Sibling slant on the NGOings on in Beijing

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 September, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 September, 1995, 12:00am

CHILDREN, we are told by people who are unfortunate enough to possess a couple of the irksome noisemakers, are refreshingly honest in their assessment of both people and events.

So for an insight into what is really going on at the Women's Conference in Beijing, we turned to some quotations from younger attendees.

One pointed out: 'I learned a lot today at the forum from the workshops I went to. Sogand and I attended a self-defence workshop. We learned how to do nose punches and knee kicks and we all went around in a circle and had to yell out, 'No!' in our different languages.' Another said: 'Today was the first day of the NGO [non-government organisation] Forum. We got lost on our way to the 11 o'clock workshop, wandered for 45 minutes and still never found our destination. In the afternoon, there was a girls caucus at the youth tent. It was way cool. There weren't many actual girls, but lots of women who are interested in girls.' Meanwhile, Chinese officials, whose actions sometimes sound more naive than those of the children, said: 'We have designated special areas for demonstrations and processions inside the NGO forum site. Inside the NGO site, NGOs are permitted to have demonstrations and processions but these should not infringe on the sovereignty of the host country and should not slander or attack leaders of the host country.' Such an attitude didn't cut much ice with Betty Friedan, a feminist activist, who said: 'The way the government has insisted the women can only demonstrate in a children's playground is a metaphor of how it is determined to trivialise women's power.

'The reality is that the Chinese government feels threatened by the democracy and independence of women, so it is trying to control it.' Out on the streets, the Chinese police managed to quell a potential uprising by harrying an elderly Japanese woman who led a one-woman protest against nuclear testing by saying: 'Stop nuclear tests . . . I am the mother of a Nagasaki victim.' Back in Hong Kong, the unemployment problem has re-emerged to embarrass and haunt the Government.

The Federation of Trade Unions chairman Cheng Yiu-tong, said: 'We have been urging the Government to pay attention to the problem but they seem to have turned a deaf ear.

'We want to tell those suffering that they are not being forgotten.' On the same subject, departing Financial Secretary Sir Hamish MacLeod demonstrated that you can take the politician out of the job but not the job out of the politician.

He said: 'There is a danger of overreacting to economic statistics. Unemployment is one, though I'm not saying that doesn't matter. But we need to look at other figures to get a balanced picture. People tend to focus on the downside.' Those who argue Sir Hamish needs a damn good whipping should urge him to join a certain sect in Hong Kong, which is permitted to whip its disciples for disobedience.

Judge Caird said at the end of a court case in which a sect member was whipped on an altar: 'I accept counsel's argument that the caning was more symbolic than intended to inflict injury.' The rise and rise of Chief Secretary Anson Chan continues apace, but the Chinese authorities seem less than impressed with the toothy politician.

One said: 'The level of reception given to her by the Anhui authorities during her home visit was by no means high.' The most ignorant quote of the week goes to this passer-by who was asked about the celebrations for VJ Day. 'It's the Queen's Birthday,' he insisted, leaving veterans everywhere wondering what on earth they bothered fighting for.

Headlining dissident Harry Wu answered question on his detention on the mainland and demonstrated exactly how much regard he has for the Chinese authorities: 'Why should I be honest with them? 'I deal with men as men deal with me and they lied to me from the very beginning.' Credibility points are hereby awarded to magistrate Jonathan Acton-Bond, who offered to give someone in need $100 because the Government would not.

He explained his actions as follows: 'There is no money left in the poor box. The Government has closed it down.

'They have to build their airport and giving money to impecunious people takes second place.' We will point out once again that there is $350 billion in the bank.

In fact, this statistic also relates to our last item, which is a song sung by embittered elderly residents called the Elderly Rights Rap, which goes as follows: 'There are 800,000 of us in HK. We are not lazy. Retired life is very hard.

'Many of us are sick and hungry. The Government does not care, but we solve these problems by joining to fight, heart-to-heart, for elderly rights.' It won't get in the charts, but the implication for the Government is clear.