BERN, Switzerland—“There is an all too prevalent sense that human rights violations [in China] are so massive and so far away that nothing can be done about them,” said David Matas, accepting the 2009 Human Rights Prize from the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR) in Switzerland over the weekend.
David Matas and David Kilgour were co-recipients of the prize for their “unceasing work” on investigating and raising awareness of state-sponsored organ trafficking in China, particularly from imprisoned practitioners of the Falun Gong meditation practice.
Since 2006, the two Canadian lawyers have been traveling the world meeting with government officials, medical professionals, and human rights groups about the “dismaying” results of their investigative research. Research following 52 lines of evidence led them to the conclusion that since 2000, the Chinese regime has been using healthy Falun Gong prisoners of conscience as living organ banks—many recipients being foreigners buying organs in China.
Kilgour said only Falun Gong practitioners in labor camps and prisons are systematically blood-tested and physically examined.
“This testing cannot be motivated by concerns over the health of practitioners because they are also systematically tortured,” he said.
He said China does not have an organized system of organ donations, matching, or distribution, and there is a cultural aversion to organ donation. The massive spike in organ transplants conducted since 1999 coincides with the beginning of the persecution of Falun Gong, Kilgour said, a strong indicator of a direct correlation.
“We estimate that about 41,500 organs transplanted over the period of persecution up to 2005 came from Falun Gong practitioners,” he said.
Kilgour and Matas’ findings have been published in two reports, and a book titled “Bloody Harvest: The Killing of Falun Gong for their Organs.”
“It is my view, not only that individuals in countries like Canada, far away from gross and flagrant violations, can have a positive impact on respect for human rights,” Matas said. “It is the voice of individuals around the world which is most likely to lead to respect for human rights.”
Dr. Franz Immer, director of Swisstransplant and a panelist who spoke at the awards ceremony at the University Hospital Bern, said raising awareness increases pressure on governments to help victims of organ trafficking.
“The consequences of it are devastating and are ethically inadmissible regarding the harm caused to people who are victim of such machinations. Among other things, I bear in mind what happened to members of Falun Gong in China who were exploited for organ retrieval,” he said.
David Kilgour was a Canadian Member of Parliament for 26 years during which he served a term as Asian-Pacific Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific. David Matas is an international human rights lawyer and was the recipient of the Order of Canada award in 2009.
The ISHR prize has been awarded annually since 1994 to honor people and actions that support and advocate for freedom and human security.