Will Poland Sacrifice Democratic Principles for Sake of ‘Friendship’ With China?

June 15, 2004
By Thai Ton/Yhe Epoch Times
Chinese man forcibly steals banners belonging to Falun Gong appealers and runs awa

Poland’s leaders met with visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao and his delegation last week in Warsaw, their talks focusing on establishing closer economic ties between the two countries. According to the Polish News Bulletin, Hu was assured by Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski that “different perceptions of human rights shouldn’t have a negative impact on bilateral relations.”

If this is the case, then what is the price Poland will have to pay for these closer economic ties?

The night before the Chinese President arrived, billboards sponsored by the Warsaw branch of the Helsinki Human Rights Foundation were blotted out with paint. The billboards had displayed pictures of the Dalai Lama and slogans saying “Hu can free Tibet.” According to Polish media, it wasn’t Poland’s Internal Security Agency who did it.

During the talks, demonstrators peacefully appealing in front of the Polish Presidential Palace found themselves harassed by a large contingent of banner-holding Chinese. Some of the Chinese counter-demonstrators grabbed the banners from those who were appealing for improved human rights and ran off with the banners or tore them up. The human rights-appealers also found themselves and their banners blocked by vehicles “coincidentally” parked in front of them.

Martin Hakemer, a Polish Falun Gong practitioner, was there with five other Falun Gong practitioners to hold up banners. According to Hakemer, their messages were simple, all calling for an end to the violent persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China. They held up banners that read “Bring Jiang Zemin To Justice,” “China Stop Persecuting Falun Gong,” “Falun Dafa is Good” and “Falun Dafa: Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance.”

Hakemer and his group found themselves surrounded and muscled back by a group of about 30 Chinese carrying large red banners and national flags. Not content, the Chinese group forcibly stole some of the Falun Gong banners.

According to Hekemer: “As we were trying to discuss the situation with the Chinese protestors, one of the Chinese forcefully grabbed two of our banners and ran away.” Later, Hakemer said, a car with diplomatic license plate number W076500 blocked our way. The driver of that car got out and tried quite hard to grab away our banners; this happened right in front of the policemen.”

The attacks were not restricted to the Falun Gong group. Banner-holders for the Tibetan group also had their banners forcibly taken from them.

Meanwhile, in the Presidential Palace, Kwasniewski and Hu were cordially conversing about forging closer economic ties between their countries. Once close allies during the communist era, relations between the two countries became strained when Poland became a democracy and spoke out against human rights abuses in China.

There’s nothing wrong with improving economic ties, but one must wonder what price one has to pay if freedom and human rights are sacrificed for money and trade. Already, the Polish people have gotten a glimpse of their freedom of expression being suppressed, Chinese persecution-style, in their own democratic country.

Fortunately, the Polish media was there to report on the incidents. The Polish newspaper Gazeta Wybocza ran a front page article on the story. According to the paper, a Chinese Embassy official confirmed the Chinese group was sent there by the Embassy. The Polish Metropolitan reported, “A supporter of the Chinese government robbed human rights organizations and Falun Gong practitioners of their banners.”

This is just the latest in a pattern of China’s regime pressuring other countries to betray their own laws and principles in exchange for economic and diplomatic considerations. Earlier this year in January, French police, under intense pressure from the Chinese government, started arresting anyone in yellow, the signature color worn by Falun Gong practitioners, during the Chinese New Year celebrations (http://www.theepochtimes.com/news/4-1-28/19108.html.)