Thursday, January 05, 2006

Campaign to release remaining WTO prisoners

Here's an appeal from an international campaign to free the remaining WTO protestors that came out today. I'll reprint it in full:

International Campaign for the Immediate Release of WTO Political Prisoners
(Sponsoring organizations: Korean Struggle Mission---Korean Confederationof Trade Unions, Korean Peasants League, and Korean Catholic FarmersAssociation---Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, Hong Kong People’sAlliance, and Via Campesina)

During the 6th World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference that washeld in Hong Kong from December 13 to 18, 2005, thousands of participantsrepresenting trade unions and labor rights groups, peasant’s, civil society, migrant rights, and women’s organizations, and social movement organizations participated in a series of peaceful protests, rallies, andother actions to protest the WTO and its impact on workers, farmers, and people all around the world, specifically in developing countries.On the eve of the conclusion of the WTO Ministerial meetings (December17), these groups realized that despite their many efforts, to express their concerns and have their voices heard, the so-called representativesof the people continuously refused to listen.
Government officials and trade analysts had cloistered themselves in the convention center pushing forward to achieve some sort of consensus and finalize an agreement that would once again clearly favor developed countries, fail to alleviate poverty, and further increase the gap between the rich and poor.As rally participants attempted to make their way to the convention center, the Hong Kong police forcibly blocked them. Knowing that this could be their last chance, the participants decided to move forward. Although the Hong Kong police attempted to disperse the crowd, the participants were desperate to enter the convention site. They became increasingly frustrated by the efforts of the Hong Kong police to stop and silence them and as a result a confrontation ensued between the participants and the Hong Kong police.

Hong Kong Police Violations Against Demonstrators
During this confrontation the police used excessive force, pepper spray, tear gas, and more importantly anti-riot beanbags (rubber bullets) to stopthe participants. It was recently revealed that the Hong Kong police had never used beanbag bullets on demonstrators in Hong Kong, and that theyare only intended to be used against rioters. It should be noted that theparticipants in no way started a riot nor was it their intention to do so. The intentions of their actions were peacefully motivated and thus, the response of the police in no way warranted such drastic actions. As a consequence many were injured during the confrontation.Little past midnight on December 18, the Hong Kong police surrounded theprotestors and refused to let anyone to either enter or leave the cordonedarea. Starting at 2:30 am, the police declared that everyone wasparticipating and an “unlawful assembly” and began to systematicallyarrest more than 1,300 participants. Since the police did not have sufficient vans to transfer the participants, it took them over ten hoursto arrest everyone and incarcerate them in 14 detention centers acrossHong Kong. During the arresting and detention process a number were beaten by thepolice, hundreds were forced to be handcuffed in plastic cable wires behind their backs for more than three hours waiting to be processed bythe police at the detention centers, and in certain cases, in the earlystages of the detention, women were strip searched. A large number ofdetainees were held for 48 hours, the legal time frame for the Hong Kongpolice to either charge those arrested or release them. During this timemany participants, in some cases 20 people together, were forcibly crampedinto 3x3 cells with no blanket to cover the cold cement floors.

14 WTO Political Prisoners
In the end, the Hong Kong government released all of the participantsexcept 14 individuals who they deemed to be the ringleaders and thus responsible for damages to public property and injuries suffered by the Hong Kong police. Of the fourteen arrested, nine are South Korean farmers, two are members of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), one is a homeless rights activist in Japan, one is a Taiwanese student, and one is mainland Chinese. Although the 14 WTO Political Prisoners are out on bail, twelve of the defendants (eleven Korean and one Japanese) are currently living in a local church due to the generosity ofthe Hong Kong Catholic Bishop, awaiting their trial. It should be noted that this is the first time that foreign nationals have been charged and are undergoing a formal trial procedure for participating in actions against the WTO.

Hunger Strike Launched by the WTO Political Prisoners
12 of the 14 WTO Political Prisoners have decided to launch an indefinite hunger strike starting January 5 to not only highlight the injustice oftheir case, but more importantly highlight the reason for them coming toHong Kong---to protest against the WTO. Their fight was not with thepeople of Hong Kong, but with the undemocratic institution of the WTO andthe free trade policies implement by the WTO without any real consultation with workers and farmers.

Call for Action
We are calling for the international community to express your outrage tothe Hong Kong government and the Hong Kong police by calling for the immediate release of the 14 WTO political prisoners. We are asking individuals and organizations to participate in a variety of activitiesthat we are launching in conjunction with the Hunger Strike by the WTO Political Prisoners.


1.International Support Letter Writing CampaignWrite to Donald Tsang calling for the immediate release of the 14 WTOPolitical Prisoners. Please see the enclosed sample letter. Send copiesof all letters to the International Committee for the Immediate Release ofthe WTO political prisoners at

2.Coordinate an International Day of ActionWe are calling for interested organizations and individuals to coordinatea protest rally in front of the Chinese Embassy on Monday, January 9, 2006at 12:00 pm. In addition to the rally, we urge people to meet withembassy officials calling for the immediate release of the 14 WTOPolitical PrisonersPlease send all information of international day of actions and

3.Participate in an Internal Solidarity Mission to Hong Kong.We are coordinating an international delegation consisting of key leadersfrom trade unions, human rights groups, civil society organizations, peasant’s groups, and other social movements to participate in asolidarity mission to Hong Kong. The program will start with a localrally coordinated by Hong Kong support groups on January 8, participatingin the international day of action and press conference on January 9,visiting key members within the Hong Kong government and the prosecutionon January 10 and ending with observing the pre-trial hearing scheduled for January 11. For more information about the International Solidarity Mission, pleasecontact Elizabeth Tang. of the HKCTU at 852-9091-9088 and Jin Sook Lee ofthe KCTU at 852-6733-83954.

4.Solidarity Hunger Strike We are calling for individuals and organizations to conduct a solidarityhunger strike for either one meal or one day anytime between January 5 to11, 2006.Please send all information of solidarity hunger strike and

5.Financial SupportWe appeal for financial support towards the expenses that the detaineeshave incurred as a result of the detention. Donations can be sent to HKBS001-393248-001 or by cheques payable to Student Christian Movement of HongKong. Please send cheques to Mr. Chan Chiu Wai at 7/F Wing Wong Building557-559 Nathan Road Kowloon, Hong Kong. Be sure to note on the cheque that the donation is "support for arrested WTO protestors".

Sample Letter

Mr. Donald Tsang
Chief Executive
Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong People's Republic of China
Via fax: 852-2509-0577 or Via e-mail
January 4, 2006
Dear Chief Executive Tsang:
On behalf of ________, I am writing to express our deep concerns about thearrest of 14 protestors from South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and mainlandChina, who are facing charges of unlawful assembly for the events thattranspired on the December 17, 2005 near the vicinity of the 6th WorldTrade Organization’s Ministerial Conference site in Hong Kong.The 14 protestors charged were among more than 1,300 people arrested onthe night of December 17 questioning the on-going negotiations within theconference site, which would undoubtedly be detrimental to the livelihoodof farmers, workers, and people around the world. The protestors wereattempting to voice their frustration and desperation at yet another roundof the WTO Ministerial conference that yielded no measures to alleviatepoverty or to address their concerns.Although all fourteen are released on bail, it is our understanding thatthe Hong Kong government has formally charged them with “unlawfulassembly” and they are considering adding new charges. We are veryconcerned by the actions of the Hong Kong government and the police. Thus, we strongly call for the immediate release of the 14 protestors sothat they can return home to their families.We must also voice our serious concerns at the uncalled for and excessiveuse of force by the Hong Kong Police during the night of the 17th. Manywere injured, and electric shock batons were used, while reports of‘beanbags pellets’ being fired upon have also been confirmed. We havebeen told that there were numerous instances of human rights violationsduring the process of detaining over 1,300 protestors that have beendocumented by human rights organizations. We urge that an impartial andthorough inquiry into the human rights violations and the violence used onthe part of the Hong Kong police be pursued.As concerned __________ regarding this matter, we would like to point outthat a failure to properly investigate and rectify human rights violationswould reflect negatively on the human rights standards of the SpecialAdministrative Region of Hong Kong. A harsh sentence for the 14 wouldalso put into question the democratic tolerance of the region, taking intoaccount that no foreigners have been arrested in previous cases of similardemonstrations.We will continue to monitor closely the proceedings regarding the 14protestors and again stress our call for the immediate release of the 14activists.
We thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.Sincerely,(list of signatories)

CC: Pascal Lamy Fax: 41-22-731-42-06 or

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