Trade Minister Urged to Raise Human Rights Issue on China Trip
OTTAWA—On the eve of International Trade Minister Stockwell Day’s trip to Japan and China on Tuesday, Canadian Falun Gong practitioners are calling on him to urge China to stop the persecution against their practice and release all prisoners.
Among the jailed practitioners are ten who have close Canadian family ties.
At a press conference on Parliament Hill on Monday, Yao Lian said she worries about her husband every minute. Ma Jian was sentenced to labour camp for two and a half years in April 2007.
It has been 767 days and Ms. Yao has not been able to get any information about her husband. “You cannot imagine how long these 767 days [have been] for me,” she said.
Yao herself had been arrested and tortured more than once in China for practising Falun Gong.
“My personal experience tells me my husband might face brutal beatings and corporal punishment, sleep deprivation, brainwashing classes aimed at crushing his spirit, and even organ harvesting.”
David Kilgour, former Secretary of State (Asia-Pacific), knows a great deal about this subject. He and Winnipeg-based international human rights lawyer David Matas launched an investigation in 2006 and have released a report confirming allegations that the Chinese regime is using Falun Gong prisoners of conscience as a live organ bank to supply an illicit 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 at the press conference.
Mr. Day will be travelling to China to open six new trade offices. Mr. Kilgour wants to encourage him to raise the issue of unfair trade, in particular the export of products made by forced labour.
Falun Gong practitioner Chen Guizhi, 62, told of her experience. She served more than four years in a labour camp in China.
Under appalling conditions, the prisoners were forced to work without pay from about 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., sometimes until midnight, to fill high quotas, Ms. Chen said. She sewed purses, knit sweaters, packed tea, and made toys, among other tasks, and some of these products were for export.
“If we couldn’t finish our quota, the punishment could be extending our terms,” Ms. Chen said in her statement translated into English.
Forced labour product export is unfair trade “in one of its worst abuses,” and Mr. Kilgour hopes Mr. Day will raise this issue when he is in China.
“Cheap goods” from China have been dominating most world markets in recent years and can be linked to the loss of manufacturing jobs in Canada and elsewhere, and “slave labour is certainly one reason for this phenomenon,” Mr. Kilgour said.
Following Mr. Day’s speech at the Montreal Chamber of Commerce last Friday, an audience member asked him to raise the issue of human rights to the Chinese government during his trip.
Mr. Day noted that “the issue of human rights and the promotion of trade are not mutually exclusive. This has been a part of our policy.”
Canada was the second largest donor to the earthquake-devastated region of China, and Mr. Day will be visiting the reconstruction taking place there, with “significant parts” being done with Canadian wood products and housing products, Mr. Day said.
In October 2002, prior to then-Prime Minister Jean Chrétien’s meeting with then-Chinese leader Jiang Zemin at the APEC summit, Mr. Day co-sponsored a House of Commons motion that eventually led to the release of several Falun Gong practitioners in China. Conservative MP Scott Reid had introduced the motion to ask Mr. Chrétien to raise the issue of 13 jailed practitioners who had close Canadian family ties. The motion passed unanimously.
Falun Dafa Association of Canada (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, who has been severely tortured and whose cause was recently championed by Liberal MP Irwin Cotler.
In 2006, en route to the APEC conference in Vietnam, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said his government will uphold “important Canadian values” in the context of human rights and “not sell that out to the almighty dollar.”
These words were “very encouraging for all the people suffering in China. We are hoping our government will stay true to the words,” said FDAC spokesperson Lucy Zhou.