The June Boycott Frequently Asked Questions List (FAQ)
1. What is the goal of the boycott?
The goals of the boycott are as follows: A. To raise general awareness about the human rights conditions in Tibet and China and to directly improve these conditions. B. To empower consumers by demonstrating how they can directly affect global politics and to encourage them to shop responsibly. C. To send a clear message to American corporations that as consumers we will not support companies that are contributing to human rights abuses in China and Tibet. D. To send a clear message to the government of China that we will not tolerate its human rights abuses. E. To send a clear message to President Clinton that the American people do no regard human rights and trade as two separate issues, and therefore China's Most Favored Nation trading status should only be renewed if China shows improvement in its human rights record. F. To ensure that all Presidential candidates publicly address the issue of human rights in Tibet and China.
2. What is MFN?
Most Favored Nation trading status, or MFN, is an unconditional trade agreement under which no extra taxes or tarrifs are imposed on trade goods. China has enjoyed this status since 1980. For a time, the annual renewal of MFN was dependent on marked improvement in China's human rights record. However, President Clinton de-linked human rights and trade in 1994, saying that the two were separate issues. At the time, Clinton said that other measures would be taken to ensure the improvement of human rights in China. However, State Department studies show that ever since the de-link, the Chinese government's human rights record has been progressively worsening. Therefore, we must insist that human rights and trade are re-linked and that renewal of China's MFN status is dependent on direct improvement in their human rights record.
3. What are the specific human rights abuses that the Boycott is targeting?
Within China and Tibet, widespread human rights abuses continue. Here are some specific abuses that the boycott will be targeting:
A. Tibetan and Chinese citizens have no freedom of religion, speech, or press and are imprisoned and tortured for minor offences. The Chinese government imposes the death penalty for more offences than other government on earth. 80% of the world's executions are carried out in China.
B. In China and Tibet today, up to twenty million people are working in forced labor and prison camps.
C. Chinese and Tibetan women are denied their right to reproductive freedom. In its effort to completely destroy Tibetan culture, the Chinese government has sterilized Tibetan women and forcibly aborted Tibetan babies.
D. Tibet's fragile environment is being destroyed through extensive deforestation and open dumping of nuclear waste. Many Tibetans and Chinese have died from exposure to contaminated materials. Currently, the Chinese government is refusing to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
4. What connection does U.S. trade with China have to human rights abuses?
Last year, according to labor bulletin reports, foreign owned companies in China were responsible for the worst abuses of worker's rights. Mandatory overtime, poor working conditions, and child labor were common in many foreign owned factories.
Additionally, all American corporations doing business in China pay heavy taxes to the Chinese government. Since the U.S. did over $35 billion in trade with China last year alone, this adds up to quite a lot of money. The Chinese government is using this money to fund its continued repression of its own citizens and the citizens of Tibet. Therefore, all of us who are buying goods stamped "Made in China" are financially contributing to human rights abuses in Tibet and China.
5. What things should I boycott?
We are encouraging consumers to boycott all items labeled "Made in China." An enormous percentage of products we buy everyday carry this label. The most common items are clothes and footwear. However, electrical appliances, luggage, furniture, and toys are also produced in China.
So to begin with, check out items in your own home. This will give you an idea of the sheer number of household products made in China. Then, start checking tags when you go shopping.You'll be surprised how often you see the "Made in China" label.
6. Realistically, what effects will the boycott have?
First and foremost, we will be educating hundreds of thousands of people about human rights abuses in Tibet and China.
Secondly, consumers will be clearly demonstrating that they will not let their money fund human rights abuses in China and Tibet.
Because of the enormous support we already have, we may have a real effect on US China policy. When U.S. companies see on national media that consumers are taking a stand, they will be swayed to change their practices.
Our real hope with this boycott is based on the fact that we have the ability to reach hundreds of thousands of people. Since this is an election year, the President is particularly sensitive to attracting our votes. Through events like the Tibetan Freedom Concert, and organizations like the Tibetan Freedom Coalition, major public figures will spread the message of the people of Tibet and China all across the world.
7. How will the boycott affect U.S. businesses/consumers?
In shaping the global economy for the future, it is imperative that fundamental human rights be respected and that business be conducted in a way that upholds these rights. The boycott does not seek to destabilize the American economy or disrupt international trade, but merely to set guidelines so that businesses everywhere begin to work towards positive change.
Our hope is that through actions like this boycott, U.S. corporations will begin to take more responsibility for how they are doing business, both at home and abroad.
If the United States were to withdraw China's MFN status, there would be some effect on U.S. Business. However, there would much more of an impact on China's economy.
8. How will the boycott affect the citizens of China and Tibet?
A large, sustained boycott will have a definite effect on China's economy. The imposition of U.S. sanctions or the revocation of MFN status would hurt the Chinese economy. This would be felt mostly within the Chinese government and the People's Liberation Army, though high income Chinese citizens and corporations could also suffer. We cannot fully predict the effect that sustained sanctions will have on the working class of China and Tibet. We do know that the people of Tibet and China will see this boycott as a show of support for their cause.
The goal of the boycott is to improve human rights in China and Tibet. Any short term effects of sanctions will be far outweighed by the long term improvement of human rights. Despite the danger of temporarily hurting the Chinese economy, it is imperative that we act now to improve human rights in China and Tibet rather than wait. The longer we wait, the more difficult the situation becomes. The people of Tibet and China strongly support immediate action designed to improve human rights conditions, but are often unable to voice this directly. It is therefore up to all of us, as consumers to act.
9. Is the boycott supported by the citizens of China and Tibet?
Yes. In 1983, the Tibetan Government In Exile called for an ongoing boycott of all Chinese goods effective until Tibet gains independence. The focus of our boycott may be slightly different, but it is completely in keeping with the wishes of the people of Tibet. The boycott is also intended to further the cause of the Chinese students whose cries for freedom were silenced in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
At this point, we have the support of Chinese democracy groups and Tibet support groups. The people of Tibet are very excited that more and more people around the world are learning of their cause and taking action against the Chinese government. The Chinese democracy groups feel that the time has come for serious action against the Chinese government.
10. Who supports the boycott?
At this point, nearly one hundred organizations support the boycott, including Tibet support groups, environmental organizations, labor unions, and social welfare groups.
11. Could U.S. sanctions against China precipitate a military crisis?
No. Pentagon studies show that China's military presently does not pose a serious threat to the United States. However, If we keep funding the Chinese government, their military could pose a serious threat very soon. The presence of American corporations and technologies in China is building up the Chinese military at an alarming rate. What we are seeking is a peaceful way to effect China now.
It makes much more sense for President Clinton to revoke MFN now than to continue trading with China and building up its military. If we keep funding them at the same level we have been, China will rise to be the next superpower.
12. Won't trade with China improve human rights conditions there?
No. Increased trade has not improved human rights in China or Tibet. State Department studies have shown that ever since Bill Clinton de-linked human rights and trade in 1994, human rights conditions in China and Tibet have been steadily worsening. We have refused to revoke MFN in the hope that the presence of capitalism will foster democracy there. It is time for more direct action.
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