Falun Gong is a constant reminder of Chinese oppression

The Chinese government has a long way to go in learning how to treat and respect humanity

A recent Saturday morning, a short, colourful and dignified procession set off from outside the Chinese embassy in Portland Place. It was composed of practitioners and supporters of the Falun Gong movement, a slightly bizarre quasi-religious organisation that believes in meditation and bits of various Eastern religions.

To me, as a mainstream Christian, it may be slightly odd but it is entirely harmless and believes in peace and goodwill and the general well-being of mankind. However, to the Communist Chinese regime it is a major threat to their very survival and needs to be ruthlessly put down in a manner worthy of Hitler’s approach to the "Jewish question".

Why? Because as with all totalitarian regimes the Chinese cannot tolerate any organisation they cannot control, hence their approach to the Roman Catholic Church over recent decades. However, Falun Gong does not have the Pope to defend it, and the wholesale persecution of Falun Gong has gone largely unreported in the West.

Members have suffered spells in labour camps, murder and a particularly brutal Chinese practise; the forced removal of organs for transplant. Falun Gong worshippers are not unique in this respect: Buddhist monks, Tibetan nationalists and political deviants of all kinds continue to suffer. Despite the rise of modern cities, China trails only Burma as the most repressive Asian regime.

Yet, in 2005 Her Majesty the Queen was forced to entertain President Hu Jintao to the full panoply of a State visit. Not since 1978 when President Ceausescu of Romania peed over the wallpaper of Buckingham Palace, has the leader of such a cruel and vicious regime been feted by the British establishment.

The Mayor of London is not alone in spending hundreds of thousands of pounds opening offices in China and encouraging tourists to come to London, but he seems oblivious to the fact that only the "well behaved" are allowed to leave China.

The City Corporation fawns over the People's Republic to the extent that last November I found myself walking the length of the Guildhall Library between the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster and the Chinese ambassador as we were announced at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet. The Communist functionary looked far better in white tie and tails than I did, and it rather reminded me of King George VI receiving Ribbentrop in the 1930s.

I once visited the Chinese Embassy to meet the ambassador who, at the time, was a rather pleasant chap who had been educated at Ealing technical college in the 1950s and complained that from his first floor office window he could constantly see the permanent demonstration on the pavement opposite.

“That,“ I told the Ambassador, “was the price of democracy.“ However from the sparsely furnished, heavily marbled and thick red carpet (a la Kremlin 1950s) in the embassy, his excellency could not see the irony.

Town Halls up and down the country are besieged by requests from Chinese towns for twinning arrangements and reciprocal visits, but as mayors serve the tea and cucumber sandwiches they do not realise that the polite man who calls himself “vice mayor” is usually the official responsible for sending dissidents off to the Chinese gulag.

The Chinese regime craves recognition, and, sadly, British politicians, businessmen and university vice chancellors are prepared to afford that recognition in exchange for contracts that are helping the Chinese to destroy their environment, persecute their people and stifle democracy.

I am in no doubt that the evil and corrupt regime that currently represses so many of our fellow human beings will fall. Then, perhaps, its many sycophantic supporters in the UK will hang their heads in shame as low as they do now in respect to these Communist butchers.

Brian Coleman was first elected to the London Assembly in June 2000. Widely outspoken he is best known for his groundbreaking policy of removing traffic calming measures
Getty
Show Hide image

The deafening killer - why noise will be the next great pollution scandal

A growing body of evidence shows that noise can have serious health impacts too. 

Our cities are being poisoned by a toxin that surrounds us day and night. It eats away at our brains, hurts our hearts, clutches at our sleep, and gnaws at the quality of our daily lives.

Hardly a silent killer, it gets short shrift compared to the well-publicised terrors of air pollution and sugars food. It is the dull, thumping, stultifying drum-beat of perpetual noise.

The score that accompanies city life is brutal and constant. It disrupts the everyday: The coffee break ruined by the screech of a line of double decker buses braking at the lights. The lawyer’s conference call broken by drilling as she makes her way to the office. The writer’s struggle to find a quiet corner to pen his latest article.

For city-dwellers, it’s all-consuming and impossible to avoid. Construction, traffic, the whirring of machinery, the neighbour’s stereo. Even at home, the beeps and buzzes made by washing machines, fridges, and phones all serve to distract and unsettle.

But the never-ending noisiness of city life is far more than a problem of aesthetics. A growing body of evidence shows that noise can have serious health impacts too. Recent studies have linked noise pollution to hearing loss, sleep deprivation, hypertension, heart disease, brain development, and even increased risk of dementia.

One research team compared families living on different stories of the same building in Manhattan to isolate the impact of noise on health and education. They found children in lower, noisier floors were worse at reading than their higher-up peers, an effect that was most pronounced for children who had lived in the building for longest.

Those studies have been replicated for the impact of aircraft noise with similar results. Not only does noise cause higher blood pressure and worsens quality of sleep, it also stymies pupils trying to concentrate in class.

As with many forms of pollution, the poorest are typically the hardest hit. The worst-off in any city often live by busy roads in poorly-insulated houses or flats, cheek by jowl with packed-in neighbours.

The US Department of Transport recently mapped road and aircraft noise across the United States. Predictably, the loudest areas overlapped with some of the country’s most deprived. Those included the south side of Atlanta and the lowest-income areas of LA and Seattle.

Yet as noise pollution grows in line with road and air traffic and rising urban density, public policy has turned a blind eye.

Council noise response services, formally a 24-hour defence against neighbourly disputes, have fallen victim to local government cuts. Decisions on airport expansion and road development pay scant regard to their audible impact. Political platforms remain silent on the loudest poison.

This is odd at a time when we have never had more tools at our disposal to deal with the issue. Electric Vehicles are practically noise-less, yet noise rarely features in the arguments for their adoption. Just replacing today’s bus fleet would transform city centres; doing the same for taxis and trucks would amount to a revolution.

Vehicles are just the start. Millions were spent on a programme of “Warm Homes”; what about “Quiet Homes”? How did we value the noise impact in the decision to build a third runway at Heathrow, and how do we compensate people now that it’s going ahead?

Construction is a major driver of decibels. Should builders compensate “noise victims” for over-drilling? Or could regulation push equipment manufacturers to find new ways to dampen the sound of their kit?

Of course, none of this addresses the noise pollution we impose on ourselves. The bars and clubs we choose to visit or the music we stick in our ears. Whether pumping dance tracks in spin classes or indie rock in trendy coffee shops, people’s desire to compensate for bad noise out there by playing louder noise in here is hard to control for.

The Clean Air Act of 1956 heralded a new era of city life, one where smog and grime gave way to clear skies and clearer lungs. That fight still goes on today.

But some day, we will turn our attention to our clogged-up airwaves. The decibels will fall. #Twitter will give way to twitter. And every now and again, as we step from our homes into city life, we may just hear the sweetest sound of all. Silence.

Adam Swersky is a councillor in Harrow and is cabinet member for finance. He writes in a personal capacity.