Parliamentary Group Urges PM to Talk Human Rights on China trip

December 1, 2009 Updated: December 1, 2009

OTTAWA—As Prime Minister Stephen Harper heads to China on Tuesday, the recently formed Parliamentary Friends of Falun Gong (PFOFG) is asking him to raise the issue of human rights and specifically the Falun Gong persecution with Chinese authorities.

“We urge you on your upcoming China trip to ask your Chinese counterparts about their commitment to human rights and religious freedom. We also urge you to specifically raise the situation of Falun Gong practitioners in China and to call for the release of Falun Gong prisoners of conscience and an end to their persecution,” said the PFOFG letter.

“We think that the least the prime minister can do is raise that as one of the concerns that Canadians have in our relationship with China,” said MP Bill Siksay, chair of the PFOFG.

Mr. Siksay along with vice-chairs MPs Stephen Woodworth and Borys Wrzesnewskyj signed the letter to Mr. Harper on behalf of the 20-member group comprising senators and MPs from all parties represented in Parliament.

The letter noted United Nations reports’ findings that 66 percent of alleged torture victims in China were Falun Gong practitioners and that “reports of arrest, detention, ill-treatment, torture, sexual violence, deaths, and unfair trial of Falun Gong practitioners, are increasing.”

Mr. Siksay said the group hopes Mr. Harper will raise specific cases such as 14 Falun Gong prisoners of conscience who have close relatives in Canada. The letter attached a list of their names. Some have been sentenced to terms of 12 years.

The group’s concerns reflect the severity and extent of the persecution against Falun Gong as documented by the U.N., government bodies, human rights groups, and independent investigators worldwide.

Prominent among them is a Canadian report documenting evidence that the Chinese regime has killed tens of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners to extract organs for lucrative transplant surgeries.

“Bloody Harvest” was co-authored by Order of Canada international human rights lawyer David Matas, and former crown prosecutor and Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific David Kilgour.

Noting that “[China] persecutes the Falun Gong more than any other group,” Mr. Matas and Mr. Kilgour wrote: “Unravel the repression against the Falun Gong and all other victim groups will benefit.”

MP Keith Martin, a PFOFG member, also wrote to Mr. Harper asking him to request the release of the 14 imprisoned practitioners as well as an end to the persecution of Falun Gong, Tibetans, Uyghurs, and human rights activists.

On Tuesday morning the Canadian Coalition on Human Rights in China will hold a press conference on Parliament Hill to urge Mr. Harper to put human rights as a priority during his trip.

Speakers will include Alex Neve, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada, English Branch; Cheuk Kwan, Chair, Toronto Association for Democracy in China; and Tenzin Wangkhang, National Director, Students for a Free Tibet (Canada).

They will share trade statistics that counter the argument that raising human rights impairs trade, according to a news release.

Other coalition groups include Uyghur Canadian Society, Canada Tibet Committee, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, Canadian Labour Congress, Falun Dafa Association of Canada, PEN Canada, Rights & Democracy, ARC International, Federation for a Democratic China, and Vancouver Society in Support of Democratic Movement in China.

The groups and supporters will also hold a rally on the hill.

The coalition has submitted to Mr. Harper’s office a list of names of 11 political prisoners.

At a Monday briefing by senior government officials on the prime minister’s China visit, journalists also raised the issue of Huseyin Celil, a Uyghur-Canadian serving life imprisonment in China.

Mr. Celil, an advocate of the rights of Uyghur Muslims in the northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang, was arrested in Uzbekistan while visiting family in March 2006 and deported to China.

In 2006 and 2007 Mr. Harper had made Mr. Celil’s case a key issue in talks with the Chinese.