B.C. APEC protest
By Brendan Howe
Students at the University of British Columbia are protesting against the scheduled arrival of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit leaders on campus Tuesday, Nov. 25.
The news of the APEC leaders retreat to UBC has attracted several forms of protest over the last two months with the climax coming this week when 15 tents were erected on campus, housing over 35 people. The tent dwellers intend to move into a zone which has been designated a security zone and they will only move if arrested, said Aiyanis Ormond, from the student action protest group, APEC-Alert.
He said the RCMP will enforce a strict security zone on Monday and Tuesday where no one is allowed when APEC leaders such as Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, Chinese President Jiang Zemin and Indonesian President Suharto will be in attendance.
"The policies of APEC are part of a neo-liberal agenda of no social programs and minimal government which results in the proliferation of drugs and prostitution," Ormond said. He added he believes UBC students should be able to protest wherever they choose.
Audrey Gill, manager of public relations at the APEC '97 coordinating office, said the security zone the protestors intend to violate is part of the international protocol for this event. The security regulations are in place no matter where the event is occurring.
"This is a free country and people are entitled to let their views be known. Police are asking people to respect the security zone," Gill said. She added the protestors will be arrested if they try to enter the security zone Monday or Tuesday.
This is not the first act of civil disobedience by the protestors. Ormond said in the last several weeks they have been painting an "APEC-free" zone on the streets around campus. Some students were arrested for their participation in this.
Ormond said the reason his group is protesting is because of the actions which leaders coming to campus, such as Suharto and Zemin, have committed and also because of the undemocratic way in which the university decided to host the event. He cited Zemin's treatment of the Chinese students at Tienneman Square and human rights violations by Suharto as examples.
Paula Martin, spokesperson for UBC, said the university is not hosting the event but merely providing the facilities. She explained the university is not there to advocate for or against it but they are pleased their campus was chosen for the event.
"It gives us exposure on an international level that is unprecedented," Martin said. She said UBC was chosen because of its strong reputation for Asian studies and its geographical location.
"This event has gotten a fairly apathetic student body engaged in an issue," she said.