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Human Rights Group To Protest Jiang's Address

Actor Richard Gere will join demonstrators

By Anne Y. Lee and Nanaho Sawano, CONTRIBUTING WRITERSs

The Coalition for Freedom and Human Rights in Asia outlined its agenda for protesting the Saturday visit of Chinese President Jiang Zemin's during a press conference held at the John F. Kennedy School yesterday.

Speaking to about 30 journalists from local and national news organizations such as The Boston Globe and The Associated Press, the Coalition presented a number of speakers who gave short presentations and entertained questions from the press.

Members of the Coalition--which represents an alliance of 25 local human rights organizations--seeks to address a spectrum of issues such as the Chinese occupation of Tibet, relations between mainland China and Taiwan and current human rights issues in China.

Shen Tong, president of the Democracy for China Fund, Inc. and a former Tiananmen dissident, spoke against Clinton's foreign policy toward China during his address.

"It seems that Washington takes Beijing more seriously than we [the Chinese people] do," he said.

Most of the Coalition members at the event also criticized the way in which Harvard has organized Jiang's visit.

Protest leaders said that they are upset that the University administration has displayed a "disingenuous attitudes" concerning the screening and censoring of the questions for Jiang, according to Tashi Rebgay, coalition spokesperson.

Rebgay said that the decision to screen the pre-submitted questions is at best a "bad deal."

"When the best deal is a bad deal and curtails the freedom of speech, a bad deal is no deal," she said.

Rebgay said that the fact that the Fairbank Center is requiring the screening and censoring of questions shows that "they are not genuinely interested in human rights questions," she said.

Some coalition members also said they wanted to publicize the fact that it is the John K. Fairbanks Center for East Asian Research, not the University, that organized Jiang's visit to Harvard.

The University is "taking on a supporting role," Rebgay said.

The Coalition also announced that actor Richard Gere will speak at a 9 a.m. demonstration Saturday morning.

Josh Rubenstein, regional director for Amnesty International, said he does not object to Jiang's visit.

"No one in the human rights community is suggesting that isolating China would improve the human rights situation," he said.

On the other hand, he said he is upset by Harvard's misrepresentation of American democracy.

Since democracy usually indicates the acceptance of different viewpoints and the freedom of thought, the University is presenting a "watered down version of democracy" to Jiang, he said.

Although Jiang will be able to freely express his thoughts, students will not have a chance to communicate their views to him, Rubenstein added.

Some of the coalition leaders at the event also related personal stories related to human rights injustices in China.

Describing his friend, Wang Dan--one of the student leaders of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protest--Shen Tong said, "He [Dan] was a sophomore at Tiananmen and has been in prison for seven years, he's suffering from prostate disease."

The planned protests begin with a 48-hour fast at Swedenborg Chapel at 9 a.m. Friday and will continue until 9 a.m. Sunday.

Protests leaders said they are optimistic about the turnout for the protests this weekend.

"We're really looking towards thousands," Rebgay said

"No one in the human rights community is suggesting that isolating China would improve the human rights situation," he said.

On the other hand, he said he is upset by Harvard's misrepresentation of American democracy.

Since democracy usually indicates the acceptance of different viewpoints and the freedom of thought, the University is presenting a "watered down version of democracy" to Jiang, he said.

Although Jiang will be able to freely express his thoughts, students will not have a chance to communicate their views to him, Rubenstein added.

Some of the coalition leaders at the event also related personal stories related to human rights injustices in China.

Describing his friend, Wang Dan--one of the student leaders of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protest--Shen Tong said, "He [Dan] was a sophomore at Tiananmen and has been in prison for seven years, he's suffering from prostate disease."

The planned protests begin with a 48-hour fast at Swedenborg Chapel at 9 a.m. Friday and will continue until 9 a.m. Sunday.

Protests leaders said they are optimistic about the turnout for the protests this weekend.

"We're really looking towards thousands," Rebgay said

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