Facing Beijing, with David Kilgour
Presentation by Hon David Kilgour at University of Ottawa Canada
The following are excerpts from a speech by David Kilgour at the University of Ottawa, Brooks Building on Feb. 26, 2010. His comments focused on various issues in China including missing Chinese lawyer Gao Zhisheng, environmental pollution, the economy, killing of Falun Gong for organ transplants, and suggestions on doing trade with China.
About Missing Chinese Lawyer Gao Zhisheng
Permit me to speak first of Gao Zhisheng, who I understand was recently nominated for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize by a number of qualified persons in Canada, Europe, and the United States. He is also the lawyer who in 2006 invited David Matas and myself to come to China to investigate whether allegations of organ pillaging from Falun Gong were true. While unable to attend university because of family poverty, he managed to pass the bar exams and in 2001 was named one of the country’s top ten lawyers by China's ministry of Justice.
Party agents released their full wrath when Gao defended Falun Gong practitioners. It began with removing his permit to practice law, an attempt on his life, having police harass his wife and teenage daughter and son, and denying the family any income. It intensified when Gao responded in the nonviolent tradition of Gandhi by launching nationwide hunger strikes calling for equal dignity for all Chinese. Gao wrote later about several weeks of torture in prison. Police arrived at his home and took him away again on Feb. 4th, 2009. The rest of the family has fled China and are now refugees in the United States; they are terribly worried about him.
Recently, the policeman who took Gao away in early 2009 told Gao’s brother that the lawyer “went missing” in September, 2009. Following this pronouncement, a Chinese Foreign ministry official said that Gao "is where he should be” according to quotes reported by the Associated Press in Beijing. A lawyer for Gao, Li Fangping, called the official’s comments "extremely insincere," and noted that after one year no one in Gao's family knows where he is and are unaware of any charges or proceedings. The latest development is the claim by the party-state that Gao is working in the isolated Urumqi district.
Last week, photos appeared on the Internet purporting to show Gao in a summer T-shirt, posed with his arm around a man in a heavy coat and presumably meant to convey the impression that he is happy and well in Urumqi. A second photo has him wearing the same T-shirt and a distinctive bracelet, but there is clear evidence that he gave this bracelet away in 2007. Friends of Gao around the world want the government of China to release a video of him speaking today, perhaps holding a current newspaper, before we will accept that he is medically well.
Abuse of Natural Environment
Three decades of 'anything goes' economics have done enormous harm to the people and natural environment of China.
Nearly half a billion Chinese citizens lack access to safe drinking water, yet many factories continue to dump waste into surface water.
A World Bank study done with China's environmental agency concluded that outdoor pollution is causing 350,000-400,000 preventable deaths a year across the country. Indoor pollution contributed to another 350,000 for a total of 750,000 premature deaths a year.
Coal now provides about two-thirds of China's energy, and it already burns more of it than Europe, Japan and the U.S. combined. Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides from coal plants in China are now reaching well beyond China's borders.
Those in power since 2003 in Beijing have failed to achieve anything substantive concerning water, air, and soil. Many experts have concluded that China cannot go green without political change.
Consider, for example, the fate of Lake Tai. The International Herald Tribune on Oct. 15, 2007 noted that the lake had succumbed earlier to effluent wastes by turning fluorescent green. Two million people who live on its shores had to stop using their main source of water. Local farmer Wu Lihong had protested for more than a decade that the chemical industry and its friends in the local government were destroying one of China's ecological treasures…. Wu was sentenced to three years in prison on what the Herald Tribune described as an “alchemy of charges that smacked of official retribution." At trial, Wu testified that his confession had been coerced by being forced to stay awake for five days and nights by police. The 'court' ruled bizarrely that, since Wu could not prove that he'd been tortured, his confession remained valid.
The larger tragedy, of course, is that Lake Tai is only one instance of what unregulated capitalism since 1978 has done to much of China's water, air and soil. Instead of stopping the pollution, the regime punishes the heroic Wus.
With much hype about the economy of China in our media, permit me to offer part of two recent viewpoints which I share. Here's Jonathan Manthorpe in the Vancouver Sun:
"What one is seeing in China is variations of what can only be called a Ponzi scheme. A local government, without a functioning system for raising tax revenue — and anyway so riddled with corruption it's irrelevant — sells development land to garner cash. (Often, of course, it will first have to get rid of peasants living on the land, but that's another story.) The land will then be sold to a development company that is owned by the local government. And, this being China, where the remnants of the command economy survive, the municipality has the power to instruct banks to lend the development company the money for the sale. So the local government gets its cash, the municipally-owned company gets to build a speculative residential or industrial complex, and all seems well."
David Pauly in Bloomberg News writes:
"It’s time someone in the U.S. stopped coddling the Chinese police state… Though Google is late coming around as an advocate of free speech in China, it still deserves applause. The company said last week it would stop censoring its Chinese search engine, Google.cn, as the communist government dictates — and might even close the business… The U.S. government has both economic and political reasons for not challenging a government that muzzles its people and kills them if they get too obstreperous… China held about $800 billion of Treasury securities on Oct. 31… Google may eventually compromise with China. That would be a shame. Someone in the U.S. has to let the dictatorship know what we stand for. Google slamming the door as it leaves China would be a welcome step.”
Killing of Falun Gong
David Matas and I came to the dismaying conclusion that Falun Gong practitioners in China have been and are being killed for their organs. We wrote a report that came to this conclusion in July 2006. A third account in book form was published recently as Bloody Harvest. Falun Gong is a set of exercises with a spiritual foundation which became public in China in 1992. Initially the government encouraged it as beneficial for health. By 1999, it had grown so popular that the party became afraid that its own supremacy might be threatened. The numbers of persons practicing Falun Gong across China had grown from virtually none in 1992 according to a government estimate to 70-100 million by 1999. The practice was accordingly banned and outrageously labeled a cult by the government.
Practitioners were asked to recant. Those who did not and continued the practice, and those who protested the banning were arrested. If they recanted after arrest, they were released. If they did not, they were tortured. If they recanted after torture, they were then released. If they did not recant after torture, they disappeared into the Chinese detention and forced labour system.
What happened to the disappeared? Our conclusion is that many of them were killed for their organs, which were sold to transplant tourists. It would take too much time to set out how we came to that conclusion. We invite you to read our report, which is on the internet at www.david-kilgour.com or our book.
So the question becomes, what are we going to do about the Chinese government abuse of global transplant ethics? Our report and book have a long list of recommendations. Given the shortness of time, I mention here only two.
One possibility is extraterritorial legislation. The sorts of transplants in which the Chinese medical system engages are illegal everywhere else in the world. But it is not illegal for a foreigner from any country to go to China, benefit from a transplant which would be illegal at home, and then return home. Foreign transplant legislation everywhere is territorial; it has no extraterritorial reach. Many other laws are global in their sweep. For instance, child sex tourists can be prosecuted not just in the country where they abuse children, but, often at home as well. This sort of legislation does not exist for transplant tourists who pay for organ transplants without bothering to determine whether the organ donor has consented.
A second recommendation is that any person known to be involved in trafficking in the organs of prisoners in China should be barred entry by all foreign countries. It might be noted that the International Society for Human Rights in Europe has recently joined David Matas and me in combating the abuse of the Chinese government against the Falun Gong practitioners by sourcing their organs.
Changing the Way Trade is Done with China
The Nobel laureate economist Paul Krugman has predicted that Beijing's ongoing refusal to let its currency float will cause retaliation from economies, where high unemployment can be traced in part to Beijing's ongoing refusal to let the yuan rise and its manufacturing focus in a world struggling with overcapacity. The party-state continues to dump consumer goods–no doubt including many made by Falun Gong in forced labour camps — at lower-than-cost in foreign markets. The manipulated yuan creates an enormous competitive advantage for China and keeps some workers from Canada and across the world out of work. Krugman also says that by displacing the output of foreign producers with its own low-wage goods China is arguably the prime culprit in holding back a robust recovery in global economies.
Peter Navarro, author of The Coming China Wars, has a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard and is a professor at the University of California. He argues that consumer markets across the world have been 'conquered' by China largely through cheating on trade practices. These include export subsidies, widespread counterfeiting and piracy of products, currency manipulation, and environmental, health and safety standards so lax and weakly enforced that they have made China a very dangerous place to work.
Navarro has comprehensive proposals for all countries trading with China, which are intended to ensure that commerce becomes fair. Specifically, he says all trading partners must:
1. refrain from illegal export subsidies and currency manipulation and abide by the rules of the WTO;
2. define currency manipulation as an illegal export subsidy and add it to other subsidies when calculating anti-dumping and countervail penalties;
3. respect intellectual property; adopt and enforce health, safety and environmental
4. regulations consistent with international norms;
5. ban the use of forced labour and provide decent wages and working conditions;
6. adopt a 'zero-tolerance' policy for anyone who sells or distributes pirated or counterfeit goods;
7. block defective and contaminated food and drugs by measures which make it easier to hold importers liable for selling foreign products that do harm or kill people or pets; and
8. include strong provisions for protection of the natural environment in all bilateral and multilateral trade agreements in order to reverse the ‘race to the environmental bottom' in China.
About David Kilgour: Mr. Kilgour was a Member of Parliament for the southeastern area of Edmonton, Alberta from 1979 to 2006, and also served as Secretary of State (Asia-Pacific) during 2002 and 2003. David Kilgour and renowned human rights lawyer David Matas have been invited to speak in dozens of countries in Europe, Asia, North America and Australia about their investigation into live, forced organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners in China. They have recently been nominated for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.