CCD Board Member David Kilgour Addresses China, Human Rights, and the Beijing Olympics
March 4, 2008 | Printer Friendly
In a February 21 speech in Taipei, Taiwan, CCD Board Member and former Canadian Member of Parliament David Kilgour detailed China’s continuing violations of human rights. Citing China’s persecution of Falun Gong, its role in the Darfur crisis, and evidence of “organ pillaging,” he called for increased vocal opposition to China’s policies leading up to the Beijing Olympics, which provide an opportunity for greater awareness of these actions that violate the Olympic Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
HUMAN RIGHTS IN CHINA AND THE 2008 OLYMPIC GAMES
Keynote Address by Hon. David Kilgour, J.D.
International Forum, Grand Hyatt Hotel Taipei, Taiwan
February 21, 2008
We are here to weigh the condition of human dignity across China and some other countries whose governments are subject to direction by the Beijing party-state. Our goal is to develop common approaches in attempting to improve human rights and the rule of law within China before the 2008 Olympics and Para-Olympics this coming summer. Hosting an Olympiad and simultaneously increasing oppression are incompatible with the modern Olympic Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a host of other international instruments.
The government of China hopes that spending vast amounts of money on Games facilities--and forcibly removing thousands from their homes with inadequate compensation--will improve its reputation despite its well-documented systematic violations of human dignity. The opposite seems more likely since the Games are now being used by the regime as a pretext for a crackdown on human rights advocates and other patriotic citizens of China. One Internet survey I saw a few months ago in Canada indicated that more than nine in ten of respondents favoured changing our trade laws with China presumably because of their human rights abuses; surveys in a number of other countries evidently also show mounting concern about the Hu-Wen government.
In Taiwan, for example, I wonder how many of your 23 million nationals think Beijing showed any concern for you during the SARs epidemic of 2003. This brings me to an eye-witness account of the World Health Assembly two years ago, which considered whether Taiwan should have observer status at the World Health Organization. The delegates from two African governments spoke in favour of admitting Taiwan; ones from China and another country spoke against. The applause from the delegates present as a whole indicated very clearly, I'm told by someone who was present, that most countries represented wanted the motion to admit Taiwan passed. The presiding chair, however, refused to allow a vote, asserting that there was little support for the motion, presumably on the basis of her own private applause meter. A very shabby business, which must be changed soon partly because viruses know no borders. Health is an integral feature of human rights.
In 2006, the most recent year for which figures are available, there were more than twice as many arrests in China as the previous year for the offence of 'endangering state security', which is used by totalitarian governments everywhere to silence journalists, civil-rights lawyers and advocates of religious freedom. The number jumped to 604 arrests in 2006 from 296 in 2005. Among those arrested were the crusading defence lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize last year and who has been repeatedly detained and beaten; the human-rights, AIDS and environmental advocate Hu Jia; the blind self-taught lawyer Chen Guangcheng, now serving a four-year prison term; and the civil-rights lawyer Guo Feixiong, now serving a five-year term.
Until about eighteen months ago, when David Matas and I began our independent study of organ pillaging from Falun Gong prisoners of conscience, my naiveté about China's party-state was regrettably both wide and deep. Several visits to the country, including ones as Canada's Secretary of State (Asia-Pacific), did not reduce it significantly for various reasons. Only when I began to read books and other material written by knowledgeable sinologists of independent mind did my eyes begin to open.
The world should draw conclusions about China from facts alone. For example, Carsten A.Holz, an academic economist who specializes in China, published an article on self-censorship about a month ago. He noted for example, that China experts often take at face value the country's business laws without mentioning the dominant role of the Communist party. He adds: "At the national level, the leadership of the 50 largest state-owned enterprises-enterprises that invest around the world-is directly appointed by the Politburo." Many studies have asked about the reason for the growing income inequality in China. Holz notes that among the 3,220 persons with a personal worth of $13 million or more in the country 2912 are children of high-level cadres.
China experts, Holz goes on, often speak of the Chinese "government" without further qualification, even when more than 95% of the "leadership cadres" are Party members. "Who questions the legitimacy of the Party leadership to rule China and to rule it the ways it does?" he asks. His conclusion is that many academics, researchers from private firms and even those from the World Bank and other international organizations normally will not speak candidly about China because their careers "depend on amicable co-operation with the Party." Separating wheat from self-serving chaff in reports about China thus remains challenging, especially as the Beijing Olympiad nears.
The Party seeks to equate itself with China as a country, to convince naive persons within and outside the country that it is China, and that without the Party there would be no China. This is despite the inconvenient reality that its ideological foundation is now widely discredited European Marxism. One farmer in China put it best, "Karl Marx does not sound like a Chinese name." This is a underpinning of the Party strategy to maintain power despite so much ongoing abuse of fellow citizens. It is necessary always to stress that our criticisms are directed at the unelected government in Beijing and never at the exploited and hard-working people of the country.
On a more hopeful note, Reuters News reported only a few days that the CCP's senior think tank, the Central Party School, has warned that it must limit its current absolute power through democratic reforms. The 366-page report, "Storming the Fortress" notes: "Citizens' steadily rising democratic consciousness and the grave corruption among Party and government officials make it increasingly urgent to press ahead with demands for political system reform." It also calls for restricting the Party's powers and expanding the rights of citizens, reporters and religious believers. Let's all hope that someone is listening.
Organ Pillaging - "Bloody Harvest Games"
David Matas, and I concluded to our horror following our independent investigation last year that since the end of 2000 the party-state of China and its agencies have killed thousands of Falun Gong practitioners, mostly without any form of prior trial, and then sold their vital organs for large sums of money, often to 'organ tourists' from wealthy countries (Our report is available in nineteen languages, including Mandarin, at www.organharvestinvestigation.net).
Neither of us are Falun Gong practitioners, but my experience with Falun Gong in the numerous national capitals Matas and I have now visited, seeking to bring these crimes against humanity to a halt by helping to raise public awareness, has been overwhelmingly positive. Falun Gong practitioners really do attempt to live their core principles of "truth, compassion and tolerance", which are shared by virtually all of the world's spiritual communities.
Matas and I have spoken in several countries to a small number of Falun Gong practitioners sent to labour camps since 1999, who managed later to leave both the camps and China itself. They told us of working in appalling conditions for up to sixteen hours daily with no pay and little food and many persons sleeping in the same room, making export products, ranging from garments to chopsticks to Christmas decorations for multinational companies. This clearly constitutes egregious corporate irresponsibility. The labour camps, operating across China since the 1950s, are remarkably similar to one's in Stalin's Russia and Hitler's Germany. They operate outside the legal system and allow the Party to send anyone to them for up to four years with no hearing and no appeal by simply getting their police to sign an order.
The propaganda phase of the persecution, begun in mid-1999 against a then estimated 70-100 million Falun Gong practitioners across China, demonized, vilified and dehumanized them in Party-controlled media. Many Chinese were thus persuaded to think of the community tragically as even somehow less than human. The phenomenon recalls a similar media campaign unleashed by another party-state in Rwanda against its minority Tutsi community prior to the genocide there between April and June, 1994.
There has been no independently reported instance of a Falun Gong practitioner using force to respond to police attacks since July, 1999. The former UN Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Novak, concluded following his own visit to China more than a year ago that two thirds of the persons being tortured across the country were Falun Gong practitioners.
Why is it that in only one of the eighty or so countries where Falun Gong practitioners now live are they persecuted mercilessly? Their growing popularity among the Chinese people generally during the 1990s was clearly one major reason, but another no doubt was that the values of those in power in Beijing were and are at the opposite end of the ethical spectrum.
The Chinese Medical Association has now agreed with the World Medical Association quite recently that 'organ tourists' will obtain no more transplants in China. Whether this is anything more than public relations cant intended to benefit the Beijing Olympiad remains to be seen. Another concern is that organs seized from unwilling "donors" across China, including Falun Gong practitioners, will now go to wealthy Chinese patients instead, with the grotesque commerce thus continuing in the same volume.
None of these deaths would be occurring if the Chinese people as a whole enjoyed the rule of law and their government believed in the intrinsic worth and dignity of each one of them. Human lives generally across China appear to have no more value to the party-state there than does the natural environment, work safety, health care and social programs for all Chinese, or Buddhist monks in Tibet and Burma. In my judgment, it is the toxic combination of totalitarian governance and 'Anything is permitted' capitalism that allows this new form of evil in the world to persist.
A number of the world's most brutal dictatorships, including North Korea, Burma and Zimbabwe, have fallen under Beijing's sway during its scramble to acquire as much as possible of the earth's natural resources. I'll discuss here only Sudan-Darfur as a representative case study, but I'd ask you to consider how any regime which is doing such terrible things in Burma, Tibet, East Turkestan, Zimbabwe and elsewhere in the world could be allowed to host an Olympiad?
Consider a largely forgotten incident in the Nuba mountains in central Sudan. On February 26, 2002, the town of Nahibloiu was wiped out to make way for a Chinese oil well that now operates in nearby Leal.
In Sudan's Darfur province, since April, 2003 an estimated 400,000- 450,000 additional African civilians have been murdered by bombs, bullets or swords of the Bashir military regime in Khartoum, or died of related causes, such as starvation and disease. The killing, raping and burning pattern in Darfur is essentially the same one used by Khartoum earlier in the Nuba mountains and across South Sudan.
The respected New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof, wrote last month in a piece headed "China's Genocide Olympics": "Just a few days ago, Sudan appointed Musa Hilal, a founding leader of the Arab militia known as the janjaweed, to a position in the central government. This is the man who was once quoted as having expressed gratitude for "the necessary weapons and ammunition to exterminate the African tribes in Darfur."
The ongoing role of China party-state across Darfur is clearly not the conduct of a responsible member of the international community.
Growing Shadows over Olympic Games
The peoples of the world look forward to every Olympiad because they feature the best athletic talent from our entire family of nations. Unfortunately, the Summer Games this year face increasing opposition because the host national government remains one of the world's most gross and systematic violators of human dignity.
China was awarded the Games by the IOC only after it pledged to respect the Olympic Charter and to improve its human rights record. Many independent organizations have since observed that an already appalling record is instead worsening as the Beijing Games approach.
Why, for example, do Falun Gong practitioners face continuing merciless persecution after eight long years? What principle of the modern Olympic Games, especially after the experience in Hitler's Berlin at the 1936 Olympics, allows a host government to bar Falun Gong or any spiritual community's members from competing in, or even watching, events in Beijing? What about Tibetans, Buddhists, Uighurs, human rights advocates, independent journalists, other spiritual communities and democracy activists?
The government of China's outrageous treatment of human beings deemed 'enemies of the Party' both at home and abroad in the run up to the Games has led to an understandable call for a boycott. Both the Olympic Games and human rights movements worldwide share a common goal: the unity, dignity and equality among the entire human family. When this precept is violated systematically by the host government of a particular Olympiad, as is the case this year, the modern Olympic movement as a whole comes into question.¨
The Olympic Charter assigns to the IOC the oversight role for compliance with the regulations under the Olympic Charter. The IOC should demand from the organizers of the 2008 Olympic Games that they conform to the Charter and refrain from discrimination against any group or individual during their Games.
Mia Farrow, Stephen Spielberg, Prince Charles and many others have already taken stands on human rights and the 2008 Olympics. All of the rest of us should too.