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Canada's human-rights message for Beijing

By David Matas and David Kilgour, National Post
April 15, 2009

This week, the government of Canada is conducting a trade mission to China, led by Trade Minister Stockwell Day. Here is what we suggest Minister Day and the trade mission do while they are there. 1. Ask for the release of Gao Zhisheng.

In 2006, the Chinese human-rights lawyer had invited us to come to China to investigate allegations that practitioners of Falun Gong were being killed so their organs could be sold for large sums to transplant tourists. (Falun Gong is a spiritual movement banned in China in 1999 after China's Communist Party became jealous of the movement's popularity.)

Shortly after the invitation, on Aug. 15, 2006, Gao was arrested, tortured, prosecuted for inciting subversion, convicted on Dec. 12 and sentenced to jail on Dec. 22. Though the sentence was suspended, he went into house arrest.

After Gao made public a letter he wrote protesting Chinese human rights abuses, he was abducted by officials and disappeared. He was re-turned home briefly in February, 2009, and, after he released a statement about his torture, was re-abducted.

2. Ask China to abolish forced labour in prison.

A 1998 declaration of the International Labour Organization (ILO) commits all member states, including China, to eliminate forced labour. Yet the practice is widespread in Chinese prisons. Forced labour is not only a breach of human rights, it also distorts international trade by depressing the production price of Chinese exports.

3. Ask China not to export to Canada goods produced by forced labour.

The United States signed a memorandum of understanding with China in 1992 committing China to ensure that prison-labour products are not exported to the United States. Canada should do no less.

4. Ask China to give Canadian officials access to Chinese prisons.

5. Ask China to allow Red Cross officials access to Chinese prisons.

6. Ask China to abolish administrative detention.

Persons are routinely detained without charge-- sometimes for long periods --before a charge is laid.

7. Ask China to abolish "re-education" camps -- and the hideous practices that go on inside them.

In our investigations, we have concluded that China's re-education camps, as well as its other detention facilities, often contain forced organ donor banks. (More information can be found in our report, available at Imprisoned Falun Gong practitioners who refuse to recant their faith sometimes are blood-tested, organ-examined and killed for their organs.


Former Chinese president Deng Xiaoping once said: "To get rich is glorious," a slogan reflecting China's switch from totalitarian socialism to carnivore capitalism. Some vestiges of the totalitarian socialist state remain, including administrative detention and re-education through labour camps. But they come with a new twist: In socialist times, re-education through labour camps was mostly about socialist indoctrination. Now it is a pretext for extracting labour for profit.

Minister Day and his delegation must stand up for Gao Zhisheng -- and all the rest of Beijing's human-rights victims --by demanding that China end its inhuman prison-camp practices. - David Matas is an international human rights lawyer based in Winnipeg. David Kilgour is a former Secretary of State for Asia and the Pacific in the government of Canada. They are long-time defenders of, and activists for, the human rights of Falun Gong practitioners.

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