When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang this week, he must address forced organ harvesting in China, says international human rights lawyer David Matas.
Matas, a former delegate to the United Nations for Canada, Member of the Order of Canada, and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, is among a group of investigators who have looked into forced organ harvesting in China for over a decade.
Matas said Trudeau faces many issues when dealing with China but must prioritize clearly.
“The first priority goes to worst victimization, and if you look in terms of numbers, in terms of language, in terms of atrocity, the primary victims are Falun Gong,” he said.
“Killing people for their organs … is an atrocity above all others and so that’s where the priority should be.”
Matas said pressure on China is mounting, with the U.S. House of Representatives, the European Parliament, and the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom all calling for an independent investigation.
“The evidence is there is mass killing of innocents, prisoners of conscience, primarily Falun Gong—and there is a lot of that evidence, accumulated over many years.”
Canada’s own human rights parliamentary subcommittee passed a motion in 2014 expressing “deep concern over credible allegations that prisoners of conscience and members of religious and ethnic minority groups in the People’s Republic of China are being executed for the purposes of harvesting and transplanting their organs.”
An update report on organ harvesting published in June by Matas, former Canadian cabinet member David Kilgour, and investigative journalist Ethan Gutmann scrutinized the activities of the over 850 hospitals in China that perform transplants and detailed a state-run industry conducting between 60,000 and 100,000 transplants a year.
While the Chinese regime says only 10,000 transplants are carried out annually, the 700-page report provides a volume of evidence showing that the massive prison population of Falun Gong adherents is the primary source of the large numbers of organs taken for transplant.
‘The worst human rights violations in China’
In an open letter sent earlier this week, Xun Li, the president of the Falun Dafa Association of Canada, wrote that the Chinese premier’s visit was an opportunity to address “a new form of genocide.”
“To raise the issue of human rights in China without addressing Falun Gong would be omitting the core of the worst human rights violations in China,” Li wrote.
The association says former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin bears responsibility for the persecution rather than current leader Xi Jinping. Xi has been working to purge Jiang’s allies—who exert significant influence in China—from the Chinese Communist Party.
The association has collected over 120,000 petition signatures calling on Trudeau to take up the plight of Falun Gong.
Canada’s official Opposition has said the situation needs to be addressed.
Conservative Foreign Affairs Critic Peter Kent said he was aware Trudeau raised human rights issues quietly behind closed doors, but there is little known beyond that.
“There is no evidence, we haven’t seen any detailed reports, that organ harvesting was raised or how the Chinese government or ministers, from the president down, might have responded,” he said.
Trudeau’s Comments on Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples
Kent raised concerns that Trudeau’s statements in China during the G20 suggested there were similarities between Canada’s treatment of its aboriginal peoples and China’s treatment of its citizens generally.
Trudeau has faced criticism that the comments draw a false moral equivalence and diluted any calls for China to address its abuses. The regime routinely uses Canada’s history with its indigenous population as a way to deflect criticism of its own abuses.
Kent said there are issues over the “tragic history” of Canada’s aboriginal peoples, but over the centuries there have been treaties, funding, and support to begin to remedy those problems.
Nothing similar has happened in China.
“There is no comparison on the respect for human rights and rule of law in Canada with what we know has transpired in China over the decades,” he said.
Kent noted that in recent years aboriginal Canadians have won important legal victories that require the government to consult them on political or legislative issues that affect their place in Canada.
Matas agreed there were some similarities but noted that the differences between how Canada treats its aboriginal peoples today and how the Beijing regime treats the Chinese people are profound.
“Aboriginals have been treated very badly in Canada historically, and even today there’s problems. But at least in Canada there is freedom of speech, there’s freedom of assembly, there’s freedom to protest, there’s an independent judiciary, there’s the rule of law. There are mechanisms with which the aboriginal community can engage the victimization and try to seek remedies,” he said.
In China, however, those who raise abuses with the government are imprisoned, he said.
Former Liberal MP and renowned human rights crusader Irwin Cotler said he doesn’t believe Trudeau was suggesting Canada’s current aboriginal issues were reason not to raise human rights in China.
Now the founder and chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, Cotler said he continues to be concerned about the situation in China and said human rights and trade go hand in hand.
“You can’t have an engagement where you have trade but not human rights, or talk about investment but not repression,” he said.
He said Trudeau has raised human rights issues in China and expects that will continue.
Cotler, who served as counsel to Nelson Mandela when the former president of South Africa was still a prisoner of conscience, said the work of Matas and others investigating forced organ harvesting is credible and he hopes Parliament’s human rights subcommittee will continue to look at the issue.
He also hopes someone will pick up the private member’s bill that he had twice introduced and that fellow Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj had also twice introduced to stop Canadians from getting transplants using organs that come from vulnerable victims in China.
With files from Limin Zhou/NTD