The Chinese Government’s horrific practice of killing Falun Gong practitioners for their organs was the subject of a human rights forum, sponsored by the Epoch Times newspaper and hosted by The Thomas More Centre, North Melbourne, on June 20.
In his address to the forum, Peter Westmore suggested that the Australian Government is publicly playing down the issue for fear of reprisals from Beijing.
Despite Chinese Government denials, there can be no doubt that Falun Gong practitioners, in particular, have been executed in large numbers – at least in the thousands, and more likely in the tens of thousands – so that their organs can be sold for profit.
We know this from information derived from many different sources. First and foremost, the Chinese Government admits that organs are harvested from executed prisoners. At the other end of the spectrum, we have numerous transplant hospitals in China which have a very large reserve of living people who provide what are described as “fresh” organs for foreigners seeking organ transplants, and who have admitted that they come from Falun Gong practitioners.
Finally, we have the testimony of many Falun Gong practitioners who have been imprisoned in China and who have independently reported the precursor medical examinations (e.g., blood tests, physical examinations), and families of executed prisoners who have reported seeing bodies with organs removed.
Why, then, is there such silence in the West about these barbaric practices?
It should be said that there is not total silence. The UN Commission on Human Rights engaged a Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, who reported in December 2005, after a two-week visit to China. While his focus was not specifically on Falun Gong practitioners, he found that torture was widespread in China. In his interviews with detainees, he observed a palpable level of fear and self-censorship which, he said, he had not experienced in the course of his previous missions.
While the UN Special Rapporteur applauded efforts by the Chinese Government to curb torture – specifically, the Ministry of Public Security in issuing regulations against the practice – in another part of the report he also recorded that “some Government authorities, particularly the Ministries of State Security and Public Security, attempted at various times throughout the visit to obstruct or restrict his attempts at fact-finding.
“The Special Rapporteur and his team were frequently under surveillance by intelligence personnel, both in their Beijing hotel as well as in its vicinity. Furthermore, during the visit a number of alleged victims and family members were intimidated by security personnel, placed under police surveillance, instructed not to meet the Special Rapporteur, or were physically prevented from meeting with him.”
Just how much credence should be put on statements made for Western consumption by government officials, when their practices are the exact opposite?
In April 2006, the British Transplantation Society accused China of harvesting organs from prisoners, a practice it described as unacceptable and a breach of human rights. The society says an accumulating weight of evidence suggests the organs of thousands of executed prisoners in China were being removed for transplants without consent.
Professor Stephen Wigmore, spokesman for the society’s ethics committee, told the BBC that the speed of matching donors and patients, sometimes as little as a week, implied prisoners were being selected before execution. Some months later, in July of that year, two Canadian human rights lawyers, David Kilgour and David Matas, independently reached the same conclusion in their ground-breaking report on Chinese organ-harvesting. A revised and updated version of their report was published on January 30, 2007, and the Canadian Government has endorsed their conclusions.
Why then has the Australian Government been so slow to take the allegations seriously? I have a letter from Australia’s Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, to another MP who raised the persecution of Falun Gong with him.
In his reply, Mr Downer said that the Australian Government had raised the allegations of organ-harvesting with Chinese authorities on a number of occasions, and had urged China to allow “an independent, credible investigator unfettered access to facilities of their choosing”.
After these comments, Mr Downer spent the next six long paragraphs casting doubt upon the allegations, using comments by US Embassy and consular officers who visited Sujiatun (site of an alleged detention centre for Falun Gong prisoners), author and former Chinese labour camp inmate Harry Wu, and even reports by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
Mr Downer concluded that these organisations “have so far been unable to substantiate the allegations”. He went on to say, “I am not aware of any new evidence supporting the allegations raised in the report since it was published.” In other words, the allegations are not credible.
Now Mr Downer is not a fool. He knows, as does the Opposition leader, Kevin Rudd, that the allegations are true.
The reason why he would say the opposite is that he does not want to offend the Beijing regime, which has threatened Australia with reprisals if it takes a stand on issues which the Beijing regime believes intrude on the “internal affairs” of China, such as receiving the Dalai Lama, and permitting a Chinese diplomat, Chen Yonglin, to defect in Sydney in 2005.
In 2004, while visiting Beijing, Mr Downer claimed that it should not be taken for granted that Australia would side with the US in the event of a conflict between China and the US in the Taiwan Strait. He said, “The ANZUS obligations could be invoked only in the event of a direct attack on the United States or Australia. So some other activity elsewhere in the world … doesn’t invoke it.” (The Australian, August 18, 2004).
Mr Downer subsequently retracted that comment when corrected by the Prime Minister John Howard, who himself was responding to strong criticism from both Washington and the US Ambassador in Canberra.
The following year, a senior Beijing diplomat, He Yafei, warned that the ANZUS alliance could threaten regional stability if Australia sided with the US against China.
All this amounts to a policy of strategic coercion, coupled with Australia’s dependency on its trade with China, now Australia’s largest trading partner, with which Australia has an annual trade deficit of over $4 billion. Bilateral trade exceeded $50 billion over the past year, surpassing Australia’s trade with Japan and the US, two of Australia’s traditional markets.
The malevolent influence of the Chinese Communist Party is also evident in international affairs.
The largest construction project in East Timor is the new Foreign Ministry building in Dili. In a country where people are dying for lack of medical attention and sanitation, it is being constructed as a gift from Beijing, with Chinese labour and even Chinese cranes!
When violence broke out in the Solomon Islands two years ago, I was astonished to see that the Chinese Government had to charter two jets to take Chinese nationals back home. The presence of such a large number of Chinese points to attempts at economic colonisation of weak states in Oceania.
There are many other instances where the Chinese Communist Party attempts to undermine democratic and civilised values in the world arena. As David Kilgour said recently, it gave Zimbabwe’s dictator Robert Mugabe an honorary degree in China and economic help to his government, although his regime is one of the most brutal and corrupt anywhere on earth.
Beijing is the principal backer of the military junta in Burma, where Aung San Suu Kyi continues under house arrest 16 years after she and her supporters won an open election. When Uzbekistan president Islam Karimov ordered a murderous crackdown on demonstrators in 2005, China’s government shored him up. In Sudan, where reasonable people long ago concluded that the Bashir regime has been conducting a genocide in Darfur for years, the CCP is one of his major backers, especially at the UN Security Council.
We, in Australia, are faced with the question: “What is to be done?” – a question posed by Lenin a century ago. I would put forward a number of suggestions:
First, we need to keep this issue in front of the Australian public, businesses and Australian politicians. This can be done by human rights forums, as well as by letters to the newspapers and similar initiatives.
Second, we need to focus on China’s human rights record in the run-up to the Olympic Games. In Western Europe, a body called Olympic Watch has been set up to monitor the human rights situation in the People’s Republic of China and to campaign for its improvement before Beijing is to host the 2008 Summer Olympics.
Catherine Baber, Amnesty International’s deputy Asia Pacific director, said last September: “The serious human rights abuses that continue to be reported every day across the country fly in the face of the promises the Chinese Government made when it was bidding for the Olympics.
“Grassroots human rights activists – including those working with residents forcibly evicted from buildings on Olympic construction sites – are harassed and imprisoned. Thousands of people are executed after unfair trials for crimes including smuggling and fraud.”
Ms Baber added, “Gleaming stadiums and spectacular parades will be worthless if journalists and human rights activists still cannot speak out freely, if people are still being tortured in prison, or if the government continues its secrecy about the thousands of people executed.”
Third, we should focus Australian attention on the current negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA) with China. Every FTA makes some reference to human rights. In the case of China, Australian negotiators should insist that all Chinese exports should be accompanied by an independently-verified certificate that the goods have not been produced by forced labour, slave labour or prison labour.
Fourth, we should never forget those who are persecuted in China, particularly the incredibly courageous Falun Gong practitioners who have put their lives and liberty on the line in defence of the principles of truth, tolerance and compassion.
– Peter Westmore is national president of the National Civic Council.