Geneva: The Second Geneva Summit on Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy is being organised jointly by over 25 human rights groups from across the globe.
The Tibetan Women’s Association in Switzerland is one of the organisers of the two-day conference which started yesterday in Geneva. The conference features political dissidents and activists from Iran, China, Cuba, North Korea, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Burma and Vietnam.
John Suarez of the Cuban democracy group, Directorio, opened the session. Recalling the spirit of the summit’s co-chairs, Vaclav Havel and Lech Walesa, he urged human rights defenders to come together, brainstorm and collaborate.
Another Cuban dissident, Nestor Rodríguez Lobaina, has been barred by the Cuban government to attend the conference. “Yet, thanks to the mobilization of international organizations and civil society, you can contribute to making sure democracies fulfill their responsibility to humanity,” said Isabel Rochat, Conseil d’Etat of Geneva. “We may forgive but we will never forget. That is the best response to indifference.”
Speakers of the first panel titled “Rising Powers, Rising Rights Compliance? Case Study of China” included Ms. Rabi Kadeer, Uyghur activist, Ms. Phuntsog Nyidron, former Tibetan political prisoner and Mr.Yang Jianli, Chinese dissident who shared their personal stories of suffering and survival from brutal oppression of Chinese communist regime.
Called the “mother of the Uyghur nation,” Rebiya Kadeer spent six years in a Chinese prison after standing up to the authoritarian Chinese government. Her own sons are serving decade long sentences in China without due process. She also told that the case of a young Uyghur protester, whose wounded, lifeless body was anonymously returned to his family. The Chinese government has cut internet and telephone communications,” said Kadeer. Many other such cases exist and are not recorded.
Moderator Ambassador Alfred Moses underlined that “the repressive regime in China will not survive. Oppression cannot survive. “
The panel’s second speaker, Mr. Yang Jianli, said that he was locked in solitary confinement for five years after taking part in the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square. He pressed the importance of the Internet to push forward democracy in China. Mr. Jianli said, “The cost of censorship will outpace the cost of circumventing censorship. It will be impossible to maintain, China will not be able to control the will of a billion citizens.”
Ms. Phuntsok Nyidron, former political prisoner and the recipient of 1996 Reebok Human Rights Award said that she was given total of 17 years sentence. Her crimes were secretly recording songs with inmates in praise of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in prison and saying “Long Live Dalai Lama and “Free Tibet”.
She further said that “I want to tell you what a day was like in a Chinese prison. My right hand was stretched over my right shoulder and a guard stood on a table and pulled me up by my handcuffs. Electric batons were put in my mouth, my fingers were poked by shoe sewing machine needles and cigarettes burned on my face. I was shocked with electric wires until I fell unconscious. The prison guard poured cold water to wake me up and tortured me again. That day, I was neither given a single drop of water nor food.”
She urged audiences to help protect and support rights of Tibetan people who have been struggling for their basic rights under brutal Chinese communist regime through non-violence.
According to organisers, over 800 participants had signed up to this conference from 50 countries. Yesterday’s conference was attended by over 200 people including some diplomats.
–Report filed by Tenzin Samphel, Office of Tibet, Geneva