This is our current newsletter, except that Urgent Actions have been removed since they are not public domain. If you would like a copy of our newsletter (either electronically or via snail-mail) please contact us.
* Coordinator's Corner * Fang Li Zhi, Science and Democracy At the beginning of this century, China was struggling to keep up with the newly industrialized West. Many Chinese intellectuals had begun a debate which would reverberate throughout the century about how China could best modernize-- would it follow a Western model or find its own course? More particularly, how would science and democracy, which were seemingly the keys to the wealth, power and stability of the West be integrated with Chinese culture? "Science and Democracy" became the main slogan of the "May Fourth" movement, named after student demonstrations in Tiananmen Square on May 4, 1919 protesting the acquiescence of the Chinese government to the Treaty of Versailles, which ceded large amounts of Chinese territory to Japan, sparking concern about national survival. "Science and Democracy" was revived as the slogan of the student demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in 1989 in part because, in the years leading up to the spring '89 demonstrations, a Chinese astrophysicist, Fang Lizhi, had became an outspoken advocate for academic freedom and democracy as essential ingredients in China's efforts to bring about economic modernization. Fang's views gradually broadened into direct criticism of Marxism and advocacy for universal human rights. Fang's leadership among Chinese democracy activists, has given rise to comparisons to Andrei Sakharov. Fang did not have a highly visible role during the 1989 demonstrations, but the Chinese government considered him culpable anyway, and he and his wife took refuge in the U.S. embassy after the massacre and were there for a year before they were allowed to leave for the West. He is presently a professor at the University of Arizona. At our April monthly meeting, several group members will present additional biographical detail about Fang's life and report their impressions of essays and speeches written by Fang. This discussion should give rise to some very interesting questions beyond the obvious insights into the current situation in China. What is the relationship between science and human rights or science and democracy? And what is the role of the scientist in the human rights movement? Or put in more personal terms, what is the motivation of a Sakharov or Fang to become involved in these issues and what special opportunities are there for scientists to engage others in the human rights debate? I have provided some additional resources in the "Web Tips" column to aid in our discussion: an excellent article about Fang from the Atlantic Monthly and a link to the AAAS Human Rights Committee's site for suggestions on how scientists can become active in the human rights movement. This should be a very interesting discussion for scientists and non-scientists alike and I hope to see you all there! Martha Ter Maat Group Coordinator 818-281-4039 firstname.lastname@example.org * Letter Tally - Feb-Mar-Apr China Campaign .5cm 20 Nigeria-Kenya .5cm 18 Death Penalty .5cm 2 Bosnia .5cm 6 Other .5cm 36 * Upcoming Events Monday, April 22. 7:30 PM Catalina Rec. Room 1 Special Earth Week Video Night offering "The Burning Season" dramatizing the life of environmental and labor activist Chico Mendes. Stars the late Raul Julia. Tuesday, Apri 23, 7:00 PM, 980 N. Fair Oaks Dr. Hassan Hathout speaks at the AFSC bookstore about his new book "The Islamic Mind." Veteran group members will remember that Dr. Hathout visited us some months ago and shared his experience being detained in the same prison as our action file prisoner, Ali. Thursday, April 25, 7:30 PM Caltech Y Lounge Monthly Meeting at the Caltech Y Lounge. Discussion of Fang Li Zhi and the role of the scientist in the human rights movement. Friday, April 26 Earth Day Tabling at Caltech. (Details later) Sunday, April 28, 4:00 PM, Irvine Presbyterian Church, 5 Meadowbrook, Irvine "Celebrating Diversity in Our Own Backyard" Gospel Concert/Benefit sponsored by Orange County groups and Christ our Redeemer AME Church. Features speakers Bishop Garnett Henning, just returned from Liberia and Walter Lam, former prisoner of conscience from Uganda. Admission Free, Donation Requested. * The Group 22 Minutes * March Meeting Highlights Egyptian Action File Case. Martha kicked off the meeting by announcing that the International Secretariat has decided to discontinue the action file. Other strategies will be used to continue work on Ali's situation. Revae will look into getting a new case for the group. Death Penalty. Both ballot propositions expanding the death penalty were passed by overwhelming majorities. Senator Dole visited the execution chamber in a campaign ploy. Meanwhile the next execution has been scheduled for May 3. Martha will contact Neighborhood Church as well as All Saints to see what kind of vigil or other event should be arranged for May 2nd or thereabouts. With a new member from Orange Grove Meeting we may also get them involved. Martha also reported that the students in the Western region are working on a death penalty project and need support from adult volunteers. Jim followed up the movie "Sakharov," our last video night offering, with some biographical details. Pat filled everyone in on Wei Jing Sheng and Democracy Wall. Wei is one of the primary cases in the campaign. Area high school students will be putting together a "Democracy Wall" with a work day scheduled for April 14 to help publicize the case at their schools. Next meeting will focus on physicist Fang Li Zhi and the role of the scientist in the human rights movement. There was some discussion of bringing Fang to Caltech. Pat and Jen will look into funding sources. (Post meeting update: Fang is definitely interested, but his schedule is better for fall). Jim updated everyone on the Knightsbridge Theater Fund-Raiser. Date has been postponed to June 1, but we think this is final. Pat and Jim will work on publicity strategies but everyone is exhorted to invite lots of friends to go. Martha reported that discussions are underway to get a Southern California electronic mail discussion list going. The regional office is looking for volunteers for technical assistance and maintenance of such a list, also for design and maintenance of web pages for various AI functions. * The Web-tips of the month. April AAAS Human Rights Page http://www.aaas.org/spp/dspp/shr/shr.htm In keeping with the science and human rights theme for the month we are featuring the American Academy for the Advancement of Science's human rights committee page. Probably the most useful aspect of this site at the moment is their human rights network which will forward actions involving scientists or medical personnel to you just like an Amnesty Urgent Action. Some of the cases are in fact identical or similar to cases you would receive through Amnesty, but there are others involving issues of academic freedom which would not necessarily come under Amnesty's mandate. The site also contains descriptions of projects regarding the use of computers and information technology for human rights and forensic anthropology and human rights, as well as delegations, a consultants directory and other special projects of the committee. Andrei Sakharov Foundation http://www.wdn.com/asf/ We're throwing this one in for April because it was mentioned at the last meeting when Jim used it to brief us on Andrei Sakharov and Elena Bonner's careers. The site is a bit underdeveloped at this point, so bookmark it and check back in a few months. Fang Lizhi: "China's Andrei Sakharov" http://www.theAtlantic.com/atlantic/issues/ current/orphan/sakharov.htm The folks at the Atlantic Monthly web site have obligingly provided a reprint of an excellent 1988 article about Fang Lizhi, "China's Andrei Sakharov," by veteran China watcher, Orville Schell, just in time for our April meeting discussion. Read it now, because it will probably expire when they update their site with the May issue, plus it will get you up to speed for our April 25 discussion. Chinese Orphanages: The Dying Rooms http://www.delphi.co.uk/dying/ Here's a page featuring some stills from the British documentary about Chinese orphanages, "The Dying Rooms." If you're suspicous that this presentation seems a trifle sensational (what with the flaming red background and all), don't stop there... gopher://gopher.igc.apc.org:5000/11/ int/hrw/asia/china Human Rights Watch/Asia exposed conditions in Chinese orphanages in a January report which received extensive media coverage. Various reports and press releases on the issue are available at the Human Rights Watch gopher site. http://www.theAtlantic.com/atlantic/issues/ current/orphan/orphan.htm And putting the orphanage crisis in perspective is an Atlantic Monthly article which is conveniently on-line at Atlantic's site. (It's the April issue if you want the newsstand version). This article may expire when their May issue is released, so be sure to check it out soon. A variety of opinions on the orphanage controversy can also be found at a site for parents of adopted Chinese children: http://www.catalog.com/fwcfc/hrw.html and at the One World site: http://www.oneworld.org/news/partnernews/ dyingroomstop.html * The China Campaign There is a glimmer of Hope By Pierre Sane, Sec. Gen., Amnesty International March 13 marks the launch by Amnesty International of our campaign against the systematic violation of human rights in China. We said to the Chinese government: we want to talk to you about the need for change. Sadly, we have been met by a closed door. The Chinese government has responded publicly by saying that our campaign is not even worth refutation. But behind the scenes, the truth is very different. The Chinese government is acutely sensitive on human rights and will go to any lengths to block criticism and scrutiny of its appalling record. It seeks to silence organizations like Amnesty International and other critics. Sadly, other governments fall into line. Amnesty International delegates in Bangkok were detained by the Thai police and prevented from attending our press conference to launch the campaign. Later the same day Thai riot police formed a human wall to protect the Chinese Embassy in Bangkok from peaceful Amnesty members. Amnesty members in Nepal were detained yesterday merely for handing out leaflets about our campaign. They have also been threatened with detention if they demonstrate about human rights violations in China outside the Chinese Embassy. The Chinese government is not content with silencing those who speak up in China. Their message is loud and clear: no discussion about our human rights record. Anywhere, by anyone, at any time. Amnesty International is prepared to stand up to attempts to silence us. What about governments? Today, in Geneva, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights will begin to scrutinize the state of human rights internationally. Governments around the world are deciding whether that scrutiny should extend to China. At the same time, the Chinese government is pulling out all the stops in an attempt to block the Commission passing a resolution critical of China. Will these governments listen to what the people of China want? Or will the politicians fudge some backroom deal, out of the sight of the millions to whom they are accountable? Recently, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary detentions stated his concern about violations of the right to life in China. The UN Committee against Torture has voiced its concerns about patterns of torture in China. The Commission's own Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has concluded that prisoners have been arbitrarily detained in violation of international human rights standards. Yet governments still waver in voting for that resolution at the Commission. At the moment, France and Germany appear not to support a resolution on China. They may even be prepared to break with other European Union governments who want the Commission to act. Premier Li Peng is due to visit France in April. What conclusions can we draw from this? That the French government is more concerned with selling Airbus air planes than stopping women being given forced abortions or raped in custody? That the German government is more concerned with selling cars than stopping Tibetan nuns from being tortured? Will the European Union water down its position to the lowest common denominator, rather than taking a principled stand for the human rights of 1.2 billion people? The other response by the Chinese government is to reject Amnesty's concerns, saying that Western and Eastern countries have different concepts of human rights. This is just a smokescreen. Put up by a government trying to legitimize the human rights violations they commit in the name of power. This is not the view of the people of Asia themselves. Ask Asian people about their view of human rights. Ask the victims. Ask the human rights defenders in Asia, from Korea to Indonesia. Ask Amnesty's many Asian members from Nepal to Japan. Pain and terror do not differ from culture to culture. Do the parents of a man executed after an unfair trial think that this is part of an Asian cultural tradition? Does the woman repeatedly tortured with an electric shock baton agree that this is something that is justifiable because she is Asian? But something can be done to help Chinese citizens persuade their government to stop violating their human rights. There is a glimmer of hope that if we stand firm, it can make a difference. The case of TANG YUANJUAN Tang Yuanjuan, an assistant engineer at a car factory in Changchun, Jilin province, was among a group of workers arrested in June 1989. The workers were accused of forming a "counter-revolutionary" group, and organizing two peaceful demonstrations in Changchun during the pro-democracy movement. In November 1990 Tang Yuanjuan, as the alleged leader of the group, was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment. In April 1991 Tang Yuanjuan was transferred to the Lingyuan No. 2 Labor-Reform Detachment of Liaoning province. he was assigned to a special squadron of political prisoners jailed during the crackdown on the pro-democracy movement. At least 13 of these prisoners were reportedly subjected to torture and ill-treatment during 1991 and 1992. In May 1991 Tang Yuanjuan was among 11 political prisoners who were severely beaten for refusing to acknowledge that they were "criminals." After the beating, Tang Yuanjuan and others were taken to the "correction" unit. There, these prisoners were stripped naked and repeatedly given shocks with high voltage electric batons on the head, neck, shoulders, armpits, stomach, and the inside of the legs. When the electric baton used against Tang Yuanjuan ran out of power, a guard wearing leather boots kicked him. Two of his ribs were broken as a result. Similar incidents of toruture occurred during the following months. The Chinese authorities subsequently denied that the priosners had been tortured and claimed that the allegations had been investigated, but provided no evidence of this. Amnesty International is urging the authorities to launch a thorough and impartial judicial investigation into reports of torture at the Lingyuan No. 2 Labor-Reform Detachment. It is also calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Tang Huanjuan, a prisoner of conscience. Write to: Wang Yunkun Shengzhang Governor, Jilin Provincial People's Government Jilinsheng Renmin Zhengfu 11 Xinfa lu Changchunshi 130051 Jilinsheng People's Republic of China Salutation: Dear Governor Send a copy to: His Excellency Li Daoyu Embassy of the People's Republic of China 2300 Connecticut Avenue, NW Washington D.C. 20008 Salutation: Dear Ambassador *NEWS FLASH! *A NEW PRISONER CASE FOR OUR GROUP!!! Great news!! We have a new prisoner case - this time a Prisoner of Conscience (POC). His name is Ngawang Pekar (pronounced roughly Naw-ja-wang Pee-kar) and he's a 29-year old Tibetan monk. I spoke to the folks in our section office today and they are sending me the case file. I don't know all of the details yet, but the AI folks who assigned us the case said that Ngawang was sentenced to 8 years in prison for his "pro-democracy" activities. He has been denied medical treatment since he has been in prison and was one of 4 people who witnessed and spoke out about the denial of medical treatment to a fellow prisoner who ended up dying from the lack of medical attention. Our work on Abd' al-Daim al-Wardi Ahmed 'Ali's action file, our Egyptian prisoner, was long and steady work for which we should all be very proud. The Amnesty Secretariat decided to close out many of these Egypt cases for lack of information about the prisoners (i.e., they never knew for certain why he was arrested) and because they felt they had learned all they would ever learn about them. I have forwarded copies of the letters we wrote on Ali's behalf, the petitions we circulated, and the many activities in which we participated--such as having speakers from and about Egypt and the "100 days of letters" campaign--to our section office. They will send this information to the AI archives to be stored with records of Ali's case. Many thanks to all of you for your years of hard work!! I hope for a better resolution-such as a quick release!-of our new POC. Revae * South East Asian Regional Network. * Socialist Republic OF Vietnam: The Death Penalty Amnesty International is gravely concerned that, according to an official review of the People's Supreme Court in Ha Noi, over 100 people were sentenced to death during 1995. A report in the official newspaper Viet Nam News on 10 February 1996 states that 95 people were sentenced to death for "homidical" cases, eight people for drug smuggling convictions and one person for rape. Despite the fact that only 11 executions were officially reported during the course of 1995, Amnesty International fears that most of the 104 death sentences may already have been carried out. It is believed that executions are carried out on a regular basis. The death penalty in Viet Nam is applicable for offenses ranging from treason and offenses violating "national security" to economic offenses such as manufacturing and selling counterfeit products. Altogether 34 articles in the Criminal Code stipulate the death penalty as an optional punishment. According to the Law on Criminal Procedure defendants sentenced to death by a first court are allowed right of appeal to the People's Supreme Court. The People's Supreme Court and the Chief Procurator should make a decision on the case within two months. If the sentence is upheld by the Supreme People's Court, defendants have the right to appeal to the President for clemency; this appeal must be lodged wihtin seven days. Execution is by firing squad. Amensty International opposes the death penalty in all cases on the grounds that it is a violation of the right to life and the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, as proclained in the Universal Declaraion of Human Rights (Articles 3 and 5) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR - Articles 6 and 7). The Vietnamese Government ratified the ICCPR in 1982, and is therefore bound by its terms. Amnesty International's concern about the use of the death penalty in Viet Nam is heightened by serious concerns about the judicial system. Defendants do not receive a fair trial and their rights as suspects under the ICCPR are routinely ignored. People can be killed by the state in a country where due process of international law is not upheld. Amnesty International is calling on the Vietnamese Government to commute all existing death sentences and to give full consideration to abolition of the death penalty as a punishment for all offenses in law. In addition, it urges the govenrnment to sign and ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1989, which entered into force in July 1991. This Optional Protocol aims for worldwide abolition of the death penalty. Please write courteous letters to the Vietnamese authorities listed below. Letters should state Amnesty International's unconditional opposition to the death penalty as a violation of the right to life and the right not to be subjected to cruel, unhuman or degrading treatment or punishement, as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Welcome the fact that the Vietnamese government has ratified the ICCPR, and note that this places obligations on the authorities to uphold the fundamental human rights of individuals in Viet Nam. Express your deep concern that: * according to a review of the People's Supreme Court in Ha Noi, 104 people were sentenced to death in 1995 * 11 people were officially reported to have been exectued during 1995 * most of the 104 people sentenced to death may have already been executed * defendants in Viet Nam may be sentenced to death when their rights to a fair trial as defined in international law are routinely ignored Urge the government to: * immediately commute all outstanding death sentences * give full consideration to abolition of the death penalty as punishment in law * take th epositive step of signing the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, which aims for worlwide abolition of the death penalty Addresses: His Excellency Le Duc Anh President Office of the President 35 Ngo Quyen Ha Noi Socialist Republic of Vietnam His Excellency Vo Van Kiet Prime Minister Office of the Prime Minister Hoang Hoa Tham Ha Noi Socialist Republic of Vietnam His Excellency Bui Thien Ngo Minister of the Interior Ministry of the Interior Tran Binh Trong Ha Noi Socialist Republic of Vietnam His Excellency Pham Hung Chief Justice People's Supreme Court Ha Noi Socialist Republic of Vietnam * Editor's last words. Write for the newsletter! Our newsletter is know being written in . It is still a bit experimental, so you might find a few errors. Feel free to submit your commentaries and suggestions . You can also read the newsletter on line at: http://www.cco.caltech.edu/ aigp22/home.html Roberto (818)796-0876 email@example.com http://www.cco.caltech.edu/ rzenit/rzenit.html