It is an honour to be in these unique premises, which I understand three presidents, two vice presidents, a dozen Supreme Court justices, 32 Nobel and 56 Pulitzer prize winners, and 45 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom have called their home club.
It is said that JFK once claimed that Washington was a city of “southern efficiency and northern charm”, but I`ve always found your residents to be very warm. Ottawa has been accused of being a place of “eleven months of winter and one of bad skating”, but national capitals do get bad raps, especially during election campaigns.
For years, I allowed my respect and affection for the Chinese people to mute my conscience about their government. I rationalized this, especially during visits to China, by saying that at least it was not like the regime of Mao Tse-tung, which caused an estimated 35-45 million citizens to starve to death during his inhuman 'Great Leap Forward' (1958-62) alone. When people noted correctly that the poverty of hundreds of millions of families in the ‘50s,’60’s and ‘70’s is now in the past because of the export market economy begun by Deng Xiaoping in 1978, I was too willing to overlook today’s bad governance, myriad environmental nightmares, continuing official violence, growing social inequalities, the complete absence of the rule of law and widespread nepotism/corruption.
Most of the Chinese people continue to be exploited by the party-state and domestic industrial firms, often owned by or contracted for manufacturing to multinationals, which operate today across China often like 19th century robber barons. This explains partly why the prices of products 'made in China' remain so low—the externalities are borne by workers, their families and the natural environment.
Do American, Canadian and other foreigners so over invested in China have no loyalty to hard working families in our home nations?
In advance of the recent G20 meeting in Seoul, eleven Canadian MPs wrote to Prime Minister Harper, requesting that dialogue on human rights include his personal call for the release of two of many prisoners of conscience: Gao Zhisheng and the recent Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo.
Gao, 47, is a twice Nobel Peace Prize-nominated lawyer in the tradition of Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi. His family was so poor that they lived in a cave in rural China and he could not attend university. Despite this, he passed the bar exams and in 2001 was named one of the country's top ten lawyers by China's ministry of Justice. His advocacy on behalf of disabled children, the religious community Falun Gong, evicted tenants and coal miners, earned him the sobriquet "the conscience of China".
During the past four years, Gao has been repeatedly tortured by agents of the party-state. The persecution began with removing his permit to practise law, an attempt on his life, police harassing his wife (Geng He) teenage daughter (Grace) and son (Peter) and denying the family any income. It intensified when Gao, responding in the nonviolent tradition of Gandhi, launched hunger strikes, calling for equal dignity for all Chinese. In his most recent article, he wrote about several weeks of torture in prison in full violation of China's domestic and international legal obligations. Gao has been disappeared now since April 20; and over one year before that after brief reprieve of less than a month (Disappeared Feb. 4, 2009-March 28, 2010; reappeared March 28, 2010; disappeared April 20, 2010-present).
Gao has been denied fundamental rights, including a fair trial. The party-state pressures judges to dismiss cases, disbars lawyers, and shuts down law firms. It “disappeared” Gao for the "crime" of defending his clients vigorously. No rule of law country could cross such lines. You and I should take advantage of our far away perches to challenge the party-state on what it is doing to Gao and others.
Gao is a shining world beacon of courage. Standing up for human dignity means breaking through barriers of language, culture, geography and religion to affirm the humanity common to the entire human family. Openly opposing abuses inflicted by governments on people with whom we have nothing in common except our humanity brings home the reality that dignity is ultimately indivisible on our shrunken planet today.
A more recent example of such practices in China is the Christmas day sentencing in 2009 of Liu Xiaobo, the Charter 08 co-author, to eleven years in prison for advocating democracy. It is hard for many of us outside China to understand that trials there are mere theatres. The deciding 'judges' usually don’t even hear the evidence given in ‘courts’. Clive Ansley of Canada practised law in Shanghai for 13 years, handling about 300 cases in their courts, before returning to British Columbia. His article in the March 2007 British Columbia trial lawyers' publication, The Verdict, explains the reality of what happened to Liu and so many others. It observes in part:
"There is a current saying amongst Chinese lawyers and judges who truly believe in the Rule of Law and this saying, familiar throughout all legal circles in China, vividly illustrates the futility of Canadian attempts to 'assist China in improving its legal system' by training judges. It is 'Those who hear the case do not make the judgment; those who make the judgment have not heard the case' ''.
''This saying reflects the function of the 'Judicial Committee', the most important body within each 'court'. The 'Judicial Committee' is a standing committee composed of between five and seven 'judges', depending on the size of the 'court'. It meets regularly, usually once a week. It is here, behind closed doors, completely away from public view and scrutiny, that most cases are decided. Nothing which has transpired in the 'courtroom' has any impact on the 'judgment'. ''
The full article can be accessed at http://organharvestinvestigation.net/events/verdict112_mar07.pdf
‘Organ Tourists’ and Falun Gong
Falun Gong seeks to improve body and character, containing features Buddhism and Daoism, combined with a set of exercises. Its core principles are “truth, compassion and forbearance”. Although not a practitioner, I have been impressed by those encountered in more than forty countries since 2006.
In China, where it first became public in 1992, the movement grew within seven years to 70-100 million by the government’s estimate. The first vilification of Falun Gong in 1999 led to protests by practitioners. A large demonstration at Communist party headquarters in Beijing enraged then party-state leader Jiang Zemin. The incitement to hatred against them across China in Party media since mid-1999 has had many tragic consequences, most notably the widespread commercial trafficking in their vital organs to ‘organ tourists’ and wealthy Chinese nationals.
After 1980, the party-state began withdrawing funds from the health system as a whole across China. Selling the organs of executed convicts soon became a major source of funds because of world demand created by chronic organ shortages. Falun Gong later became a major additional source of organs for patients from China and elsewhere. Many Falun Gong were sent to labour camps after mid-1999 without any form of hearing on only a police signature. Organ price lists were posted on Chinese websites. Hospitals boasted openly on their websites about the money being made from the sale of organs.
Consider the experience of Falun Gong practitioner Chen Ying, who was later awarded refugee status by the government of France:
« In 1998, under a procedure for family reunification, I rejoined my ex-husband, who worked in the cultural service of the Chinese embassy in France. In December. 1999, I returned to China for a family visit. Because I would not renounce my Falun Gong convictions, between February 2000 and November 2001, I was imprisoned three times without any judicial process…
“Each time, I was mistreated and tortured by the police…At the end of September, 2000, as I would not tell them my name, I was called out by the police and taken to a hospital for a complete medical examination: cardiac, blood, eyes, etc. I had to carry chains on my legs and I was attached to a window frame. The police injected me with unknown substances. After the injections, my heart beat abnormally quickly. Each one gave me the impression that my heart was going to explode… »
Falun Gong today comprise about two-thirds of the torture victims and half of those in forced labour camps across China. According to research David Matas and I have done, set out in our book Bloody Harvest, practitioners have been killed in the thousands since 2001 so that their organs could be trafficked to Chinese and foreign patients. For the period 2000 –2005 alone, Matas and I concluded that for 41,500 transplants done the only explanation for sourcing was Falun Gong.
The main conclusion of our book is that there “continues today to be large-scale organ seizures from unwilling Falun Gong practitioners (…) Their vital organs, including kidneys, livers, corneas and hearts, were seized involuntarily for sale at high prices, sometimes to foreigners, who normally face long waits for voluntary donations of such organs in their home countries.” Our revised report is accessible in 18 languages from www.david-kilgour.com.
Have the efforts of many in China and around the world to stop these appalling crimes against humanity made any difference? Our book points at various developments within and beyond China occurring since our first report in 2006, but, to save time, I’ll only mention two:
1-The government of China now accepts that sourcing of organs from prisoners is improper. Deputy Health Minister Huang Jeifu in 2009 stated that executed prisoners “are definitely not a proper source for organ transplants.” In 2005, he was reported to say that as many as 95% of the transplanted organs in China derived from executions.(1)
2-Belgian senator Patrik Vankrunkelsven and Canadian MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj have each introduced into their respective parliaments extraterritorial legislation banning "transplant tourism". Both would penalize any transplant patient who receives an organ without consent of the donor where the patient knew or ought to have known of the absence of consent.
Unfortunately, such developments have not yet ended the murders and trafficking in organs across China. Since we began our work, the number of convicted persons sentenced to death and then executed across China has decreased quite dramatically, but the number of transplants, after a slight decline, rose to earlier levels. Since the only other substantial source of organs for transplants in China besides Falun Gong is prisoners sentenced to death, a decrease of sourcing from that population means an increase of sourcing from Falun Gong.
One estimate of the number of the camps across China as of 2005 was 340, with a capacity of about 300,000 workers. Other estimates are much higher. In 2007, a US government report estimated that at least half of the inmates in the camps were Falun Gong. It is the combination of totalitarian governance and “anything is permitted” economics that allows this export production to continue. Those profiting include surgeons, hospitals and the military, whose surgeons do a good deal of the organ pillaging and whose aircraft fly organs from rural labour camps to hospitals in major cities where patients await compatible organs based on prior computer matching of blood and tissue types.
For organs trafficked in China, David Matas and I would encourage each of you and your friends across America to consider our recommendations, including:
Urging the party-state in China to:
- cease the repression of Falun Gong;
- cease organ-pillaging from all prisoners;
- remove its military from the organ transplant business;
- establish and regulate a legitimate organ donor system;
- open all detention centres, including forced labour camps, for international investigation;
- free Liu Xiaobo and Gao Zhisheng and permit both to reunite with their families.
Implement the following measures until the party-state in China ceases organ pillaging from prisoners:
- medical professionals in the U.S. and every country which respects human dignity should actively discourage their patients from going to China for transplant surgery;
- no government should issue visas to Chinese MDs seeking training in organ or body tissue transplantation;
- MDs from outside China should not travel there to give training in transplant surgery;
- contributions submitted to medical journals outside China about its experience with transplants should be rejected;
- pharmaceutical companies everywhere should be barred by their national governments from exporting to China any drugs used solely in transplant surgery;
- national parliaments should enact extra-territorial legislation, penalizing participation in organ transplants without consent; and
- all governments should bar entry to any person known to be participating in organ trafficking without informed consent.
The Chinese people want the same things as Americans, Canadians and all people, including, respect for all, education, to be safe and secure, good jobs, the rule of law, good governance and a sustainable natural environment. The attempted crushing of Falun Gong, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim and other independent faith groups, human rights lawyers and other civil society communities in recent years indicates that China's party-state must be engaged with great caution despite the severe ongoing world economic problems.
If it ends the systematic and gross violations of human dignity and takes major steps to indicate that it wishes to treat its trade partners in a mutually-beneficial way, the new century can bring harmony for China and its partners. The Chinese people for whom, like you, I have the strongest admiration have the numbers, perseverance, self-discipline, intelligence and other qualities to help make this new century better and more peaceful for the entire human family if given the opportunity.