- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 26, 2007

Focus on China

Darfur activists today plan to step up their campaign to persuade China to do more to end the genocide in Sudan by delivering petitions from 42,000 supporters to the Chinese Embassy in Washington and consulates in five other cities.

“We’re calling on China to call on Sudan to do the right thing,” said Allyn Brooks- LaSure, a spokesman for the Save Darfur Coalition.

He expressed confidence that Chinese diplomats will receive the petitions because they have been in repeated contact with the coalition over China’s efforts to pressure the Sudanese government to stop supporting Arab militias in their four-year assault on black African villages.

Mr. Brooks-LaSure said top diplomats at the embassy contacted the Washington-based coalition last year and arranged a meeting with coalition leaders in April to discuss what China is doing diplomatically.

“They reached out to us before the campaign began,” he said. “They’ve been proactive. … They hear us.”

The coalition posted an Internet petition on its Web site (ga6.org/campaign/china_embassy_petition) along with a letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Organizers plan to deliver petitions to the embassy at2300 Connecticut Ave. NW at 11:30 a.m. and hold a vigil from noon until 12:45 p.m. Other activists plan to present petitions at consulates in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco.

The letter to Mr. Hu asks the Chinese president to use the country’s influence with Sudan to make sure that Sudanese President Omar Bashir honors commitments he made in June to allow peacekeepers from the United Nations to reinforce the beleaguered troops from the African Union who have been trying to police the Darfur region.

Diplomats, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, have recognized the role China, as Sudan’s largest trading partner, has played behind the scenes in getting Lt. Gen. Bashir to accept the U.N. peacekeepers.

The coalition letter also asks China to publicly “acknowledge the mass killings, human suffering and displacement taking place in Darfur” and to warn Gen. Bashir that relations with China would suffer if he reneges on his agreement. Gen. Bashir has broken similar promises in the past.

The letter urges China to halt its military sales to Sudan until the Darfur violence ends and to provide more humanitarian assistance to the estimated 2.5 million people displaced by violence. More than 400,000 people have been killed.

The letter also cites “unpublished reports” that China is using its position as the current president of the U.N. Security Council to weaken a resolution “designed to end the genocide.”

The coalition started its campaign with newspaper ads comparing China’s role as host of the 2008 Summer Olympics with its other role as Sudan’s biggest trading partner. Chinese diplomats have complained about those ads, Mr. Brooks-LaSure said.

“If the Olympics is China’s coronation on the world stage, that involves more than a scepter and crown,” he said. “It comes with a responsibility to act.”

Sahara rally

While the Darfur coalition is at the Chinese Embassy, activists for the Western Sahara will gather at Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House, to protest Morocco’s refusal to permit a referendum on independence.

Speakers at the noon rally will include Ambassador Frank Ruddy, a former U.S. envoy to Equatorial Guinea and a former U.N. deputy chairman for peacekeeping operations in the Western Sahara. Morocco has occupied the region since 1975.

Bruce Campbell, the rally organizer, said the event will feature refugee children from the ethnic Sahrawi people who are visiting the United States as guests of the Sahrawi Children’s Program of the Christ the Rock Church of Wisconsin.

“We want to be their voice,” Mr. Campbell said.

c Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.