Men of conscience often face tremendous challenges in life. Driven by their hearts, when exposed to injustice and evil, they cannot turn away; despite the risks, they choose to do what they believe is right.
Oskar Schindler, the heroic figure portrayed in the 1993 Spielberg film “Schindler’s List,” is a historic example of a person who risked everything to save nearly 1,200 Jewish workers from certain death during Nazi Germany’s “Final Solution” genocide targeting European Jews—the Holocaust. The brave Schindler risked life and limb to stand against tyranny and follow his conscience.
Canadian David Matas is also a man of conscience. Although he does not find himself living and surviving daily while surrounded by oppressors, he has seen evidence of great tyranny. His determination to expose unspeakable evil may potentially save hundreds of thousands from the clutches of one of the most oppressive regimes in human history.
Matas, along with former Canadian government official David Kilgour, published “BLOODY HARVEST—Revised Report into Allegations of Organ Harvesting of Falun Gong Practitioners in China.” In the report, they summarize their shocking investigation into a modern-day mass genocide:
“We have concluded that the government of China and its agencies in numerous parts of the country, in particular hospitals but also detention centers and ‘people’s courts,’ since 1999 have put to death a large but unknown number of Falun Gong prisoners of conscience. 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.”
This conclusion was reached after months of documented, investigative research, and the eventual report released in July 2006. A subsequent 2007 revision of the report, and recently published book “Bloody Harvest,” include new evidence collected by the two authors in ongoing efforts to expose the mass killings.
How does one investigate crimes committed by a communist regime that controls the very flow of information and stifles transparency? “The allegations, by their very nature, are difficult either to prove or disprove,” Matas and Kilgour stated in the “Difficulty of Proof” section in their 2007 report.
Mr. Matas elaborated on this assertion in a recent interview with The Epoch Times. “What was difficult was to figure out a method to approach the issue when there are no corpses [according to the allegation, the victims’ bodies were cremated], no crime scene, no records, no independent media, no human rights NGOs working within the country.”
Request for Help
The investigation began when a non-governmental organization (NGO)—the Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of the Falun Gong in China (CIPFG)—sent the men a request for help in investigating emerging allegations that Falun Gong practitioners were being targeted for organ harvesting.
With decades of experience as a human rights attorney—and participation as a Canadian delegate in the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust—Matas, along with Kilgour, immediately knew this investigation was no easy task.
But they accepted the challenge and, drawing from lessons learned during the time of Oskar Schindler, couldn’t dismiss such allegations as mere rumor.
“One of the lessons we’ve learned from the Holocaust is that human nature does not change,” Matas stated to The Epoch Times. “What changes is the technology, but the capacity for doing evil remains the same.”
Once they decided on an approach to prove or disprove the allegations, no time was wasted in collecting evidence—not so easy when the Chinese regime was determined to thwart investigators.
“First of all they wouldn’t let us go to China [to investigate the case],” said Matas. “They said, ‘We know what’s going on. We’ll tell you. You don’t have to go.’”
Communist authorities also tried to prevent the investigators from interviewing witnesses by threatening those they wanted to interview.
Still, the researchers were able to interview a substantial number of people, including released Falun Gong practitioners, non-Falun Gong former prisoners, and a family member of a surgeon involved in organ removal operations, as well as organ recipients.
Investigators, posing as potential recipients inquiring about transplants, also contacted Chinese hospitals requesting organs and donor information.
‘Shocking and Chilling’
The findings, Matas said, were “shocking and chilling,” and were more than enough to reach a conclusion. “Together, they paint a picture,” he stated in the 2007 report, “… particularly when there are so many of them.”
Since the release of the first report, the two authors have been invited to 80 cities in 40 countries to present their research, while accumulating more evidence. Along the way, the biggest barrier has always been the Chinese regime’s obdurate interference around the world.
When invited to speak of the genocide at certain universities, for example, Chinese student groups guided by the regime would show up in protest; in some cases, these students were so violent and disruptive that campus security ordered them to leave. In other cases, hosting organizations canceled the presentations on organ harvesting due to threatening pressure from Chinese embassies.
“Everywhere [we see] this kind of harassment and interference,” Matas said, adding that Chinese embassies went so far as to call a parliament committee in Finland and demand they cancel a meeting with Matas and Kilgour.
Sometimes harassment turns into threats—personal threats. When David Matas spoke on a radio program in Australia—broadcast live into China—audience members were invited to call in for questions and comments. A man calling in from China said, “I’m from the Internet police. What you are doing is an attack on China. By insulting China you are putting your own life at risk. My question for you is: are you not afraid?”
“The problem is the abuse,” Matas replied. “Don’t blame the messenger. Blame the message. If you don’t want this sort of criticism, stop human rights violations. Stop killing Falun Gong for their organs.”
Responses from regime officials have been annoying, to say the least. The rare and belated responses consist mainly of two parts: typical propaganda attacks on Falun Gong and personal attacks on the two authors and their “subversive intrigue” against China.
Of note: no comment has been made to address the evidence listed in the reports, evidence which the investigators say is independently verifiable.
After repeated requests, Kilgour and Matas were granted a meeting at the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa; a staffer showed up with a prepared statement consisting mainly of attacks on Falun Gong copied from Chinese propaganda materials. Mr. Matas described the staffer’s reference to the organ harvest report as “just silly.”
“The way it attempted to refute our report was to take statements from our report that had citations or [were] supported by evidence, strip the citations, and changed the quotations to ‘it’s said that’ or ‘it’s rumored that’ … to give the impression that our report was based on rumors rather than on evidence. And then he criticized the report for being based on rumors.
“For me and David Kilgour, we are two individuals working part time to take on the government of China, which has a budget of billions and full-time staff around the world,” Matas reflected, in our interview. “We know from defectors that [combating Falun Gong] is their number one priority. … They have more personnel devoted to combating the Falun Gong than to anything else. For us two part-time individuations to stand against this monolith is a mammoth task.”
Mammoth task as it is, giving up is never an option for Matas. Of Jewish descent, Matas says he’s learned important lessons from the Holocaust. “One of the reasons that the Holocaust happened was the global indifference, the notion that this is a country far away,” he said. “Crimes against humanity are not just crimes against the Chinese. It’s crimes against all of us.”
Matas said conscientious law professionals in China such as Gao Zhisheng also inspired him to persist.
Gao, nominee of the Nobel Peace Award for two consecutive years, has been repeatedly imprisoned, tortured, and placed under house arrest because of his efforts to appeal for persecuted Falun Gong practitioners. “If he can do all that,” Matas said, “what David Kilgour and I have done is the least we can do.”
According to the Matas and Kilgour report, systematic organ harvesting started as early as 2000 or 2001.
Four years have elapsed since the 2006 initial publication of the investigative report, and the persecution of Falun Gong is still going on. But Matas says he has faith.
“I’ve been in this business for a long time,” said Matas, now senior legal counsel to B’nai Brith Canada. “I know that human rights change doesn’t happen quickly,” he said. “But over a period of time I’ve seen a lot of changes.”
He added that over the last four years, the publicity surrounding systematic organ harvesting has forced China’s communist regime to at least admit that organs do come from prisoners; responding to public scrutiny, regime officials have also removed websites that overtly advertise harvested organs for transplant.
Both gentlemen have voluntarily carried the fight to expose the atrocities; when complimented for his generous deeds, Matas laughed, and dismissed the credit.
“It’s not about me. It’s about all the other people,” he said. “But from a personal perspective, I’m Jewish and I’ve been very much affected by the Holocaust. … I’ve been trying to think about the Holocaust, learn a lesson from the Holocaust and act on them as a legacy to victims of the Holocaust.
“One of the lessons I’ve learned is the need for people everywhere to act on human rights violations anywhere, to prevent those violations from happening.”
In the “Recommendation” section of the Bloody Harvest report, Matas and Kilgour request from us:
“To all those who are sceptical about the allegations, we ask you to ask yourself what you would suggest to prevent, in any state, allegations like these from becoming true. The common sense list of precautions to prevent the sort of activity here alleged have pretty much all been missing in China.”
Biography of David Matas (www.bnaibrith.ca)
David Matas is senior legal counsel to B’nai Brith Canada, and an internationally renowned refugee, immigration, and human rights lawyer based in Winnipeg. A former president of the Canadian Council of Refugees, he is also active in such organizations as Amnesty International, Helsinki Watch, and the International Commission of Jurists. He has represented B’nai Brith in many international fora, such as the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. He is an accomplished author of several highly acclaimed publications, among them “Justice Delayed: Nazi War Criminals in Canada” (1987) with Susan Charendoff; “Closing the Doors: The Failure of Refugee Protection” (1989) with Ilana Simon; “Bloody Words: Hate and Free Speech” (2000); and “Aftershock: Anti-Zionism and the Rise of Contemporary Anti-Semitism” (2005). His latest book is “Bloody Harvest: The Killing of Falun Gong for their Organs” (2009) with David Kilgour. He has received numerous awards and honors, including an honorary doctorate from Concordia University.
For more information about David Matas, go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Matas