Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Research colloquium with a cuppa

Fellow blogger and friend, Serena made me realise how much I have started to worship the awesome kick-start from the wonderful wonderful warm cup of coffee. Final exams are around the corner, and i realise that frequent the kitchen to grab a yummy mug at least 3 times each night. She is right its a great "engine-starter”, however unlike her, I restrict my self to the less exotic instant coffee :p

My university just concluded its 11th research colloquium and like all other times, I shall take the time to comment on some of the good, bad, and… ermm. Lets just say, not so nice of the presentations.

Its lovely to see the university organizing its self (eventually) and improve its quality. I strongly believe in the notion that student quality is truly reflected in university quality.

This semesters colloquium saw from improvements: the colloquium is a day long event showcasing student research in psychology. Most research is done as part of course requirement and represents the creative minds of the students of HELP’s psychology program.

1. Improved sign-up mechanism
Kuddos to Edmond Kwok for taking the initiative to develop and host hucers.com. Those of you who do not know, HUCers handles the tedious process of student signups. Thus, it allows students from HELP to sign up for the colloquium sessions.

Sad to see however, that the website is not supported by the university. I am not going to get into a discussion about the politics of this (there certainly is some) but I want to raise the question why.

In terms of improvement, I would like to see the new system bounce an email to each student reminding them of their signup information. It could come as a timely reminder.

Though the next step would be to have an automated attendance checking system (at the entrance), but that I reckon would not happen due to budgetary concerns.

Good job Edmund!

2. Key note address
Just like the heading, students were left guessing till the last moment: “by whom?”

Ok seriously, who would want to go for a key note address (unless you want to kill time on a Saturday afternoon) when you don’t know whos talking?

But on the brighter side, at least there such a thing. I reckon that future marketing campaigns from the university will carry the information about the talk that happened (no pun intended).

I am not sure if this “talk” took place though. I dident attend ;)

3. Presentation arena and atmosphere
This is an area that I feel needs to be improved. There are a couple of things that dosent rock.

a. Formal dress code:
While formal dress code was made mandatory for the presenters, it seems a little strange that judges, chair persons, and attendants (those taking attendance and ushering) lack the kind of dressing that the occasion calls. I shall not mention names, but whats up with this particular chair-person who wore jeans and t?

Formal dressing should apply to all, in my opinion. Education should be communicated though role models. And if the role models feel that its not that important to be dressed formally, why should the students feel any different?

b. Stage area:
This needs to look decent. The stage in 3 (out of 6) of the venues looked like a total wreck. The multitude of wires made it look like an engineering disaster. I guess some of you may not agree with me, and feel that how “neat” hall looks is secondary. However, keep in mind, that the colloquium is a showcase of the best of student work. This is an opportunity that students take to ‘show off’ their talents.

I know that some of you will be quick to point out the typical students don’t take such an attitude towards colloquium and that students have started treating the event as just another day to get by. But that blame really lies in the way colloquium is presented to students.

I feel that the sprit of the colloquium lies in what its made to represent to the students. If the university slacks in its organization of the event, students will respond in a similar way.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe that the sole organiser, Winnee, (who’s been whisking her magic for a long time now) has been and is doing an absolutely amazing job. Colloquium has come a very long way under her guidance. The pace at which she has organized events is something that we should learn to envy. But, she could do more with increased support from other faculty members.

For one, a change in attitude by some staffers who have been quoted as saying out in their class “oh damn, colloquium is a waste of time”. That kind of attitude doesn’t help.

I propose an upgrading of colloquium, as a day of celebration on the student calendar. I propose the creation of a colloquium committee, (much like any other event). The committee should be represented by both members of the faculty and a healthy proportion of both junior and senior students.

I feel that involving students into the creation process will not just generate ideas, but will keep students actively interested in the success of the day.

4. Food!
Kuddos to the Peer Support Group, for providing refreshments (at a cost though). I have heard complains about the cost burning a hole in the pocket. I think its time for more variety.

I feel that the involvement of a club (PSG) in the colloquium is an example of student participation. Its good to see the PSG turn up and make the delicious dishes available to the participants. I am hoping that the next colloquium has more clubs participating (all not selling food of course).

5. Guests, Outsiders, and Visitors:
I touched on this during my last post on colloquium. The department could do better and play an active role in opening up this event to members of the public. It’s a great marketing strategy if you think about it. Research colloquium showcases what you talk about in the paid adverts and road shows. What’s a better way of increasing public awareness about a psychologist-to-be (their sometimes-quassi experiments) than by inviting them to colloquium.

It time we had industry leaders, lecturers/researchers of other universities, government spys, members from the ISA, interested citizens, could all be present to listen to the student achievers present their research. Heck, i
want my mommy to see me present :D

The upgrade of the audience would naturally encourage both staff and students to produce better quality research.

6. Staff presentation:
There’s so much of staff research (at least that’s what the brochure says). Why not use colloquium to present this research? I am sure staff members will be equally excited as students to present their work. This has many advantages.

-Helps students learn first hand about how the pros do it. What a better way to improve your next presentation than by watching the gurus take a shot at it.

-Help those present learn about ongoing university research, thus increasing the overall awareness of ongoing research.

-Boost the self-esteem of staff members. Why leave all that hard work hidden. Lets hear it.

-Opportunity for students to know about research that the university is undertaking. Might give potential ‘future’ researchers some ideas.

-Gives some staff members a taste of what it means to be a student. Lets face it, some talk a lot about research presentations, when they themselves would be nervous to present.

-Encourages staff to indulge in more research work (in case the brochure isent that accurate).

That is all! …. For now…

For those of you who may be students like me, shame on you for wasting time reading blogs. Shouldn’t you be reading your texts or something ;)

And since you have come so far, good luck for exams.

See you all after the 28th! :D

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

beyond the barbed wire: refugees in malaysia

Malaysia: The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR, 2006) claims that nearly 40 thousand refugees have been registered by them, Kuala Lumpur. Independent sources from other local NGO’s reckon that the real number of refugees (registered + unregistered) exceed hundred thousand

Where do these people come from? What are some of their problems? Are they dangerous people? Those were some of the questions answered by the 11 minute documentary “beyond the barbed wire” created by *ahh hmmm* yours truly.

While the title represents a sense of escape from captivity, the documentary aims to show that this escape is far from the utopic freedom that refugees have dreamt of from the confines of their ‘barbed wired’ world.

However, life beyond the barbed wire poses a whole new set of problems. In Malaysia, they are constantly persecuted and treated as criminals, thieves, crooks, and evil monsters here to do harm. Refugees are thoughtlessly deported back into the original misery. As Malaysia is not a signatory to the UN convention of human rights, just treatment of asylum seekers is a dream.

Stories of torture and murder at government detention centres pop up when ever you speak to refugees. Those who have tried to make this issue public have been ostracised and persecuted with the claim that they have brought shame to Malaysia. But, the real shame lies in the governments lack of concern for human suffering. For what ever reasons, Malaysia does not go public about the current refugee situation.

Where do refugees in Malaysia come from?

Majority of the Refugees in West Malaysia come from Burma, and Acheh. Then there are the refugees from the island of ‘Indanar’ of Philippines, in east Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak - the land of orang-utans).

Burmese refugees arrive in West Malaysia via land routes though Thailand. They are usually smuggled across the border via links with various “agents”. The Achehnese refugees tend to come in via boat (but I am not entirely sure).

On arriving in Malaysia, they are persecuted under the immigration act, and are condemned as “illegal immigrants”, a term that’s frequently used to refer to refugees by local media. This stereotyping, leads for the mistreatment of a population who are already stateless and homeless.

While the documentary does not explore the various political domains, it focuses on the human aspect of a refugee. The documentary is designed to help the typical refugee break existing negatives perceptions of who refugees are. It tries to show Malaysians what it would feel like to be one?

This documentary is was successfully made due to the contributions from the following persons. Ai Ling the cinematographer, Nadine the producer, Tessa the assistant producer, Sangeeta the production assistant. And then, there are the non-technical team of supporters and reviewers. The most important are Katrina J, and May Kuen. It was a real pleasure directing and editing!


on site!






I am currently trying to find a place to host a copy of the movie. But until I do that, please write to astrorat@gmail.com for a copy. Bear in mind, that it is about 50MB in size!

Other resources

Human Rights Watch: about the role of UNHCR in Malaysia:

Human Rights Watch: article on refugees in Malaysia:

Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS): report on Acehnese refugees in Malaysia

Refugee International: article on Malaysian refugee:

ReliefWeb: article on Refugees in Malaysia:

Suram (Malaysian human rights group): article on Refugee issues in Malaysia:

Tenaganita: article to release refugees held inhumanly:

Tenaganita: article urging to ratify UN convention on Human rights:

United Nations High Commission for Refugees (Malaysia): Urging government to protect and not abuse refugees during “crackdown”:

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Sujiatun: Action now...

My post on Sujiatun seems to be receiving much more attention that I had hoped for. There is call for concern about the accuracy of the details provided about the events taking place. Some have gone so far as to exclaim that nothings going on because some western agency said so.

What seems to be forgotten however is that in the midst of these arguments of the accuracy of numbers lie numerous eyewitness accounts of torture, abuse, murder, and brutal killings involving the Chinese government and the said Hospital. These events have been related to a group of people who practice an alternate form of exercise called “Falun Gong”

There was this imminent feeling that some keep missing this very point. Regardless of how the message was formed, framed, and presented there IS an important message. And this message is that there is something going wrong in Sujiatun.

“The Sunday service” person seems to assume that the worlds issue can be solved only with rationalization, and accurate debates. However, debating for the definitional accuracy does nothing to rectify the issue at hand. Research to find the truth is more important. Without accurate information, you have nothing. Our primary concern as citizens of this world should be protecting each other. And when you hear muffled cries from you neighbour, we MUST investigate. If we do not know what the sounds is, we still investigate. We still want to know the truth. We do NOT alter our cognitions by telling ourselves, “oh.. its just my neighbours tv”. “Sunday Service” prefers to think nothing of it, choosing instead not to investigate the truth.
Don’t get me wrong. I have not been to the said hospital in Sujiatun. But, when I hear of eye witness account of torture, I know that humanity is not doing something right.

It is relatively easy to hide under a “system” of policies, procedures, arguments, and prefer to rationalise the world outside the US by means of rhetoric. Empty rhetoric is what Sujiatun does not need. Empty rhetoric is what happened when the heads of states from the world argued about what defines ‘genocide’ not so long ago. The result of that was the massacre of a million or more Rwanadan people. Lets not forget other places in the world where definitions, arguments, and empty rhetoric caused the deaths of innocent people. People who could have been saved if the world had reacted sooner.

What more do we need to hear? Do we need to see a million more dead Chinese nationals before a though investigation is justified? What in the name of humanity are some of us thinking when we agree to that question. We need to write to our parliamentarians, write to our papers, speak out in public, tell our friends UNTILL a recognised and credible organization such as the United Nations investigate the incidences.

We MUST NOT deny a fair trial just because the presenting evidence is unclear. We have a duty to investigate and find the that truth now.

-------- Amended information: what can you do ---------

steph raised a very important question: what can we do?
keeping in mind the limited nature of information and its questionable accuracy:

1. Spread the news to your friends.

2. Contact your governments to demand that they conduct an international investigation on the Sujiatun events;

U.S. Department of State
http://www.state.gov
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
+1 (202) 647-4000
+1 (202) 647-6803 (China Desk)

Finding U.S. government representatives, please go to below website:http://www.congress.org

3. Contact the United Nations Secretary-General Mr. Kofi Annan and High Commissioner for Human Rights Ms. Louise Arbour, and demand an urgent intervention from their offices:

Hon. Kofi Annan, Secretary-General
United Nations Headquarters
First Avenue at 46th Street
New York, NY 10017
Press Office: (509) 510-2563 ext.: 6343
inquiries@un.org

Louise Arbour
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
1211 Geneva 10 Switzerland
Spokesperson: +41 (22) 917-9375
Press Relations: +41 (22) 917-3309
External Relations: +41 (22) 917-3965
Fax:+41 (22) 917-0092
jdiaz.hchr@unog.ch

4. Contact delegations of the International Committee of the Red Cross in your area and ask for their intervention: http://www.icrc.org

5. Visit China. Visit Sujiatun. Visit the hospital. Talk to the people there. Get a feel of whats going on your self. Investigate. And share your findings with the world.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Social world: Sujiatun, China

Some of you may be wondering why my blog have started to highlight social issues over the days rather than "psychology" as the title suggests. However, i find social issues hard to separate from psychology, and reckon that its important to pay attention to our world, so that we better understand the people who represent it.

My tag line invites you to join me as i "meet all kinds of people" and experience all kinds of people in my years in psych school. Though this "meetings" are not always real, the internet is a wonderful place to "meet" interesting people. One such person i came to "meet" is Dr. Shizhong
Chen, the President of the Conscience Foundation.

What a lovely name! 'conscience foundation', i thought to myself. But, then.. the name Sujitun did not mean any thing to me.
By Shizhong Chen Please remember the name: Sujiatun. It will one day be as infamous as Auschwitz and Dachau.

On March 8, 2006, a Chinese journalist on the run from the Chinese communist regime disclosed to Falun Gong practitioners in the United States some appalling news: a secret death camp in Sujiatun, Shenyang City, Liaoning Province in China.

According to this journalist, over 6,000 Falun Gong practitioners have been taken to Sujiatun. "I believe that once they are in they 100% cannot come back out," the journalist said. He also disclosed that there are incineration chambers and a large number of doctors there. "Why are there incineration chambers there? Why are there so many doctors inside? Certainly not for the benevolent treatment of prisoners. Something you simply cannot imagine..."

"The prisoners, the Communist Party definitely will not let them just waste food there. Why are they there then? ... They will all be murdered, and all their organs will be harvested and distributed to hospitals. The sale of human organs is a vastly profitable trade in China."

Falun Gong practitioners are not the only victims of such crimes. One week after the journalist's disclosure, a former nurse whose ex-husband had taken part in harvesting organs from Falun Gong practitioners also stepped forward to testify: "I used to work at the Liaoning Thrombus Treatment Center, which was next to the concentration camp. My ex-husband had taken part in removing corneas from Falun Gong practitioners. This brought disaster to my family."

"In early 2001, my husband was assigned by the hospital to secretly remove corneas from Falun Gong practitioners. He hid this from me at the beginning, but slowly I sensed he was in great agony, had nightmares often, and was always stressed. After my repeated inquiries, he told me the truth in 2003."

"He knew they were Falun Gong practitioners. Every doctor who took part knew. They were told that eliminating Falun Gong was not a crime, but helping the Communist Party to do 'cleansing.' Those who were taken in on the operating tables were anesthetized. Elderly people or children were mostly used for harvesting corneas."

"At the time when my ex-husband told me about this, he could no longer bear the torment of doing such evil things, and decided to leave China to escape the horror. He said to me: you cannot possibly know my despair, because those Falun Gong practitioners were still alive. It was different from removing organs from dead people - they were alive."

"Because of this, I divorced him. I said to him: you are done with your career; you will not be able to hold a scalpel in the future."

"I know there are still Falun Gong practitioners in that hospital," this nurse said in the end. "I hope this crime can be exposed to the international society as quickly as possible, so their lives can be saved. I also hope, through my disclosure, to atone my relative's crime."

The victims are not even limited to Chinese. It is an open secret that China has become the world capital of organ transplantation, and ships human organs to nearby countries such as Thailand. Tens of thousands from different parts of the world have received organ transplants in China and Thailand, being assured that the organs have been legally obtained. How will they and their surgeons feel when they learn about the barbaric organ harvesting, even if the organs harvested from Falun Gong practitioners turn out to account for a portion of all human organs used in transplant operations? Is there a way for them to remove the doubt? Will they want to find out? Or will they bear that doubt and forever avoid mentioning "transplanted in China"?

Another doctor recently stated that extracting organs from living prisoners is common across China. How many more camps like Sujiatun exist? It was precisely because we abhor such appalling crimes that humanity vowed "Never again!" after the shock of the Holocaust. Yet, as this vow is still ringing in the ears of Holocaust survivors, we are in for another shock - or are we? How do we explain to ourselves and our children that we have watched the systematic eradication of Falun Gong for more than six years and allowed it to escalate to the emergence of human organ harvesting factories like Sujiatun?

It is not due to a lack of information. Ever since July 1999, Falun Gong practitioners in China have been taking great risks to collect and send abroad, on a daily basis, detailed information on the extensive and severe human rights violations committed by the Chinese communist regime.

Falun Gong practitioners overseas have worked their hardest to disseminate this information to governments, media, opinion leaders, the United Nations, and the general public to appeal for their attention.

United Nation's Reports It is not because the information is unsubstantiated. In the past few years, many Special Rapporteurs of the United Nations Human Rights Commission have cited in their annual reports numerous cases of torture and killing of Falun Gong practitioners by the Chinese regime.

Special Rapporteur Asma Jahangir wrote in her 2003 report: "The cruelty and brutality of these alleged acts of torture defy description." On October 15, 2004, seven Special Rapporteurs sent a joint letter to China to express their concern about the persecution of Falun Gong. These Special Rapporteurs are the most-respected authorities on human rights. Their findings and opinions on the Chinese regime's persecution of Falun Gong have been reprinted to thousands upon thousands of copies and submitted to world governments and media.

History, unfortunately, repeats itself. Just as the Holocaust information provided by Jewish groups was cast aside or downplayed because of the "unsubstantiated nature of the information" and its "prejudiced sources," information from Falun Gong practitioners has received the same fate. History has also shown that all major atrocities occurred when there was not enough media exposure, when perilous signals were ignored because they were "incomplete" or "unsubstantiated" or from "prejudiced sources" - when evildoers' deceits prevail, when the silence allows the evildoers to carry on unnoticed and unhindered. History, however, never duplicates itself exactly.

There is no major military or ideological confrontation in the world now. While the Allies did not have their focus on saving the Holocaust victims, at least they were fighting the Nazis and determined to win the war. We do not have that excuse now. On the contrary, we are apparently determined to win the market in China.

Technology is far more advanced now than it was in WWII, and we do not even need to be at Auschwitz or Buchenwald to know what is going on there. If 6,000 people have been taken in to Sujiatun and none has come out, how hard is it to see from surveillance satellites the suspicious traffic going in and out to figure out that it is a death camp?

There are now many international human rights laws that were not available before the Nuremberg trials, and there are now many surveillance and protection mechanisms implemented by the United Nations. How hard is it to demand an international investigation into the serious claim of the death camp's existence? What were those international human rights laws established for?

We do not always ignore incomplete or unsubstantiated information from China, however. When Dr. Jiang Yanyong disclosed the Chinese regime's deadly lies about the SARS epidemic, the retired doctor's letter to the media contained only what he had heard from his colleagues. Did the world hesitate for a second because the information was "incomplete" or "unsubstantiated"? Why didn't the information's incompleteness prevent decisive action by the international community? In fact, his letter was sent only to Chinese media, but Western media got hold of it and publicized it. Why does the world react so differently to the SARS news and the Sujiatun news, both of life-and-death importance? Isn't it because Sujiatun is about other people's lives?

If that is not enough to make us look at the selfish side of our humanity, consider this: if Sujiatun happened anywhere else other than China, whether in democratic countries or in North Korea, Sudan, or Cuba, it would have caused major outcries. Only the human greed for economic gains from China has kept the Sujiatun death camp from being an international issue.

"The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating, that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated." Justice Jackson knew the legacy that the Nuremberg trials would leave behind when he drafted his opening speech. If he have lived to see the post-Nuremberg wrongs, he might have been more introspective and lead a trial on human conscience and how it could allow the wrongs to continue to happen.

More information on this place:

The National Traditional Chinese Medicine Thrombus Treatment Center in Shenyang City. According to a former nurse who worked there, the Sujiatun deathcamp is in an underground complex connected to this hospital.

The furnace unit on the southwest side of the hospital. There are two doors leading to the
underground complex of the Sujiatun death camp.


According to the witnesses, the remains of Falun Gong practitioners are incinerated here after their organs are extracted.





Mr. Zuo Zhigang, a 33-year-old, worked at a computer company in Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province. On May 30, 2001, the Shijiazhuang City police and the "610 Office" arrested him. They beat him to death on the same day at the Qiaoxi District Police Station. His corpse was covered with scars. One of his ears was dark purple and there were two large square shaped holes on the back of his torso. There was a mark on his neck showing that a string had been pulled tightly around it.


Mr. Ren Pengwu from Harbin City, Heilongjiang Province. On February 16, 2001, he was arrested by the Hulan County police and thereafter detained in the Hulan County Second Detention Center. Before dawn on February 21, he was killed and all internal organs, from pharynx and larynx to penis, were removed. The authorities hastily cremated his remains afterwards.


At around 3:00 p.m. on May 14, 2002, two policemen arrested Ms. Wang Yunjie because she practiced Falun Gong. In December 2002, after depriving her of sleep for many days, the police tore her shirt open and shocked her breasts with two electric batons for 30 minutes. Then they forced her to stand up for the whole night. They tore some bed sheets, tied her legs in a painful cross-legged position, handcuffed her arms behind her back, and tied her upper body down to her legs and made her looked like a ball. Then they suspended her in the air by the handcuffs for seven hours. The pain was excruciating. Afterward Ms. Wang could no longer straighten her back and could not sit straight. The electric shocks disfigured her breasts and she eventually developed serious infections. When the camp realized she was dying, they ordered her family to pay 2000 Yuan for her release.
Ms. Wang Xia was sentenced to seven years in a forced labor camp. She went on a hunger strike to protest the torture. As a result, the guards force-fed her, leaving the tubes in her esophagus for 7 to 14 days at a time. They tied her to a bed so she could not move, injected her with unknown drugs, and hung her up to beat her. . In July 2004, after so much torture, she weighed only 45 pounds, lapsed in and out of consciousness, showed signs of severe mental disorder, and had lost her memory. She was then released from the camp. Because her case was exposed on overseas websites, she "disappeared" in September 2005.

Mr. Wang Bin, was arrested for appealing to the government was detained at Dongfeng Xinchun Labor Camp. On the night of September 27, 2000, the guards at the labor camp told five prisoners they would receive reduced sentences if they beat him hard enough and they would be punished if they did not. The beating broke Mr. Wang's neck and major blood vessels, his tonsils were injured, his lymph nodes were crushed and several bones were fractured. There were bruises all over his body. He lost consciousness right on the scene. When he was finally taken to Daqing People's Hospital, it was too late to save him. On the night of October 4, 2000, Mr. Wang passed away at age 47. However, two of hospital's doctors took out his hearts and brain. The photo shows that his body had been cut open.

As i take courses in International Business, economic, and world politics we seldom talk about the dark side of governments and their tactics. Lately, the world has been carried away by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, that we seem to have selectively focused out of events that are happening else where. China should not be an exception, and should not be treated as one either.

We seemed to have erased the rest of the world from our consciousness. And the people highlighted here, are real people too.

The next time I recommend China to my friends, I will also mention Sujiatun.

A link to this article can be found at http://www.consciencefoundation.org/ Many thanks to the Falun Gong Human Rights Working Group (http://www.falunhr.org/) brining this article to the worlds attention.

Please visit their websites for more information