OTTAWA—As Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon leaves for a trip to China and Japan this weekend, Canadian Falun Gong practitioners are calling on him to urge the Chinese regime to stop the brutal persecution against their practice and release all prisoners.
Among the practitioners jailed by the communist regime are 13 who have close family ties in Canada.
At a press conference scheduled for Parliament Hill on Thursday, Toronto Falun Gong practitioner Zhang Tianxiao will share her family’s tragic story.
Ms. Zhang’s brother-in-law, Zou Songtao, was arrested many times because of his belief. In May 2000 police beat him so severely that he still had bruises behind his ears when he was released in July. Eighteen days later he was called back to the police station and his family never saw him again. Mr. Zou died in Wangchun Labour Camp in November that year. He was only 28 years old.
Ms. Zhang’s sister, Yunhe, was arrested in February 2002 in Qingdao city and detained at the Dashan Detention Centre. About six months later, the centre claimed no knowledge of her. Ms. Zhang then joined the ranks of countless family members both in China and abroad who have no idea where their loved ones may be held—or whether they are still alive.
In 2006 former Secretary of State (Asia-Pacific) David Kilgour and Winnipeg-based international human rights lawyer David Matas released a report confirming allegations that the Chinese regime had been using imprisoned Falun Gong practitioners as a live organ bank to supply an illicit international trade in human organs.
“From eventually 52 kinds of proof, we concluded beyond any doubt that the government of China since 2001 has killed without any form of prior trial thousands of Falun Gong practitioners in order to sell their vital organs for high prices to ‘organ tourists,’” Mr. Kilgour said last month.
Even in 2006 Ms. Zhang held on to a small shred of hope that her sister was still alive. But now she fears Yunhe “has already been killed in the Chinese regime’s massive organ harvest of Falun Gong practitioners.” The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) would not keep someone for so long while denying their detention, she said.
The CCP has persisted in denying that torture and organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners is taking place. However, human rights bodies worldwide continue to document abuses and seek answers.
Last November the United Nations Committee against Torture recommended that: “The State party should immediately conduct or commission an independent investigation of the claims that some Falun Gong practitioners have been subjected to torture and used for organ transplants and take measures, as appropriate, to ensure that those responsible for such abuses are prosecuted and punished.”
The 2008 U.S. State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices in China stated, “Some foreign observers estimated that Falun Gong adherents constituted at least half of the 250,000 officially recorded inmates in RTL [Re-education through Labour] camps.”
A March 2006 United Nations report said that Falun Gong practitioners account for 66 percent of victims of alleged torture in China.
“The documented yearly arbitrary killings and disappearances of Falun Gong exceed by far the totals for any other victim group,” the Matas/Kilgour report states.
Mr. Cannon will be travelling in China and Japan from May 10-15 for a number of high-level meetings with government officials as well as leaders of Canadian businesses established with China.
Falun Dafa Association of Canada (FDAC) is urging Mr. Cannon to raise the issue of Falun Gong with the Chinese authorities.
Torture and ill-treatment have claimed the lives of over 3,255 practitioners, the association said, with the number likely many times higher given the difficulty and risks involved in obtaining such “sensitive information” from China.
FDAC is also seeking the release of all supporters and defenders of Falun Gong, in particular renowned lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Gao Zhisheng, whose cause was recently championed by Liberal MP Irwin Cotler.
Mr. Gao, who has been called “the conscience of China” for his tireless defence of the disadvantaged and oppressed, was tortured for more than 50 days by Chinese authorities in 2007.
The torturers shocked him with electric batons all over his body, including his mouth and genitals, and pierced his genitals with toothpicks, telling him that “the twelve courses [of torture] we’re serving you were perfected on Falun Gong followers.”
Mr. Gao was again taken from his home in Shaanxi province by more than ten security agents on February 4. His current whereabouts remain unknown amidst mounting fears for his safety.
“A voice from Canada could help let the Chinese authorities know that the world is aware of what is taking place. We believe it would also help lessen the persecution of innocent people in China,” said FDAC spokesperson Lucy Zhou.