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Amnesty International Rallies Against China

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More than 100 people yesterday signed petitions demanding the release of four "prisoners of conscience" being held by the Chinese government.

The petitions, sponsored by the Boston and Harvard-Radcliffe chapters of Amnesty International, demanded the "immediate and unconditional release" of Jigme Sangpo, Zhou Guoqiang, Wei Jingsheng and Tong Yi.

The four are currently being held in Chinese prisons or labor camps because they publicly expressed prodemocracy opinions and sought to reform the Chinese government, alleged Mel Yiasemide, an organizer of the event and a member of Boston's Amnesty International Chapter.

The petitions were part of a table and "Democracy Wall" set up beside the Widener steps by the Amnesty International chapters.

The table and wall were part of Amnesty International's China Campaign, which began in January and will last until September.

Yiasemide, who is also the head of the China Campaign in Boston, said the goal of the campaign is to inform the public about possible human rights abuses in China and offer them a way to help end those abuses,.

According to Yiasemide, Amnesty International will send the petitions to Chinese leaders and ambassadors and urge them to "stick by a world human rights standard."

"Amnesty is about putting the power into the hands of regular people who want to put an end to the jailing of dissidents without trial, the mass executions for petty offenses and the outright cruel treatment of jailed prisoners of conscience," Yiasemide said.

Although Amnesty International is an independent apolitical organization, Yiasemide said she believes China has a poor human rights record in large part because of President Clinton's decision to grant China Most Favored Nation trade status.

She said world leaders who abuse citizens will continue to do so unless trade is linked to human rights issues.

Students are usually receptive to Amnesty's tabling efforts, said Ghihee Suh '97, the president of Harvard-Radcliffe Amnesty International.

Not all the people who stopped by the table and signed the petitions yesterday were undergraduates, however. Several graduate students, faculty members and local residents became involved as well.

"Human rights are the most important subject of this century and the 21st century," said Cyrus Bina, an economist and affiliate in research at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies who signed all of the petitions. "This is the first step to be taken by human societies to live together in this shrinking world."

The "Democracy Wall" set up by Amnesty International yesterday held several pictures of people allegedly being abused in China underneath a banner that read, "HUMAN RIGHTS IN CHINA."

Organizers said the wall was designed to symbolize the Democracy Wall erected in Beijing and made popular in the late 1970s on which Jingsheng hung pro-reform posters. Jingsheng was imprisoned for these actions

Although Amnesty International is an independent apolitical organization, Yiasemide said she believes China has a poor human rights record in large part because of President Clinton's decision to grant China Most Favored Nation trade status.

She said world leaders who abuse citizens will continue to do so unless trade is linked to human rights issues.

Students are usually receptive to Amnesty's tabling efforts, said Ghihee Suh '97, the president of Harvard-Radcliffe Amnesty International.

Not all the people who stopped by the table and signed the petitions yesterday were undergraduates, however. Several graduate students, faculty members and local residents became involved as well.

"Human rights are the most important subject of this century and the 21st century," said Cyrus Bina, an economist and affiliate in research at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies who signed all of the petitions. "This is the first step to be taken by human societies to live together in this shrinking world."

The "Democracy Wall" set up by Amnesty International yesterday held several pictures of people allegedly being abused in China underneath a banner that read, "HUMAN RIGHTS IN CHINA."

Organizers said the wall was designed to symbolize the Democracy Wall erected in Beijing and made popular in the late 1970s on which Jingsheng hung pro-reform posters. Jingsheng was imprisoned for these actions

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