Amnesty International is a broad organisation world wide. The Website gives a brief history as follows (2008) Amnesty International is a world wide movement of people campaigning to protect human rights. We have a vision of a world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. When those human rights are violated, we:
- Search out the facts
- Expose what is happening
- Mobilise people to put pressure on governments and others to stop the abuse
Founded in 1961 by Peter Benenson, a barrister from London it grew to what It is today. Then Peter was outraged when he heard reports of students arrested in Portugal for toasting for freedom. The issue of his appeal for the forgotten prisoners, languishing in jails because of their non-violent beliefs is the start of where we can join today. The basis idea is letter-writing campaigns to pressure governments. That very same year Australians formed groups and joined the movement. And around 65.000 people work in Australia to defend the rights and dignity of people.
The Australian Amnesty works to defend the rights in Australia, Pacific and Asia. Supporters give their time, donations and expertise in order to build the voice for the human rights. Main work is writing letters, petitions, networking in important democratic movement and join campaigns.
One of the projects today is the human rights pledge for China. Amnesty is very active in taking action. The action of course is actual due to the Olympics. Amnesty (2008) “Opinion in China online can lead to prison, torture and death. People are silenced and what happens in China is often clouded in secrecy. Sign up to take the pledge to stop the Chinese Government and large internet companies restricting freedom of expression on the Internet, and we’ll keep you up-to-date with ways you can help create a more transparent society in China.” You can directly participate in signing the form online. The letter you sign is from Amnesty (2008) “I believe the Internet should be a vehicle for freedom not repression. People have the right to search for and receive information online and express their peaceful beliefs without fear or interference. I call on the Chinese Government and large internet companies to stop the unwarranted restriction of freedom of expression on the Internet.”
The pledge is typical, any person can participate in the actions of Amnesty. China is a powerful country in the World, the economic position has grown immense over the last years. Cheap labour, hardly any costs drives many companies to China to build factory’s. China is important, it is number 4 of the list in fast growing Economics, important trading partner for many countries in the world including Australia. However, nothing has changed in the human rights part. Till this very moment people still die or are prisonised.
Shocking to read is this part Amnesty (2008) “By allowing Beijing to host the Games you will help in the development of human rights” Liu Jingmin, Vice-President of Beijing Olympic Bid Committee, April 2001 . What can be said after reading this? Dit we miss something in the last couple of years or is China changing here and there? Many questions we may ask ourselves. Amnesty remains however optimistic as we can read. Amnesty (2008) “The 2008 Beijing Olympics offer us a unique opportunity to help build a more transparent society in China. Freedom of expression is a universal human right, and Amnesty International believes the Games can be used as a positive step towards creating a society in China that upholds basic human rights. In Australia, our campaign will challenge the Chinese system of internet repression. We want to see freedom of expression in China. We would like citizens everywhere to have the same access to the information tools as we do.”
Amnesty is focussing on censure for online directories. Freedom of speech as we know it means in China you will end up in jail, tortured or killed. Internet for us common in use is hidden in China. The government blocks almost every line to the open. We have seen already in the last week how China for example views the riots in Tibet. What we know is entirely different from what the Chinese get to see in their news. The online sources are not open for the Chinese to see or read. Chinese truth is very different from ours. All the people see is what others want them to see and know. Tibet is the latest example. The censorship goes for both the domestic as foreign media. Providers like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft help China to keep the access censored!
Other important issues that Amnesty keeps a focus on is death penalty.
Amnesty (2008) ” There is no transparency around the death penalty in China. The government considers it a ‘state secret’ and attempts to control what information is made public. In 2006 the government reported 1,010 executions, however the figure is thought to be much higher. 68 crimes in China are punishable by death, including non-violent and white-collar crimes. People can be executed without fair trial and after pleading guilt under torture.”
Amnesty also draws a lot of attention to the fact that China still is using a lot of torture. Amnesty (2008) ” Torture is reported to be a common part of detention in China and is used as a means of coercion and punishment to control people. Religious and ethnic minorities, supporters of democracy and human rights advocates are all targeted by authorities. Systems of detention enforced by police and not the courts deny people any right to appeal. These systems lack transparency. Imprisonment, mistreatment, torture and the death penalty often occur without the person receiving a fair trial.”
Last important item Amnesty stands for are the laws in China which makes it happening that thousands of people are prisonised without any reason. Amnesty (2008) ” Harsh laws and vague definitions of ‘crime’ mean that thousands of people in China are imprisoned for defending basic human rights. Lawyers, peaceful protesters and ordinary citizens who support democracy are all at risk. Laws and practices like surveillance, house arrest and intimidation create a culture of oppression where people are frightened to speak out and will be punished if they do. Despite this there are many people who still pursue freedom and basic human rights.”
Fact is that Amnesty gives you a change to participate directly online.
- Amnesty International Australia (2008) Promoting and defending human rights http://action.amnesty.org.au/centre/action/4917/ March 27 2008 http://www.amnesty.org.au March 26 2008