The New Zealand section of Amnesty International started a tour of the country earlier this month as part of its campaign, “Human Rights Reform in China.” At each stop, AINZ would engage with the public to increase awareness of the human rights abuses in China and ask people to sign a declaration on the tail of a traditional Chinese parade lion, i.e. the “Lion Declaration.” Special invites to sign the declaration will also go to the mayors and councilors of NZ cities that have a sister city relationship with China in order to have the public officials commit to hold a dialogue on human rights with Chinese officials. The tour started on April 10th and it would last six weeks.

The tour did not receive a warm welcome at every stop as evident in the tour notes posted online. The first stop was successful with the mayor of Invercargill waiting with the media as the group arrived at the city council office. Day two in Queenstown was also somewhat a success. While in Dunedin, the group got their first taste of rejection, probably because the Dunedin mayor is a first-generation Chinese. Meanwhile, the mayor of Christchurch was visiting China when the tour went through there so the city council decided not to meet with the group at all.

It is quite an ambitious project. I wonder how many NZ officials end up signing the declaration and whether they would actually discuss human rights during their future engagement with their sister cities. I also hope other sections of AI would duplicate this project. Human rights related conversation with local Chinese officials could have significant impact because it is common practice that they do not acknowledge all the messages coming from Beijing.

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