A Conference regarding the report into allegations of organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners in China was held in the Australian Parliament House on Wednesday August 16.
Former Canadian Secretary of State, David Kilgour and Edward McMillan-Scott, Vice-President of the European Parliament were the main speakers. The event was chaired by Labor Party MP Chris Bowen.
Chris Bowen, Australian Labor Party MP: This conference has been called primarily to allow for our two visiting guests to talk to our Australian media.
Allegations of organ harvesting have been around for some time, and many of us who are concerned about these allegations have been looking for independent verification to support the allegations and the world community is very grateful to David Kilgour and David Matas who have volunteered to conduct that independent inquiry.
David Kilgour on my immediate left is a former Secretary of State for Asian Affairs in Canada, and served in Canadian Parliament for 26 years making him one of Canada's longest serving members of Parliament. David's come at my invitation and at the invitation of Falun Gong practitioners to talk about his report in Australia.
We also have Edward McMillan-Scott, Vice-President of the European Parliament, again one of European Parliament's longest serving members and a person with long experience and expertise in Chinese affairs and Edward also has some very personal experiences of the events in China and I'm sure he'll be sharing them with us today, and next to Edward we have Chen Hong, a former prisoner in China, and a Falun Gong practitioner who can also talk about her experiences.
Now it's fair to say that the report of David Kilgour and David Matas, who couldn't come to Australia, does not purport to prove the allegations, what it does do is provide very compelling evidence, and does prove in my opinion that there is a case for the Chinese government to answer.
It does prove that the allegations are backed by a significant body of evidence, that they are worthy of much more investigation, and the Chinese government could deal with this very quickly and very easily by opening the country up for investigators to come in, and to prove or disprove the allegations, which they have been unwilling to do.
And the report by DK and DM is very moving, and is very compelling, and I'd personally like to thank both of them for the efforts that they have taken, and particularly to David and Edward for traveling to the other side of the world, to Australia to spread the word about this very disturbing matter, and of course, if this is proven to be true, it will be an evil we haven't seen on the face of the earth, the likes of which we haven't seen for the last 60 years, and will be something which is very disturbing indeed, these allegations are almost unbelievable, but unfortunately, we do have evidence to support them.
Also, on my right we have Peter Westmore, President of the National Civics Council.
David Kilgour: Mr Matas and I have concluded after looking at eighteen different bodies of evidence, you might say I don't like this one of the 18 or I don't like that one of the 18, but by the time you've seen all 18, I would argue that any jury or any group of men or women in Australia, or Canada or even Britain if I can put it that way, would find that there is a case to be answered, and we have concluded that this organ harvesting of Falun Gong prisoners of conscience is going on, on a large scale across China. There are hundreds of hospitals and detention centers in China.
The conversations that were held with about 15 of them that are cited in the Appendix, Appendix 14 if you've read them…make your hair stand up on the back of your neck, to think that human beings can talk about other human beings as if they were so many cattle in a pen waiting to be slaughtered on demand.
We didn't know we would come up with this sort of thing when we started, frankly we were astounded that all of this material was readily available to people making phone calls, the websites, we talk about those in the reports. There is one that is aimed at foreigners, and it's in six languages, and it basically says, come and we'll have viscera providers for you immediately - and what does this mean - and they talk about a week, and if this organ doesn't work, we'll have you another one in a week.
How long do you wait for a kidney, or liver or a heart in Australia or Canada? It's a lot longer than a week.
The person who frankly will move you the most is a former prisoner, Chen Hong and please notice that none of the prisoners that we've talked to were ever taken before a court, this was all done by the police.
I'm thinking of another person, quite a similar case, who was arrested three times, never went before a judge, simply was told by the police that you're going over there, no sentence, no hearing of any kind. She was examined, as you'll hear in a few moments, all Falun Gong practitioners were examined for their medical condition, but I'll leave that to her.
I'm deeply grateful to Edward McMillan-Scott for coming, for giving up two weeks of his vacation, yesterday was his birthday, for flying to Australia, he'll tell you what he's seen and heard lately, so we conclude that this is going on, on a large scale, it's got to stop, the window of opportunity, ladies and gentleman, is the Olympic Games 2008.
China is listening to all of us, I hope, so if Australia and Australians generally, and the rest of the world say that this will not be tolerated, and if the government of China continues to do this, and its institutions, we will reassess our position with respect to the Games, we have not called for a boycott in our recommendations, but if it doesn't stop, very, very quickly I would hope a lot of countries including this one and Canada will consider calling for such a thing, that's probably a good place to stop, 18 recommendations at the back, some of them I think would be much easier to implement than others, for example, what we're talking about is a crime against humanity. It should stop immediately, and the authorities in China should conduct criminal investigations for possible prosecution. The U.N. should initiate an investigation into this matter. It is clearly an offence under Article 3 of the Convention of Trafficking of persons.
I think foreign doctors from China should be banned from all medical conferences, particularly for ones who have been involved in this, and you'll see in the transcript that some of them actually have names, they should not be permitted to go to conferences in Australia or Canada or anywhere else, and I think all nations should look at their laws against organ trafficking, and perhaps doctors should be required to report a patient if he or she wants to go off to get a new organ in China.
Now I'll make one last point. People say, I'm going to get an organ from an executed prisoner in China, this has been going on for years, although the government only started admitting it last year. But please understand that in all likelihood, and we refer to 41,000 unaccounted for organ transplants since about 2000 when Falun Gong had basically war declared against it, people are going to China - computer matched, blood matched, and all kinds of things matched and they are in all likelihood, we conclude that somebody is being killed on demand so that Mr. Smith or Mr. Jones can have a new kidney, and that is simply hideous.
Edward McMillan-Scott: Thank you Chris Bowen, indeed, for organising this meeting, as well as Peter and his organisation, as well as the Falun Gong practitioners, who facilitated my visit, and that of David to Australia and New Zealand. Our intention is to meet Parliamentarians like yourself, here in New Zealand as well as NGOs, the media, and those interested in the reports of organ harvesting in particular, but also in general, the way in which the Chinese government has been repressing this particular group of people since 1999, as well as others of course.
My visit to China in May on a fact-finding basis to look at what had been alleged, included a lot of discussions with NGO's, such as they are in China, with diplomats, and with others, as well as with two Falun Gong ex-prisoners, and I as a longstanding member of the European Parliament and Foreign Affairs Committee, I'm aware of the well-known misuse of organs, if you like, of prisoners' organs, of executed prisoners, but earlier this year, the reports of organ harvesting or reverse matching which came out of China, elevated this distasteful trade to a new level of horror, and I was therefore interested to talk to two prisoners, one of whom had no knowledge of organ harvesting, although his wife was currently imprisoned, and was being beaten for up to 20 hours a time, in order to encourage her to renounced the practice of Falun Gong.
On the other hand, the other prisoner, a young man in his 30s, Cao Dong, who had been a tourist guide in Beijing, and who was clearly extremely nervous at the meeting, but wished it to go ahead, told me he had been imprisoned for four years, in North West China, for his practice of Falun Gong. And when I asked him about the nature of imprisonment, he said, it was particularly harsh for the Falun Gong prisoners, they were victimised by other prisoners as well as the prison staff, and also, as you will hear, uniquely blood tested, urine tested and so on, in other words medical checks were made on them, but not on other prisoners. Although he did say that the Tibetan Buddhists were also harshly treated but they weren't medically tested.
Moreover, when I asked him about organ harvesting, he said, and he was not prepared for this, he said that his best friend one evening had disappeared from the prison, (from his cell), and he had later seen his friend's body with holes, where he assumed organs had been removed, but he didn't know why.
Cao Dong and I met on the 21st May, and he was arrested after the meeting and he is still being detained, and although I have a general concern for human rights in the world, and particularly in China, and more particularly for people who are practicing Falun Gong, one of my main motivations for coming to Australia and New Zealand was because Cao Dong is still in detention, despite many protests to the Chinese regime, and I believe that even one person who has had his body used for organ harvesting, constitutes a major crime.
I regret to say that I am convinced that this is a widespread practice in China. In Hong Kong, I met a friend of my family who is a journalist, and he said: "yes, a friend of mine, he needed a new liver, and he rang the hospital in Shenzhen, and they said yes, come over next week, it's not a problem".
And I pay particular tribute to David Kilgour and David Matas for their work in assembling all the information available to date, as Chris says, this constitutes proof, but it constitutes very powerful evidence, of a widespread practice which amounts in my view to genocide, and I therefore join with David in our discussions with parliamentarians in looking for an international inquiry, perhaps by United Nations, certainly in the European Parliament, we are examining these reports, in context of the report on trafficking, and there's a growing body of concern in Europe, and I hope it will be matched elsewhere in the English speaking world, particularly in the old democracies - Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States, in order to put pressure on the international community to take this much more seriously.
Labor camp survivor, Ms. Chen Hong (through interpreter): My name is Chen Hong, I'm from Tianjin City in China. I am a Falun Gong practitioner. Since the persecution was launched nationwide in July 1999, I was persecuted many times.
Today briefly, I am only going to talk about the blood test, and urine test experience when I was held in detention centre in 2000. In November 2000, all the Falun Gong practitioners detained in detention centres were assembled and were given the public announcement from the government saying that Falun Gong was officially announced as a "evil cult." So that was the government statement. Anyone here at the assembly who does not want to renounce Falun Gong and give up practicing Falun Gong, will be sent to a remote north-western part of China.
Two weeks later, two medical doctors who were not from the detention centers came into the labour camp and conducted medical check ups on only Falun Gong practitioners. This medical examination caused us quite a [lot of] fear and anxiety because this was abnormal to the treatment that we had been receiving all that time in the labor camp, because we were forced to work 15-20 hours a day of harsh labor, and do all kinds of physical labor, and because we have a lot of physical problems - heart problems, skin problems developed, etc, so this medical check up made us quite frightened.
It was quite a daily ordeal to be in the labor camp, because every day there will be practitioners sent to our labour camp from other provinces, and in September that year, a lady called Zhou Mei Lan was transferred to our labor camp. I saw the middle of both hands had black burn marks. I asked her what happened, and she talked about her experience of going to Beijing to appeal for Falun Gong, and saying that Falun Gong was good, and then she was taken to a secret location because she refused to give her name, where all the people were there because of not giving their names to the authorities.
The reason they were sent to that secret location was for not giving their names, therefore each one of them was given a number, and received very horrific treatment. The reason Zhou Mei Lan was transferred to my labour camp, was because she was receiving electric chair torture, was sitting on electric chair with an electric needle penetrating, shocks to her feet and hands, so because of the long term torture in that way, she couldn't tolerate it, so she reported her name, so therefore she had to be transferred to a labour camp where people's names were known, so that's why she was in my camp.
I am lucky, I am a survivor of this terrible hate campaign and persecution of Falun Gong, and I am lucky I am able to be here, but my heart goes out to those millions of Falun Gong practitioners in China who cannot voice their suffering and persecution. I appeal to all the governments and NGO's, people of goodwill to stand up to send righteous and strong voices against such persecution, so that this terrible crime of evil that David's report calls "unseen on this planet," can be stopped. So I appeal to every individual of goodwill to have your voice strongly expressed so that this kind of energy can help end the persecution. Thank you.
Members of the press ask questions--
Have any of the governments acted on the report?
David Kilgour: The Canadian government is very interested in this, we had all party support when we announced that we were going to do this before, and when we produced it in July 6, there were comments made by people from all parties, including the government, that they were going to take this very seriously.
I've been in Washington recently, and their meetings with state Parliament and members of congress, and with other NGO's and I think it's been taken seriously there, but I'm sure I don't have to tell you that there is this constant problem of the cocoon of trade - people are afraid of affecting their trade with China, I can't see that Canada is going to have problems selling its products to China, and I think our trade deficit with China at the moment is $13bn.
I notice this morning that your deficit is about $5 billion Australian dollars, I'm sure you realise what the American one is, but there is a problem, the people think that if they stand up on this issue that somehow it's going to affect their trade relationships with China, and I think that it is wrong.
I think if you look for example, I believe it's Holland, who took a very strong stand against human rights against China a number of years ago, and everyone said, 'well you'll be out of the game with China', and as a matter of fact, Holland's trade the last time I looked it up, has gone straight up, the deficit I should say, the deficit is going straight away.
In Belgium, I met with government officials…they were very supportive. Germany, was I think it's fair to say, that they were very concerned about this report too, and why don't I get Edward to speak about some of the other countries?
Edward McMillian-Scott: I think the European commission in Brussels tends to take the line that it is an interesting report but there is nothing to substantiate it at present. The investigation by the American embassy in Beijing when the particular location was identified produced no particular results. That approach, to me, is business as usual.
And there are a number of Parliamentarians in the European Parliament who, what can I say, are taking a particular concern about this, particularly the human rights spokesman Simon Coveney, one of the two others who have taken the trouble to find out more about it.
We are grateful to David for coming to the European Parliament and other European institutions, but I can tell you that there is a growing understanding of the nature of this, as Chris [Bowen] said earlier, unbelievable set of reports.
From private contacts that I've had, I'm encouraged that bit by bit, governments are waking up to this, and I hope that there will emerge a consensus internationally as to how to take this forward. I don't think anybody in the democratic world believes the Chinese regime when it says nothing is happening. I mean, just to take an example, why is Mr. Cao Dong still detained if they've got nothing to hide. So in my view, there is no doubt at all, that these reports are substantiated by a mounting weight of evidence, and governments are beginning to realise that they are going to have an obligation to follow up.
The Australian government is in the midst of negotiating a trade agreement with China. What do you say to the government in regards to that?
David Kilgour: Well I don't think it is appropriate for Canadians to tell Australians what they should do with their trade agreement, but I do understand that these negotiations are excluding all matters of labor and human rights, and they may last, if I'm not mistaken, up to ten years, and I would hope that any government of Australia would make human rights a major part of their negotiations of a trade agreement - Canada, Australia and any other government.
Just last month, during the Australian-China closed door dialogue, the official from DFAT claimed that there was no evidence. What is your response to that?
David Kilgour: I read that too, and I think that we're meeting with David Ritchie [Deputy Secretary - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade]? Was it David Ritchie who made those comments? And when he said something about there was no proof, I would hope that he hadn't read the report, because as I said earlier, I don't think any reasonable, fair-minded person, could read the report and decide there isn't proof, there is overwhelming proof, in my view, and I hope that we can make this point…
You both claim that it's happening on a large scale, do you have any numbers that we can quote?
David Kilgour: Well, there is a figure on page 11 [of report], [which is] 41,500. The number of executions in China has been constant, now there's been a dispute about how many there are, but it has been constant basically over the last ten or 15 years, I think there has been a consensus on that…there are almost no donated organs in China, because of the culture, perhaps you know Nationals in China do not give their organs for a number of cultural reasons, and the exponential graph example, if you look on page 20, you can see that the charts are going straight up, coincidentally or not, with the period with which Falun Gong has been under siege.
Or even on the next page on 21, you can see the graph showing this enormous increase of transplants, so we came up with a figure of 41,500 unexplained transplants. People say 'what does that mean, does that mean 41,500 people killed?' No, we're not saying that at all, for one thing, you can take far more organs from a person who dies, so we're not trying to put a figure, but it's a lot of people, we think, because they were prisoners of conscience, and because they were Falun Gong practitioners, and that has got to stop, now.
The US State Department carried out their own investigation, has that report been released?
David Kilgour: Well thank you for raising that, that's called the Sujiatun issue, and yes, you're right, and members of the US Consulate went to the Sujiatun hospital in north-east China, about three weeks after the thing had broke. We point out that an operating room after an operation is over looks exactly as if nothing has happened. To go three weeks after this thing blew open, if you like, we have not given a lot of credence to that matter.
I met with Mr. Wu, Harry Wu, in Washington for a long time, and we discussed this very carefully, and I, as I've said last night on ABC, that I have great respect for Mr. Wu, but he is talking about what happened in Sujiatun hospital, after the 9th of March.
99 per cent of this report, if you like, of this report is talking about other hospitals, and what happened before March 9th, so I know there's been people that have tried to mix Sujiatun with another 99 per cent of the report, but I'm trying to stress to you and everyone else about a much much larger situation than the Sujiatun hospital since post-March 9th.
How would you really know that the Chinese government had stopped organ harvesting?
David Kilgour: I think we would know. We certainly won't know by phoning, as you can imagine, everybody that's answering the phone in China has been asked not to speak to anybody about this subject again, but there are people that get out, there are quite a good number of sources that will tell us, and you know as well as I do, that you can't prove everything in a country as vast as China, but if there's a will to stop it, and if the government of China, if Hu Jintao thinks that his Olympic Games could suffer, I think it would stop instantly, and the fact that they've brought in this law on July 1st, to deal with the matter, to bar it, is a good sign, but the question is whether it could be enforced…does the bringing in of that law not indicate that something off was happening before July 1st? And as a former journalist…we live in a media democracy in Canada, and in Australia, and you can [the media] have an enormous effect on that.
To Ms. Chen - how and why were you released from a labour camp and how is that you are here now?
Ms. Chen Hong: I was released because my term was finished, so I was released, but three days after my release, police and officers of the "610 office" [The 610 office is an agency specifically created to persecute Falun Gong, with absolute power over each level of administration in the Party and all other political and judiciary systems.] said to me that because I practice Falun Gong, my son could not go to university. So you must know that the policy of the persecution of Falun Gong stays in China, so therefore there was the danger that I would be arrested again, plus the fact that I had been arrested many times before, so I would face such a dangerous possibility anytime, and the pressure on my family is quite obvious as well, and the fact that my son could not go to university is a big concern, because of the fact that I practiced Falun Gong. So I borrowed $60,000 Chinese dollars and I sold my house in order for my son to come to Australia to study, so my son came to Australia, and then I came here as a visitor.
Now I could not even think of or dare to call my family members at home, because in 2004, I called my home – my mother – and because of my phone call, she was detained for seven days.
Inaudible question from journalist, apparently about the first witness to come forward – the surgeon's wife:
David Kilgour: Well that's an interesting question, because I don't know. You saw in her evidence that when her husband was having nightmares after two years of doing this, and he simply couldn't do it anymore, she said he was sent to Beijing to deal with the SARS epidemic, she also said he thought he was going to perish in that epidemic, and he and some other doctors who also refused to continue doing it, survived and came back, and if I understand correctly, most of them had left the country, like her ex-husband who is now seeking refugee status in another country.
Edward [McMillan-Scott], you mentioned in a press conference in Europe that for China to change, one has to break through the media blockade, and you mentioned that Western countries had the obligation to help break through this blockade. My question is what can the West do to facilitate the process of freedom of information into China?
Edward McMillan-Scott: Well I think I said earlier that the fact that David and I are here is that we believe that the particularly sensible voices from Parliaments and NGO's, the media from the English-speaking democracies – Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the UK, are very relevant in providing a sort of common sense approach – but not accepting everything that is said, it is a critical approach, as those of you who watched last night's program on ABC would attest, so it is important to question, but at the same time, to take a stand.
What we're looking for is that on an all party basis, people's concerns are expressed through a move to try and establish some sort of international inquiry, as I said earlier, possibly through the United Nations, so there is no a direct strategy, it is just a sense that we have, those of us who have been involved in this for some time now, that the breakthrough is when the Chinese feel that they have to respond.
So far the nominal application of the law would frankly have no writ beyond Beijing. It is not important, but what is important is when they begin to respond by making clear that there has been something going on that they are dealing with properly.
The organization CIPFG, (Coalition to Investigate the Persecution against Falun Gong) has the intention to go to China to force the Chinese regime to open up all hospitals and detention centres [for inspection]. What do you think the West can do assist their efforts?
David Kilgour: Mr Novak, the UN Rapporteur of Torture, discovered recently that it took ten years for he and his predecessor to get into China, and you probably know that he didn't get exactly the terms of the entry respected, so I would be astonished if anybody in the Coalition, and in fact [speaking to Edward], you're not going to get another visa to go to China.
We applied for a visa but we knew we were going to be refused. It turned out that the gentleman from the Canadian Chinese Embassy in Ottawa I met with said that, well you should apply in the visa section for a visa, and not under the political section, so we didn't get visas and I doubt we ever will get visas for this, but again, if the government of China really wants to do something, they could open up and say: "come in and see all this has stopped," but that will be a way of saying, come on in, the doors are open, come and see if this process has stopped, and media and NGO's and so on, would quickly determine if it had stopped.
Edward McMillan-Scott: I think one of the things I'd add, is after my visit to Beijing, I spoke at length to Gao Zhisheng, who is a well-known human rights attorney, and who has taken up some Falun Gong cases, and he has said that in the seven years he'd been working on this portfolio, no Western politician has ever met Falun Gong ex-prisoners, and he was particularly struck by this, and I asked him: "I was told not to talk to you for your own sake," and he said, "forget that, I'm quite used to being beaten up by the regime, and harassed, and that's bad for me, but the important thing is for you to get the message out to politicians elsewhere in the free world, that they must come to China, they must listen to people. They must see, hear and speak out," and that's my key message here today.
Co-host, Peter Westmore, President of the National Civics Council: Thank you very much indeed. I'm not in any way connected with Falun Gong, I head an NGO in Australia, but when I read this report, I can only say that I was horrified beyond belief, that human beings were able to do this to other human beings, and I can only say personally I owe a great debt of gratitude to the two Davids, who prepared this report, and Edward for coming to Australia to alert us to this very important issue, and in a sense to give us, a challenge to try and do something about it in this country.