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Hong Kong,  December 13 2005

As the men in black suits gather today inside the cloistered Hong Kong convention centre to discuss deals on how to protect their businesses and those of the transnational corporations, we, women from the Asian region join the thousands of people who are out on the streets to march in protest against the World Trade Organisation (WTO). 

We, women from different communities all over the region – peasants, fisherfolk, Dalits, indigenous peoples, activists, human rights lawyers – have come here not to cause violence, but to expose the violence caused by unjust and anti-people trade policies by the World Trade Organisation (WTO).  And the violence carried out by those who protect these policies for their own profits and interests.

 Among us here in Hong Kong from 13-18 December are women who are courageously asserting their rights and seeking for change in their local communities against these powers that be, and have been the subjects of state violence.  Carmen Buena – a filipina peasant woman leader of a national peasant women organisation, AMIHAN, who is currently living under fear for her security and her life, as several of her comrades have been killed and made to disappear by the Philippine Arroyo government.  The crime that they have committed is their continuous struggle for their land rights and against the liberalizing policies of the government.

 With us is an Indonesian peasant woman who has been arrested by the police for her strong commitment in fighting for their local seeds against transgenic cotton by Monsanto.

 Some of us are from the rural communities of Thailand who bring the voices of those who cannot join us here but are with us in the struggle.  One of these women voices is those of Jintana, who have cases filed against her for leading protests against large commercial projects which will render the communities landless and foodless.

 Women workers from Hong Kong take valuable time off to be part of this women's resistance.  While they face possible consequences from their employers, often arbitrary dismissal, the women workers expose the harsh conditions of contracted labour, unprotected by the non-minimum wage system in Hong Kong and exacerbated by the liberalization of services.

 Our voices would have been stronger and louder had our sisters from the rural communities of Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan been allowed to join us here. But they have been denied visas, possibly considered as potential instigators of vIolence. 

 The threat of violence and actual harassment have continued at the island border of Hong Kong. Three days ago, one of our members has been harassed at the immigration upon arrival here, questioned for 6 long hours on why she was coming here.  Indonesian migrant women's workers here are being harassed for their continuing active demonstration of their opposition against the WTO.

 Who is then violent? Who then are the real causes of violence?

 In the last few days that we were here, we have been often asked by the media and even by the local people here – are you a peaceful group, or will you be causing trouble and violence?  But now that the Ministerial Meeting has officially opened, that question should be directed towards the men in black suit – how much trouble are you still planning to create; how much lives are you still willing to sacrifice to pursue your profit-oriented agenda?

 These political killings, harassments and intimidations are meant to protect the corporate interests both by the governments and the transnational corporations.  They are meant to silence voices of dissent, even as this dissent is expressed in peaceful means.   The systematic negative portrayal of the anti-WTO protesters as violent and trouble-makers in Hong Kong media is meant to divide the Hong Kong people and us.  But our issues are the same, our struggles are shared, our enemy is one. 

 The women's voices will not be silenced.  In the next four days, as the men in black suits do their horse trading, which will not be of any good to us or to our communities, we will raise our voices to expose the trouble and the violence that these unjust and anti-people trade policies have brought into the lives of the rural communities in the last 10 years of the WTO's existence.

Don't globalise hunger!  Assert women's rights to food and land!

 Women say no to WTO!

Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development  (APWLD)

13 December 2005 / Hong Kong