The grotesque features of the Holocaust that led to the mass extermination of millions of Jews have many parallels with the persecution of Falun Gong adherents and other groups in China today, serving as a warning of the urgent need to address Beijing’s threat, a panel of experts heard on Dec. 9.
International human rights lawyer David Matas drew the comparison at a panel of lawmakers, lawyers, and human rights advocates convened to examine the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) systematic nationwide rights violations against the Falun Gong spiritual practice and its consequences for Canada-China policy.
Matas, the co-author of “Bloody Harvest,” an independent investigation into forced organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners in China, told the panel that the systematic methods of eradicating Jews used in the Holocaust set a precedent for the most shocking abuse carried out in China today—the live organ harvesting of Falun Gong prisoners of conscience.
“[Holocaust scholar] Yehuda Bauer … wrote that the Holocaust can be a precedent, or it can become a warning. In my view it can be both, and in the case of the killing of Falun Gong for their organs it has been both,” Matas, who is Jewish and serves as senior counsel for B’nai Brith Canada, told the webinar panel.
“We have all been, and should be, warned,” he said, referencing the London Tribunal that last year concluded Falun Gong practitioners continue to be killed en masse for their organs and that “any who interact in any substantial way with the People’s Republic of China should recognize that they are interacting with a criminal state.”
The CCP has been able to carry out organ harvesting crimes because of the methods they use, similar to some used against Jews by Nazi Germany, Matas explained. Some of these include: inciting hatred against the group with relentless propaganda campaigns, intimidating whistleblowers and defenders, covering up evidence of atrocities, providing financial incentives for persecution (through the lucrative organ trade), using the legal system to justify and advance persecution, guaranteeing impunity for Chinese officials involved, and using technology and human experimentation to refine the methods of persecution.
Matas noted that Falun Gong’s alignment with Chinese traditions and spiritual beliefs made it an “existential threat” in the eyes of the CCP, and stood in stark contrast to the atheistic communist tenets promoted by the Party. When former CCP leader Jiang Zemin realized Falun Gong practitioners in China—an estimated 100 million—vastly outnumbered membership in the Communist Party, he ordered the practice to be “eradicated” and launched the relentless persecution campaign in 1999.
The panelists who participated in the event include former Justice Minister Irwin Cotler; Garnett Genuis, Conservative MP and shadow minister for international development and human rights; Alex Neve, former secretary general of Amnesty International Canada; David Kilgour, former MP and secretary of state (Asia-Pacific) and co-author of “Bloody Harvest”; and Levi Browde, executive director of the Falun Dafa Information Center.
Persecution a ‘Blueprint’ for Beijing’s Modern Tyranny
Browde told the panel that between February 2019 and February 2020, arrests of Falun Gong practitioners increased by 200 percent in China, and cases of harassment increased by 76 percent, despite widespread lockdowns introduced around the same time due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Continuing the trend, cases of harassment increased by 500 percent in October this year compared to October 2019, with a 63 percent increase in arrests.
Browde said the escalation of the persecution can be explained by the CCP’s so-called “zero-out campaign,” a re-concerted effort to crush the spiritual practice. According to the Falun Dafa Information Center, the campaign’s goal is to “reduce the number of Falun Gong practitioners to zero,” by targeting every practitioner who has been blacklisted by the regime, through government-issued ID cards, in efforts to force them to renounce their faith.
Browde said the campaign was inspired by the CCP’s attempts to control information around the pandemic. Over the decades of persecution, Falun Gong practitioners have become “perhaps the single largest whistleblower of the CCP globally” and are adept at exposing the regime’s crimes, including its coverup and mishandling of the virus outbreak, making practitioners again a target for silencing, he said.
The methods the CCP used in covering up the virus—silencing doctor-whistleblowers, attempting to hijack the narrative around the outbreak, denying responsibility for the pandemic, and attempting to influence international organizations such as the World Health Organization—are similar to the tactics the CCP uses in the Falun Gong persecution campaign, he said.
The world needs to understand and take the Falun Gong persecution in China seriously, because it’s a “blueprint for how the CCP attacks enemies in general and around the world” Browde noted. This includes the regime’s well-documented “unrestricted warfare” strategy that uses every sector of society in attempts to undermine the West, particularly the United States, in its long-term strategic goal of domination.
“This unrestricted warfare mentality, this multi-pronged mentality, is a blueprint. And they’ve used it to go after Falun Gong, and that’s how they’ve used it to go after and compromise a lot of institutions in the West,” he said.
The methods of torture and persecution have also been a “testing ground” for “21st-century tyranny”—refined on Falun Gong before being used on other persecuted groups, such as Uyghur Muslims in China.
“Torture has been prevalent on this planet for forever. But with Falun Gong, the way in which the [CCP] refined practices to torture in order to brainwash, in order to break someone’s spirit, get them to pledge allegiance to the CCP, this was actually, for lack of a better word, a discipline,” he told the panel.
“They actually had people in some of the more ‘successful’ labour camps such as Masanjia, tour other parts of China and train the people there … refining this technique of brainwashing that is now being used on Uyghurs and other groups, as well as torture techniques.”
Matas said Uyghurs are now “supplementing Falun Gong” as a “large captive source” of illegal organ harvesting in China. Investigative journalist and China analyst Ethan Gutmann estimates that a minimum of 25,000 Uighurs per year are now victims of forced organ harvesting.
Responding to Beijing Threat
The panel heard several recommendations for what Canada can do to counter the Beijing regime’s threat while supporting Falun Gong victims of persecution. Kilgour said a firm stance is crucial because if Canada and other countries do not challenge the CCP, “Beijing will not hesitate to continue to undermine our Western democracy and values to advance fascist objectives.”
He said Canada should “take all opportunities” to publicly condemn Beijing for the persecution campaign against Falun Gong and apply Magnitsky sanctions against any officials involved. Canada should also follow Australia to introduce a “foreign interference law” to counter well-documented Chinese interference and intimidation on Canadian soil, and register all of the CCP’s United Front organizations as foreign agents.
Kilgour said Ottawa must also be more active in calling for the release of Canadian citizens imprisoned in China, including Sun Qian, a Canadian businesswoman jailed in China for the past three years for practising Falun Gong.
Genuis, who is also Canadian co-chair of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, said Canada must prioritize passing Bill S-204, which would make it illegal for Canadians to get organs abroad without the consent of the donor, and make those involved in forced organ harvesting anywhere in the world inadmissible to Canada. The bill had unanimous support in the senate and then passed in Parliament after some amendments, but was stalled before being reintroduced in the Senate when the 2019 election was called.
Genius said Falun Gong practitioners have been at the forefront of raising Chinese human rights issues in Canada, especially regarding organ harvesting, and praised “the incredible engagement and advocacy of the Falun Gong community in Canada, continuing to bring forward and be persistent on issues of human rights.”
Genius also introduced a motion last month to combat foreign state-backed interference and intimidation activities in Canada, to form a stronger response to “significant and sustained foreign interference activities in Canada” and “create new mechanisms of protection and support for Canadians who are targets.”
Conservative leader Erin O’Toole sent a video message to the Falun Dafa Association of Canada to commemorate Human Rights Day on Dec. 10, saying he hoped the motion would protect practitioners from harassment by Chinese agents in Canada.
“Chinese agents have posed as students, tourists, and workers in order to get into our country and threaten those who practice Falun Gong. This is absolutely unacceptable to me, and must end immediately,” he said, adding he also hopes to reopen Canada’s office of religious freedom.
“Canada must defend religious freedom around the world, including standing up for the Falun Gong. This year, it’s been 21 years since the start of China’s illegal and violent persecution of those who practice. … Hundreds of thousands have suffered forced labour, torture, and execution since 1999, without any cause or justification.”