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Human Rights Protesters Expected As Chinese Premier Zhu Visits MIT

By Kristen Landino
ASSOCIATE NEWS EDITOR

Wednesday morning, Premier Zhu Rongji of the People’s Republic of China will give an address to the MIT community and invited guests on science, technology, and education in Kresge Auditorium.

The speech will be broadcast live on CNN, as well as other major networks around the world.

Premier Zhu has been in the United States since April 6, and every public appearance has been fraught with activists protesting the torture, executions, and unjust imprisonment which continue to occur in China, as well as countries under its sphere of power.

Students, groups, to protest Zhu

Due to what many say are gross violations of personal freedom and human rights protection in China, Zhu’s speech at MIT on Wednesday morning is certain to be politically charged.

A number of groups as well as individuals intend to speak out in protest against Premier Zhu’s treatment of other more specific issues including illegal Tibetan occupation and the maintenance of Taiwanese independence.

Many student organizations in the Boston area are planning to protest Premier Zhu’s visit. A rally in support of the Coalition for Human Rights and Freedom in Asia is scheduled to occur near the 77 Massachusetts Avenue entrance to MIT.

Participants include the Tibetan Students Organization of Boston, the Boston Chapter of Amnesty International, as well as numerous area human rights supporters representing Tibet, China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, and the international community.

“China has to improve in terms of human rights. If they want to be a more successful nation, they have to address the issues better,” said Ngawang Jorden, a Tibetan student currently attending Harvard University.

“We hope to let Premier Zhu know that the Tibetan people will not go away. Despite its size, Tibet’s needs should not be ignored by Chinese policymakers. Negotiations are favorable for both nations. Tibet is not asking for independence, only reasonable autonomy. We hope to encourage greater dialogue between the Dali Llama and Premier Zhu,” said Jorden.

The Tibetan Students Association of Boston is one group which hopes to play a large role in protesting the visit of Premier Zhu.

“We don’t want him to ignore the gross human rights violations occurring in China in order to pursue economic objectives,” said Phurbu Tsomo-Thargay, President of the Tibetan Association of Boston.

“I think the protests will be very effective. Whether by media or by sheer numbers we intend to make our voice heard. We want to let Premier Zhu know how it is to shout in a free land,” said Tsomo-Thargay.

Protests focus on human rights

Some local student groups as well as individuals from Taiwan, Tibet, and China do not seem to oppose Zhu speaking at MIT.

“People need to be aware of his views, as well as the position of opposing groups, so they are able to make an informed decision for themselves,” said Jorden.

In general, however, most are dissatisfied with the current state of Chinese policy, and believe the protests will, if nothing more, send a message to Premier Zhu that the needs of citizens cannot continue to be ignored any longer.

“The purpose of our protest is two-fold: we hope to make a clear statement of our wishes for President Jiang Zemin to engage in dialogue with the Dali Llama to address the needs of Tibet, and we intend to push for the release of the 10-year-old Panchen Llama, who remains a political prisoner of the Chinese government,” said Tsomo-Thargay.

“Overall human rights in Tibet have not improved at all. The purpose of Premier Zhu’s visit is to show off to the world that he is important and can speak at prestigious institutions like MIT. He is saving face in an attempt to draw attention away from the human rights violations which China has committed,” Jorden said.

The Society for Hong Kong and China Affairs also has plans to participate in the protest rally. “We support the Coalition for Human Rights and Freedom in Asia and we intend to protest alongside other student groups on Wednesday in an effort to diminish the human rights atrocities prevalent in China,” said Yiu Tak Leung ’00, a member of the MIT Society of Hong Kong and China Affairs.

The MIT Chapter of Amnesty International intends to be an active participant in the protests outside of the student center.

“The message we would like to send is that human rights are important. The Chinese government has traditionally taken the stance that human rights has interfered with social development. We don’t believe this is the case and we think that by protesting we can make Premier Zhu aware of our stance,” said Doug Wyatt ’96, press officer for the MIT Chapter of Amnesty International.

“If all groups are able to voice their opinions together, the protest can be very effective. Progress can be made on these issues if Premier Zhu knows that every time he speaks, the same questions are being asked,” said Wyatt.