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Human rights letter redirected to feds

Council bows to pressure from VANOC, TW

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After feedback from the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic Games and from Tourism Whistler, council has redirected its letter regarding China’s record of human rights.

Instead of going directly to the mayor of Beijing from Whistler council, as requested by Councillor Ralph Forsyth, the letter is going a more diplomatic route, via the federal government through the Canadian minister of foreign affairs.

Mayor Ken Melamed said based on feedback from the media coverage, council felt it was the more politically correct way to go. There was a concern about straining foreign relations, he added.

"It’s just important to follow the right channels," he said.

"It wasn’t for fear of sending the message. Council is still resolved to send a message about its concerns. It was just really respectful of political protocol."

The message from Whistler is that council would like Beijing’s mayor to influence the Chinese government to abide by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Forsyth, who has been writing letters on behalf of prisoners of conscience for 20 years, specifically asked council to direct the letter to the mayor of Beijing. He was disappointed this week that council had changed its mind.

Council has put a six-month timeframe on getting a response from China via the federal government. If it doesn’t hear within that time, council will send the letter directly.

"The intent of the letter doesn’t change," said the mayor, "it’s just the route that we take."

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