neil birrell (neil@lds.co.uk)
Mon, 11 Sep 1995 20:32:23 +0200

scanned article


The United Nations fourth women's
conference (both the non-government
sector and the government sector) which
is being held in Beijing this week has
been attacked not only by the Chinese
Communist Party but by reactionary
religious forces.

The Vatican and Islamic fundamentalist
States have joined together in all attempts
to prevent the delegates from raising
questions about reproductive rights, both
on the official and non-official agenda.
These reactionary authoritarian powers
still believe that they and they alone
have the power to control women's
reproductive rights. Their attempts to
curtail and outlaw debates about
women's reproductive rights highlights
the authoritarian nature of two of the
world's main religions.

While the Women's Conference in
Beijing weathers the onslaught of the
"unholy" alliance between the Vatican
and Islamic fundamentalism (it's
interesting to note they both agree that
they should be the sole and final
arbitrators of what women's rights
should or should not be) they are also
faced with a hamfisted attempt by the
Chinese Communist Party to control
not only the agenda but the outcome of
each and every women's meeting. As
some of the non-government delegates
struggle to raise the question of human
rights in Beijing it's obvious the
Chinese State and most nation States at
the conference believe that State rights
always take precedence over human
rights. In a massive security effort the
Chinese government has attempted to
quarantine both government and non-
government delegates from the Chinese

The placement of the non-government
meeting in a "paddock" outside Beijing
means that the Chillese State could limit
any influence women would have on its
own populatiom- The authorities are so
frightened of any free expressions they
are treating the non-government
delegates as virtual hostages and
prisoners. If the eyes of the world
weren't watching they would have
arrested and imprisoned every delegate at
the non-government forum.

The single most important lesson that
can be drawn from this debacle is the fact
that authoritarian regimes, whether they
be secular or non-seculcar will use all the
means at their disposal to crush
independent thought. Fortunately, the
energy and spirit of the women has
shown that the holy trinity is nothing
more than a "paper tiger."


As Greenpeace and a number of other
non-government organisations challenge
the decision of the French government to
detonate nuclear bombs in the Pacific,
it's becoming blatantly obvious that
both the Australian and New Zealand
government are only paying lip service
as far as their opposition to French
nuclear testing is concerned. Direct
confrontation with the French
government has been left to non State
organisations and the independence
movement in Tahiti.

Apart from a few, comments by
Bonaparte Keating and a few of his-
miniisters, the Australian government
has done nothing to show their
displeasure with the French government.
The Australian government has not
supported a boycott of French goods, it
has not helped the non-government
sector in their protest and it has not
protected the interest of its citizens who
have been arrested on the high seas by
, the French government.

To rub salt into the wounds of the
protesters, it has not even bothered to
send a naval presence to monitor the
nuclear protests at Mururoa. Even the
New Zealand Prime Minister has shown
his true colours in the current dispute.
Although New Zealand has sent a naval
vessel to monitor the situation, Jim
Bolger the New Zealand Prime Minister
was more interested in taking the side o f
the French navy than protecting the
interests of its own citizens.

The only people who have retained any
dignity or have shown any courage in
this whole, sorry saga are those
individuals and groups both in Tahiti and
around Mururoa Atoll who have,taken
the fight up to the, French State. The'
response of the Australian government
has been pathetic. We still export
uranium to France, we still trade with
France and the Australian government
continues to put the French governments
interest above the interests of its own
citizens who have decided to confront the
French authorities head on. While
Australians languish in jails both in
Australia and overseas for their attempts
to halt nuclear testing in the Pacific, the
Australia government continues to
support the French government and
ignore the needs of its citizens. A State
is a State is a State is a State.

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