Radio Free China

Human Rights and Religious Freedom News

Bold stunt by human rights activist underlines tragic lack of freedoms

Posted by radiofreechina on August 10, 2008

By Michael Ireland
Chief Correspondent, ASSIST News Service
BEIJING, CHINA (ANS) — In a bid to draw attention to the desperate state of human rights in China, a daring human rights activist has transformed two hotel rooms in Beijing into pictorial protests, painting slogans about China’s deplorable record of human rights abuses and depicting the torture that continues to take place in China.


One of the two hotel rooms redecorated to protest China’s human rights record.

Video footage of the redecoration of the rooms, with an explanation of the process and the reasons for the protest has been released by protest organizers and can be seen at http://exodus8one.org/blog/ from which the following is taken.

As described on his Blog, the daring activist left the Trader Hotel in a hurry minutes before midnight of August 5. He had just completed a nearly four-hour stretch of painting two four-star hotel rooms with messages like “Our world, our nightmare” and “Ratify the ICCPR” (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights). But he had no idea how the story would continue to unfold.

The Blog says that on the other side of the world, friends and family were also wondering about what kind of story would be released from Beijing. Security has been remarkably heavy in the city. The Internet has been censored. Journalists have been restricted. And housekeeping might very well have found these rooms before any of the media.

According to the Blog, several media contacts had been sent a secret press release within 24 hours of the event, indicating something was going to happen. At 6:30 a.m. another email was sent with the exact locations of the events. Room keys had been taped to the back of the “Do Not Disturb” signs. Now all that was left to onlookers in the US was to watch and wait.

The Blog states that at 11:45 p.m. that evening, the first video was posted on YouTube. It was a grainy recording of the activist painting and talking about the purpose of “the Gadfly Project.” The audio cut out a bit, giving the whole video a mysterious feel. So there was at least one video. But did any other media get into the room? After all, with no outside verification, the Chinese government could simply claim that the whole thing was staged in the US. The answer came early the next morning (PST), when an article in Spanish surfaced on the El Mundo website with pictures taken by a Spanish journalist, Aritz Parra.

The story was still practically legend for the rest of that day, with no other major news sources running the facts. The activist was stuffing effigies in a second video that was released on YouTube, designed to symbolize those that have been silenced in China for speaking out for human rights and religious freedom. Most media attention was turned on the four demonstrators who unfurled a “Free Tibet” flag at an Olympic Venue.

Finally, on the morning of August 7, the Associated Press ran an article detailing the events of the Gadfly Project that included an interview with the activist’s spokesperson, Pastor Tony Thomas of the United Kingdom.

The Blog says it didn’t take long before more news sources such as Fox News and the Washington Times picked up the AP article. Part of an interview with Tony Thomas was aired on KNX news radio early in the evening. The story was also picked up on a Los Angeles Times Blog called “Ticket to Beijing”. Channel 4 featured the Gadfly Project at the top of the 11pm hour along with other protesters in Beijing. At the time of writing the original post, the original YouTube video had received 3,709 hits. The story is spreading, even to other countries such as Australia and Japan.

One man took a risk, and left a hotel in a hurry, not knowing whether the story would get out. “It looks as if the Gadfly has gone public, and the story is not over,” the Blog states.

Organizers say the action is designed to highlight the severe suffering that Chinese people still endure at the hands of the Chinese authorities. While China prepares to host the world at the Olympic Games she continues to flout the most basic human rights laws she is bound by within the international community.

The two calls for action accompanying the activism are the ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the release of five prisoners representing five key areas of concern:

Pastor Zhang Rongliang – house church Christian
Xu Na -Falun Gong practitioner
Hu Jia – internet activist (Buddhist)
Shi Tao – journalist
Guo Feixiong – self trained ‘barefoot’ lawyer

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), said: “The twin message of ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and releasing prisoners is right on track and a message China can ill-afford to ignore. Human rights and religious freedom have deteriorated in the run-up to the Olympics. China has chosen to deliberately flout international law while hosting such a prestigious international event.

“Despite promises to improve its human rights record, the opposite has happened. This event occurs as US President George Bush prepares to deliver an address tomorrow, the same day that he arrives in Beijing, expressing deep concerns about human rights and religious freedom. The world is watching. China must understand that if she wants to be an international player she must play by international rules.”

Among the concerns, Pastor Zhang Rongliang’s seven and a half year sentence highlights the issue of the repression of China’s unregistered Protestant church (house church). Further information on the situation of the Church in China and the crackdown on the church in the run up to the Olympics can be found at in CSW’s report ‘China: Persecution of Protestant Christians in the approach to the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games’ at http://dynamic.csw.org.uk/article.asp?t=report&id=95&rnd=0.5403711

CSW says China still refuses to allow freedom to choose one’s own religion, forcing all Protestant Christians to belong to the official Three Self Patriotic Movement, thus making the vast majority of Christians in China illegal.

The group says that among the forms of mistreatment meted out to Christians are detention, torture, humiliating treatment, re-education through labor, as well as confiscation and destruction of property, fines and other forms of punishment.

It adds: “The run up to the Olympics has been accompanied by a disturbing increase in persecution of unregistered Christians, including the largest mass sentencing of house church leaders in 25 years; a level of expulsion of foreign Christians not seen since the 1950s; targeted repression of the Chinese House Church Alliance: restrictions on religious believers renting properties and attending the Games; and persecution and church raids in Beijing.”

Beijing Protestor’s Name and Plans Revealed; Pastor Arrested as Bush Condemns Religious Violations on Arrival in Beijing

The details of the activist who transformed Beijing hotel rooms into protest venues were released at a press conference in Los Angeles yesterday.

Protest representatives revealed the identity of the protestor as Pastor Eddie Perez Romero, a well-respected church leader and professor, and revealed that he will surrender himself to the Chinese authorities after the Olympic Games.

The news comes as prominent Chinese Pastor Zhang Mingxuan, interviewed from detention by BBC’s John Simpson three days ago, has been re-arrested, together with his wife and his colleague Pastor Wu. Pastor Zhang, the President of the Chinese House Church Alliance, was on his way to deliver medicine to his sick wife when he was arrested. The three are being held in a PSB office in Zhengzhou City in Henan Province.

Pastor Romero is Pastor of Hacienda Christian Fellowship in La Puente and Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at Mt. San Antonio Community College in Walnut, California. He is married with three children.

Representatives described how the idea had come to Pastor Romero in July 2001 after sensing outrage as the Olympic Games were awarded to China despite its appalling human rights record. The timing of the event and his appearance for arrest are designed to avoid disruption during the Games themselves. The goals of the campaign are given as ‘Ratify and Release’: the ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the release of five key prisoners.

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide said: “Pastor Eddie Romero is a man driven by his passion for those suffering in China. He is an affable much loved church leader and family man as well as a respected professor. He is willing to risk all in order to provide a voice for those who have no voice in China. While CSW does not condone civil disobedience, we do share his deep concern over the serious violation of religious and other freedoms in China. China should indeed ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and release those held for their religious and political beliefs.”

U.S. President Chides China on Freedom Issues

As President Bush issued his strong condemnation of abuse of religious freedom and human rights, the organizers explained that the event was aimed: “To call attention to the covert state-sanctioned persecution of Christians, specifically, and all other persecuted religious faiths inclusively. Furthermore the goal of this event is to bring about dramatic and verifiable changes in state policy and attitude toward Christians and all other people of faith.”

At the opening of the new US Embassy in Beijing, President Bush made some measured remarks. “All people should have the freedom to say what they think and worship as they choose,” he said.

President Bush said he has tried to foster “trust” between China and the United States and that the two countries had “built a strong relationship built on common interests.”

“America will continue to support China on the path toward a free economy,” Mr. Bush added.

In a speech on Asian policy delivered in Bangkok, Thailand, on the eve of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Mr. Bush chided China over its record of religious freedom and human rights.

“America stands in firm opposition to China’s detention of political dissidents, human rights advocates and religious activists,” Mt. Bush said during that trip.

“We speak out for a free press, freedom of assembly and labor rights — not to antagonize China’s leaders but because trusting its people with greater freedom is the only way for China to develop its full potential,” he said. “And we press for openness and justice not to impose our beliefs but to allow the Chinese people to express theirs.”

——————————————————————————–

Notes to editors:

Information released by the organizers can be seen at
http://cts.vresp.com/c/?Exodus8One/2dc5f6a5fd/8ed156d185/257a6a9ee9

http://cts.vresp.com/c/?Exodus8One/2dc5f6a5fd/8ed156d185/7a0d675caf

The progress of the project can be followed at

http://cts.vresp.com/c/?Exodus8One/2dc5f6a5fd/8ed156d185/0aff397e4d

Information about the five prisoners is provided at
http://www.persecutionandtheolympics.com/secureblog/?p=50#more-50

For further information, including on the protest, religious freedom and Pastor Zhang, together with photos, please contact the Advocacy Team at CSW on +44 (0)7770 755 660, email stuartwindsor@csw.org.uk or visit http://www.csw.org.uk

CSW is a human rights organization which specializes in religious freedom, works on behalf of those persecuted for their Christian beliefs and promotes religious liberty for all.

For CSW’s original press release describing the events, providing links to the organisers’ websites and additional information on religious freedom, please visit http://dynamic.csw.org.uk/article.asp?t=press&id=753

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