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Scotland: Thousands of signatures presented to Chinese Consulate in Edinburgh

Thousands of signed postcards and a petition, calling for the release of Chinese prisoner Shi Tao, were presented to the Chinese Consulate in Edinburgh by Amnesty International and Mike Pringle MSP today (Friday 14th December).

Shi Tao, a Chinese journalist and poet, is serving a 10-year prison sentence for sending an email containing information about the Chinese government’s instructions to journalists on how to cover the 15th anniversary of the suppression of demonstrations in Tiananmen Square. He was tracked down and arrested after internet company Yahoo! passed on his user information to the Chinese authorities.

Amnesty International considers Shi Tao a ‘Prisoner of Conscience’, detained solely for the peaceful exercise of his fundamental human right to freedom of expression.

The postcard and petition signatures were collected by Amnesty during this year’s Edinburgh Festivals, one of the world’s biggest celebrations of freedom of expression, and were presented to the Chinese Consulate today (14 December). This was chosen as a symbolic date as it was on December 14th 2004 when Shi Tao was charged with "illegally providing state secrets to foreign entities" and sentenced to hard labour.

Maren Schulte from Amnesty International said, "Handing over these signatures was very important. We are holding the Chinese government to account for their human rights abuses and showing them that ordinary people in Scotland are not letting Shi Tao be forgotten. This is essential, especially in the run-up to the Olympics in Beijing next year, as China promised to improve human rights."

Mike Pringle Liberal Democrat MSP for Edinburgh South, who has been a long-standing campaigner for human rights in China, accompanied Amnesty’s representatives to present the postcards and petition to the Chinese Consulate.

The delegates walked into the Visa office of the Chinese Consulate this morning to hand over a box filled with 2713 signatures and a letter to Consul General Guo Guifang. They were told that the Consul General would be able to meet them. However, 15 minutes later they were informed that Guo Guifang was sorry but could not see them due to an emergency meeting. The signatures were left behind and the representatives were assured that the box would be handed over to the Consul General.

Mike Pringle MSP said, "I am very disappointed that Consul General Guo Guifang wasn’t able to meet us personally. I hope however that she will bring this important issue to the attention of the Chinese government and I urge them to take this into consideration and release Shi Tao!"

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