Thursday, September 14, 2006

Wen's Visit to London: A Secret (Well, Not Really) Schedule

As reported by the Tibetan Youth UK organization, Sept. 14, 2006

London -- The long arm of the Chinese government was witnessed again today during the arrival in the UK of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

A large crowd of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) supporters had gathered to welcome Wen Jiabao upon his arrival at London’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Knightsbridge.

The media and human rights activists were kept in the dark as to his movements and schedule.

“The CCP supporters had flags, drums and even a Chinese dragon! Such extravagance clearly required beforehand planning. But the London police claimed they had no knowledge of Wen’s itinerary and were not making it public. So how did the CCP supporters know when to be where?” asked Pete Speller speaking on behalf of Students for a Free Tibet UK.

Xinhua, China’s state news agency, made headlines yesterday for announcing that foreign media in China now needed to seek its approval before distributing any news and pictures within China, raising state censorship on foreign media to a higher level.

“It appears that the British government has caved in to pressure from the Chinese embassy and decided to keep the people in the dark, a tactic regularly used by Beijing and other authoritarian regimes,” said Alice Speller, National Coordinator of Students for a Free Tibet UK.

“China apologists have advocated free trade and open market economies as catalysts for freedom and democracy, but China itself is proving them wrong. Instead of liberal western corporations coercing China to open up and introduce more political freedoms, so far China has successfully forced western corporations and free countries to compromise their values and principles.”

Pundits have speculated that Wen Jiabao try to influence Britain’s policy on the EU arms embargo during his meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair today. Students for a free Tibet and Tibetan Youth UK will be demonstrating during Wen’s meetings.

Since the Tiannaman Square massacre, which inspired the embargo, Tibet and China have seen little change in terms of freedom of expression.

“My country has been destroyed and everyone looks the other way. My people are suffering and everyone looks the other way. My religion and culture are being annihilated and everyone looks the other way,” said Karma Churatsang, president of Tibetan Youth UK, who is a Tibetan born and raised in exile in India.

“Tony Blair must use this chance to stand firm on trade and the embargo. To stand firm for those whose voices have been ignored for too long. He should end his political career on a high and positive note by standing up for freedom and human rights, not on a shameful note for underhanded tactics and media secrecy. It is a shame to see the British government support China’s clamp down on freedom and human rights.”