NOTES FOR REMARKS: HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN CHINA

2nd Session, 39th Parliament,
Volume 144, Issue 50

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Human Rights Violations in China

Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, I bring to your attention the serious issue of human rights violations in China. A young man, Hu Jia, who has a wife and a young baby, has been sentenced to three and a half years in prison. His crime: He spoke publicly about the need to protect the rights of people with HIV in China. Hu Jia is well known for being outspoken. He has spoken out about environmental issues and about the need to remember the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Many of my honourable colleagues know I had the privilege of living in China. For five years, I was the Bureau Chief for CTV News. Those were five of the most exciting years of my life. I travelled with my family throughout that fascinating country and made many strong friendships. I have memories that will last a lifetime.

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However, not all memories are good ones. I witnessed the exciting events leading up to, and then the tragic events of, the Tiananmen Square massacre. I was travelling in Tibet and saw Buddhist monks beaten by police. I reported on the Tibetan uprisings of the late 1980s. I had my tapes confiscated, was detained and forced to leave on a plane.

In light of those experiences, I was pleased to see a new, modern and progressive China when I was there recently as an ambassador for Special Olympics Canada. The Special Olympics games in Shanghai were a huge success. China was a welcoming host.

I must ask then, if China is ready to acknowledge the rights of special Olympians and as China prepares to welcome the world to the Olympics, why does China not respect the human rights of its own citizens?

China is a vibrant and essential contributor to the world’s economy. It is an important part of the United Nations, the World Trade Organization and the world community as a whole.

Article 35 of the Constitution of China states that Chinese citizens enjoy freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Given that China is engaging with the world and opening its doors to the outside, can we not expect greater respect for human rights on the inside? Hu Jia and the more than 1 billion people who live in China all have a voice. They should all be heard. They all have the right to be heard.