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August 4, 2008 | by  | in News |
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Vic students help Amnesty fight for human rights at Beijing

Students from Victoria University were involved in an Amnesty International protest outside the Chinese Embassy in Wellington last week, aimed at highlighting human rights abuses in China ahead of the Olympic Games in Beijing.

The protest last Tuesday was organised by Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand (AIANZ) as part of Freedom Week, their annual fundraising and awareness week.

During the protest, participants displayed four “Olympic Legacy Banners” signed by the New Zealand public, each of which stated human rights concerns that Amnesty had identified as “key” to the situation in China. The protestors stood outside the embassy from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., with the banners being taken to Manners Mall for people to sign between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m.

AIANZ spokesperson Margaret Taylor said that the goal of the protest was to try and deliver the banners to embassy officials, who had previously declined to take them or meet with Amnesty members.

However, the officials “not unexpectedly” declined again. Taylor described the public reaction to the protest as “overwhelmingly positive” and noted that they had received substantial amount of attention from the cars driving past.

Taylor highlighted the involvement of Victoria University students at the protest. Several students joined the group of approximately twenty protestors in the morning, with more students participating throughout the day.

According to Taylor, the AIANZ protest was part of an attempt to use the upcoming Beijing Olympics as “an opportunity to improve human rights” in China.

Taylor said that the Chinese situation was particularly important as “there are widespread human rights issues in China but you wouldn’t see them if you visited,” increasing the value of media coverage as a means of forcing action from world leaders and the public. Amnesty intends to focus on the actions of Chinese officials throughout the Games, with crackdowns on any protests near Olympic venues and censorship of media seen as issues that may arise as the Games progress.

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