Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Olympics Come to Pasadena

Update: The Pasadena Weekly covers the Council presentation (‘We need to speak out on that’) including Council reaction in this week's issue.

We are a little late in pointing out the Pasadena Weekly's article (No cause for celebration) on local Falun Gong members disappointment in the Tournament of Roses decision to highlight a float celebrating the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Our own Wen Chen was prominently featured,
“If we want to invite the Chinese government to have a float in Pasadena, we should raise the issue of a family member of a [former] Pasadena resident in a labor camp because of the Olympics,” said Wen Chen, an employee of Caltech and member of its Falun Gong Club.
On Monday night (June 25) Wen and some of her friends took their moving stories of persecution and imprisonment to the Pasadena City Council. You can visit the City of Pasadena - City Council Streaming Video page to hear the presentation (second agenda item - you can try to use the "jump to" feature to get there a little faster).

Pasadenans! We suggest further educating your council members by sharing with them key points from Amnesty's recent report China: The Olympics countdown. The report highlights the case of Bu Dongwei, the husband of one of Wen's colleagues,
Case update - Bu Dongwei: Falun Gong practitioner Bu Dongwei is now known to be held at Tuanhe RTL facility in Beijing, where he is reportedly forced to do packing work. His family only received official confirmation of his whereabouts at the end of August 2006, three months after he was first detained. The authorities have reportedly claimed that he decided not to appeal against his two-and-a-half year term, but his family dispute this. Officials from Tuanhe RTL facility have reportedly asked Bu Dongwei’s family to contribute money towards his living expenses – around 400 Yuan per month (approx. US$52).

Bu Dongwei (also known as David Bu) was assigned to two-and-a-half years’ RTL on 19 June 2006 in Beijing for "resisting the implementation of national law and disturbing social order" after police discovered Falun Gong literature at his home. The authorities initially refused to disclose his place of detention to his family. Bu Dongwei had been working in Beijing for the U.S. aid organization, the Asia Foundation, before he was taken away by police from his home in Haidian district on 19 May 2006. Amnesty International considers Bu Dongwei to be a prisoner of conscience, detained in violation of his fundamental human rights to freedom of expression, association and religion, and continues to call for his immediate and unconditional release
City officials should bear in mind in their dealings with Chinese officials-- for example in activities that support Pasadena's sister city relationship with Xicheng-- that there are Pasadena residents directly affected by China's disregard for the rule of law and the principles of democracy. In the Weekly, Alan Lamson, chair of the China Subcommittee of the Pasadena Sister Cities Committee is quoted,

“Our position is that it's much better to get to know someone, even if you disagree with them... to hear their point of view and to get them to see your point of view. That's been more beneficial than to say, ‘Sorry, we don't want to have a relationship with you.'”

Yes! Relationships are good! We are just afraid that 'our point of view' in these transactions seldom includes expressing concern over cases like Bu Dongwei's or Shi Tao's. City officials and civic representatives such as Mr. Lamson need to become educated about human rights and make that a part of our relationship. Be an educator! City council contacts can be found here. Sister City Committee contact info here.

Final Note: Of course, the treatment of prisoners of conscience is not the only reason for our representatives to be cautious about celebrating China's Olympic spirit. There is also the matter of China's involvement in Darfur, Sudan and the ongoing campaign to get China to use its influence on the Sudanese government to end atrocities in that region. There's a whole project devoted to drawing attention to this concern (including alternative torch relay) via the interest in the 2008 games: Olympic Dream for Darfur. Other resources to use in your project to educate your councilperson about the Olympics and human rights include Human Rights in China's Incorporating Responsibility: 2008 and Human Rights Watch's Beijing Olympics 2008.

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