularly if they refuse to recant their ‘crimes’.”
Amnesty International considers Mao Hengfeng a prisoner of conscience and is calling for her immediate and unconditional release. Amnesty International is also urging the Chinese authorities to abolish RTL altogether, as the formal criminal justice system already provides a sufficient basis to punish a broad range of minor offences.
Please send appeals to:
Minister of Justice of the People’s Republic of China
ZHANG Fusen Buzhang
Ministry of Justice
10 Chaoyangmen Nandajie
People’s Republic of China
Fax: +86 10 65292345
(c/o Ministry of Communications)
legalinfo [dot] gov [dot] cn
Here is a sample letter:
I am writing to you to express my concern on behalf of Mao Hengfeng who is currently held in a ‘Re-education through Labour’ (RTL) facility in Shanghai, and who has reportedly been subjected to torture and ill-treatment.
I am urging you to immediately and unconditionally release her, and to allow her to continue her lawful petitioning about her grievances without interference.
I am also urging you, pending her release, to guarantee her safety, and to conduct a full and impartial investigation into the allegations that she has been subjected to torture and ill-treatment, with a view to bringing those responsible to justice.
I would also like to take this opportunity to raise my concerns on the overall use of RTL as an extra-judicial form of detention. I am calling on you to do everything in your power to ensure that RTL is abolished and that all forms of detention in China accord with international human rights standards, including measures to prevent torture. ”
The NZ Prime Minister needs to know that you know just how bad human rights abuses are in China – and that everyone else knows too. The Labour government is bringing shame on New Zealand’s record as a defender of human rights and democracy by putting commerce before conscience. Even if every New Zealander were better off financially as a result of a free trade deal (which is extremely unlikely – the facts are that some manufacturers and workers will be worse off, and our environment is suffering) – so what? You wouldn’t personally hit someone over the head to get cheaper consumer goods – so why let Chinese police or prison guards do that to a labour rights activist ‘on your behalf’?
For more information on just how un-free the Chinese people are, see the excerpts from Amnesty International’s latest annual report under Analysis, below, or read the
Further useful sources of information can be found at
Human Rights Watch – China
the US State Department’s most recent report on human rights”
‘China’s Prison Laborers Pay Price for Market Reforms’
and in the
Green Party submission on the FTA with China
- Proud To Be Kiwi – Standing Up For Human Rights At Home And Abroad.
Have POWs Captured By NZers Been Mistreated By The U.S?
Was Keith’s question when news that the SAS was once again off to fight in Afghanistan. He wrote the following in the Christchurch Press of 2 June:
The redeployment of the SAS to Afghanistan this week will once again put New Zealand troops in the midst of one of the dirtiest campaigns in America’s ‘War on Terror’. Of late, everyone from Amnesty International to the United Nations has been having a go at the Americans over their mistreatment of prisoners in Afghanistan. How clean are New Zealand’s hands on this issue?
Our SAS troops have previously fought alongside US forces in Afghanistan on two deployments as part of ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ (OEF). It is quite likely they took prisoners, but didn’t hold on to them for long.
The earlier SAS contingents were only about 50 men and would clearly have been part of a larger US-led coalition unit. A recently released confidential paper from our Foreign Affairs Ministry, dated ‘for action’ on 2 April 2004, explains what would have happened to any prisoners. Referring to New Zealand’s other significant deployment under Operation Enduring Freedom, the Ministry says that any “detainees [taken on board the frigate] would be handed over to other coalition forces, most likely the US.”
Over the last three years I have repeatedly asked our Government whether the SAS has taken any prisoners and handed them over to US interrogators; I have never received an adequate answer. Defence Minister Mark Burton and the Defence Force have simply refused to comment “on security grounds”.
But is the real reason security, or embarrassment? More and more information is emerging about the torture and death of prisoners at US prison facilities at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. This mistreatment has not been accidental; it has flowed, to some extent, from official policy. New terms have entered the American military vocabulary. People are no longer tortured; they are put in ‘stress positions’ or subjected to ‘sensory manipulation’.
It has been easy for interrogators to get carried away because their government declared detainees to be ‘enemy combatants’, not prisoners of war, and therefore not subject to all the protections of the Geneva Convention. This legal interpretation has been challenged by lawyers around the world, but not by New Zealand. The confidential memo referred to above holds that it was “extremely unlikely that anyone detained by NZ SAS forces in Afghanistan (or during other OEF deployments) would qualify for Prisoner of War (POW) status.” Because of this, “there is no residual legal obligation on New Zealand as the detaining power” to ensure that Geneva Convention-standard treatment is applied following the transfer of the detainee to another country’s custody.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry does try to cover itself by adding that “It would, nonetheless, be appropriate for New Zealand to seek some form of prior assurance from the country that takes custody of the detainee that the minimum fundamental guarantees of human rights and due process provided under international law would be observed. New Zealand’s policy against the use of the death penalty should also be noted”.
The problem is that these assurances given by the United States haven’t been worth the paper they were written on. We now know about the widespread mistreatment of the prisoners at Bagram airbase. And we know that Guantanamo Bay is full of alleged Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters who have been rotting there for years without trial.
Our Government was wrong to accept the Americans’ narrow definition of a POW. It is true the 1949 Geneva Convention, like the 1907 Hague Convention, does require soldiers to carry fixed distinctive insignia recognisable from a distance – and Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters often wore civilian clothes. But fighters without insignia, specifically militia and armed volunteers, are covered by other sections of the Geneva Convention. In 1977 the whole Convention was updated with a Protocol designed to cover liberation movements. Insignia wasn’t required as long as the fighters, when engaged in an attack, distinguished themselves from the civilian population.
Given that most of the wars today are internal, it is important that both government and non-government forces are protected by the Geneva Convention. In the past non-government groups, such as Nelson Mandala’s African National Congress, have accepted that they are bound by the Geneva Convention.
The First Protocol to the Convention states clearly that torture, inhumane and degrading treatment, and coercing a prisoner, are all unlawful. Detainees must also be provided with the counsel of their choice, who can then “freely visit” and interview them “in private.” All of these rights have been abused at Guantanamo Bay.
New Zealand should be defending these Protocols, not accommodating the Bush Administration’s false interpretation of them. The shocking revelations about what went on in American detention centres should prompt us to have another look at the role of our SAS in Afghanistan. The Government can no longer avoid debating the issue by cloaking everything in secrecy. The SAS deployment might help New Zealand pick up brownie points in Washington, but it may also undermine our commitment, in practice, to internationally accepted human rights standards.
Rod Donald wants New Zealanders to feel the same pride about our support for international human rights that we do about our nuclear-free stand. Sadly, under Helen Clark’s leadership, we are going backwards on this issue, as his conference speech on 4 June pointed out.
You can read the whole speech at
The stark choice facing New Zealand voters
”Kowtowing to China has upset New Zealanders right across the political spectrum. No one can understand how Helen Clark, who has a strong reputation for standing up for human rights, can turn a blind eye to the many abuses the Chinese regime perpetuates on the people of occupied Tibet and on its own citizens.
David Lange made us proud to be Kiwis when he stood up to the US nuclear bullies. We are embarrassed that Helen Clark is prepared to put a free-trade deal with China ahead of justice and human dignity.
Labour’s approach to free trade is what you would expect from a National government. The Canterbury Manufacturers’ Association says its members feel abandoned because the Government sees “manufacturing as the unavoidable road kill from FTAs with low-cost countries”. As John Walley from the Association says: “it’s all but impossible to compete with low- and no-wage – when your competition uses slave labour – countries”.
When manufacturers close down or shift their operations overseas, that means jobs disappear in New Zealand. You can’t blame workers whose jobs are being sacrificed for feeling angry.
We would like to thank Helen Clark for calling for international action against Japanese whaling when she visited Japan this week. We support every effort Labour can make to stop Japan slaughtering whales and we have been pressing the Government to take even bolder action.
However, the irony has not been lost that Helen Clark did not call for international action on Chinese human rights abuses at the same time. Especially as her visit to China coincided with the sixteenth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing.
In April 1989, a massive and peaceful pro-democracy demonstration was begun by Chinese students. They were quickly joined by workers, intellectuals, and civil servants, until over a million people filled Tiananmen Square.
On the night of June 3rd and the morning of June 4th, Chinese authorities sent in troops and tanks to end the demonstrations. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, were killed. Thousands of others were arrested. According to current estimates, as many as two-hundred-and-fifty Chinese are still serving prison sentences for Tiananmen-related activities.
Amnesty International have just released its 2005 report cataloguing the ongoing violation of fundamental human rights in China. With over 3400 executions last year, what the Chinese government does to its own people is no less brutal than what the Japanese government is doing to Minke whales.
If Helen Clark really wants to make her mark on the international stage, she should be committing the government to a timetable for increasing New Zealand’s level of overseas development assistance. That will certainly be on our agenda after the election. We all know charity begins at home but it certainly shouldn’t end there.
I believe most New Zealanders do want us to be good international citizens. We could stand proud when Norm Kirk was Prime Minister and our aid level reached 0.5% of GDP. Today we are in the bottom half of the OECD, in fact fourth to bottom, and we hang our heads in shame.
If the recently announced defence package had instead been invested in development assistance, New Zealand would have regained its international reputation by almost reaching the 0.7% commitment successive governments keep signing up to but never doing anything about meeting. While of course there is a place for a defence force, especially in peace keeping, fisheries protection and disaster relief, real peace comes from development, not out of the barrel of a gun.”
JustPeace was produced by Christine Dann, Tim Hannah and Keith Locke, MP
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