Banging my head against the brick wall of China

We’ve been waiting for ages for the Chinese Consulate to respond to our invitation to discuss our Edinburgh Festival campaign for imprisoned human rights campaign Hu Jia.

During this year’s Festival 2,500 people filled in action cards expressing concern over Hu Jia’s case and calling for his release. Now we owe an obligation to all those folk to ensure that their demands reach the Chinese Government, and the Consulate in Edinburgh seems to be the obvious conduit. But getting them to engage is easier said than done.

Unfortunately the Consulate is out on the road to Corstorphine and surrounded by a large, featureless wall. It doesn’t lend itself to visual demonstrations. So this week myself and Bernard O’Hear (our Country Co-ordinator for China) decided simply to doorstep them.

After a brisk walk from the Scottish office we carried our box of postcards around to the back door and up to the window which deals with enquiries.

"Hi, I’m from Amnesty International and I’d like to chat to the Consul General if she’s available?"

I’ve had warmer welcomes. Bosses are phoned and the answer is "no", with a hint of "no, of course not". In fact we are informed that this end of the building couldn’t possibly communicate with the other end of the building, where the Consul General and her staff are based, nor take a delivery for them. So we have to go around to the front door. (In fairness, Bernard informs me that UK embassies are like this too).

So off to the front we go. We press the buzzer, smile into the camera and introduce ourselves.

No, we’re not allowed to come in, but we are told we can wait where we are. After a while we suspect humour ("how long do you think they’ll stand there before they give up and go home?") and are surprised when a man appears (presumably from a side door, but we didn't see that), takes a look at our cards and says he will take one back with him. What about the rest? "No, I think one is enough."

Back at the office, we wrap up the other 2,499 cards to post them to the Consulate, with the now traditional letter optimistically requesting a meeting. Surely the Royal Mail will get through?

So, is it worth the bother of lobbying representatives of a Government that doesn’t want to engage with us? Bernard is adamant that it is. Whether or not they speak to us, they are acutely aware of what we do and of how they are being discussed. So keep at it – for eventually all walls must crumble and fall.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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