Notes for Address by Hon. David Kilgour, J.D.
Cambridge Union Society
Cambridge, United Kingdom
11 March 2008
Virtually all independent observers agree that repression across China is increasing as the Beijing Olympics and Paralympics approach. National leaders planning to attend the games, governments, media and corporate event sponsors should therefore indicate to their respective publics what they are doing to try to reverse this trend. Otherwise, they risk being tainted badly by what a Human Rights Watch spokesperson has suggested could become a "human rights debacle".
Hosting an Olympiad while escalating the persecution of communities and individuals among your own population is irreconcilable with the modern Olympic Charter. It's hard to say at times which side appears to grasp this point less-- the government of China or the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The first hopes that spending vast amounts on facilities--and forcibly removing thousands of Beijing families from their homes without adequate compensation to do so --will somehow improve its international reputation.
China's party-state is counting on overseas visitors this August--and more importantly on those watching television images at home—noticing Beijing's new dragon-shaped airport, its bird's nest-looking national stadium and the athletic events rather the full implications for its nationals of maintaining absolute political control.The same is true of its championing of autocracy across the world.
Among those arrested was Gao Zhisheng, who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize last year. Gao is a leader who shares many qualities with Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi and is increasingly admired both in and beyond China. He might well emerge as one of China's elected leaders when the country opts for the rule of law and democracy. Gao knows painfully well the Chinese metaphor, "the peg that stands out is pounded down." and that democracy rights are essential to human dignity.
Gao himself has managed to find a basis for hope. Speaking to fellow citizens who came to Beijing in Dec, 2005 to petition the government, he said: "It is our misfortune to live in the China of this historical period. No-one on this earth has ever had to experience or witness the suffering that has befallen us. Yet it is also our fortune to live in the China of this historical period. For we will experience and witness how the greatest people on earth banished this suffering once and for all."
The Party seeks to equate itself with China as a country, to convince naive persons within and outside that it is China, and that without the Party there would be no China. This is despite the inconvenient reality that its ideological foundation is now widely-discredited European Marxism. A farmer in China put it best, "Karl Marx does not sound like a Chinese name." This is also the underpinning of the Party strategy to maintain absolute power.
Is Xi Jinping, the Shanghai party boss, the new president of the Central Party School and the very recently-designated successor to Hu Jintao as party secretary in 2012, listening? What of his party colleague, Li Keqiang, Hu's protoge, who was just annointed by the same circle of Party bosses to replace Wen Jiabao as prime minister in 2013?
"Bloody Harvest Games"
David Matas, and I concluded following our independent investigation last year that since 2001 the party-state in China and its agencies have killed thousands of Falun Gong practitioners, without any form of prior trial, and then sold their vital organs for large sums of money, often to 'organ tourists' from wealthy countries (Our report is available in nineteen languages at http://www.organharvestinvestigation.net/ ).
Neither of us are Falun Gong practitioners, but my experience with Falun Gong in the numerous national capitals Matas and I have visited, seeking to bring organ pillaging to a halt by helping to raise public awareness, has been overwhelmingly positive. Falun Gong practitioners attempt to live their core principles of "truth, compassion and tolerance", which are shared by virtually all of the world's spiritual communities.
Matas and I have spoken in several countries to a number of Falun Gong practitioners sent to forced labour camps since 1999, who managed later to leave both the camps and China itself. They told us of working in appalling conditions for up to sixteen hours daily with no pay and little food and many sleeping in the same room, making export products, ranging from garments to chopsticks to Christmas decorations for multinational companies. This clearly constitutes both corporate irresponsibility and flagrant violations of WTO rules.
The labour camps, operating across China since the 1950s, are remarkably similar to one's in Stalin's Russia and Hitler's Germany. They operate outside the legal system and allow the Party to send anyone to them for up to four years with neither hearing nor appeal by simply getting compliant police to sign an order of committal.
Consider a little of what Jennifer Zeng, now of Australia, said about her own experience in one of the camps, located not far from the shiny new national stadium: "I was sent to the Female Forced Labour Camp in Beijing in 2001 for practising Falun Gong. The police made it clear that the only purpose to be sent there was to be 'reformed', which meant to force us to give up our beliefs. In order to achieve this, the police stopped at nothing. We were not allowed to sleep for as long as 15 days and 15 nights, sometimes even one month. We were shocked with electric batons, beaten up, sexually abused, forced to work under appalling conditions for 16 or even 20 hours a day. We were put under severe and endless mental pressure to betray our own beliefs …"
The propaganda phase, begun in mid-1999 against a then estimated 70-100 million Falun Gong practitioners across China, demonized, vilified and dehumanized them in Party-controlled media. Many Chinese were thus persuaded to think of the community as even somehow less than human. It recalls a similar media campaign unleashed by a regime in Rwanda against its minority Tutsi community prior to the genocide there between April and June, 1994.
Why is it that in only one of the eighty or so countries where Falun Gong practitioners now live are they persecuted mercilessly? Their growing popularity among the Chinese people of all ages and walks of life during the 1990s was clearly one major reason, but another no doubt was that the values of those now in power in Beijing are at the opposite end of any ethical spectrum.
The Chinese Medical Association recently agreed with the World Medical Association that 'organ tourists' can no longer obtain transplants in China. Whether this is anything more than public relations, intended to benefit the Olympics, remains to be seen. Another concern is that organs seized from Falun Gong practitioners will now go to wealthy Chinese patients instead, with the hideous commerce thus continuing in the same volumes.
None of these deaths would be occurring if the Chinese people enjoyed the rule of law and their government believed in the intrinsic importance of each one of them. Human lives across China appear to have no more value to the Party than does the natural environment, work safety, health care or the well-being of Buddhist monks in Tibet and Burma. In my judgement, it is the toxic combination of totalitarian governance and 'anything is permitted' capitalism that allows this new form of evil in the world to persist.
The government of China continues to assist Sudan's Bashir in numerous ways, including, financing and supplying arms in exchange for taking most of Sudan's oil production at cut prices. Since the slaughter began in 2003, China's party-state has also used the threat of its veto in the UN Security Council to block continuously any effective UN action against Sudan.
Last month, the Sudanese military ambushed a well-marked U.N. peacekeeping convoy in Darfur, later claiming it was a mistake. Virtually every independent observer says it was a deliberate attack. There is growing concern that the Sudan-China alliance will cause the UN peacekeeping force in Sudan to be as ineffective as it was in Rwanda and Bosnia.
Growing Shadows over Olympics
The world looks forward to Olympiads, including London's in 2012, because they feature the best athletic talent from our entire family of nations. The Games this year face increasing criticism because the host national government remains one of the world's most gross and systematic violators of human dignity.
The Olympic Games and human rights movements worldwide share the same goals: unity, dignity and equality among the entire human family. When this is violated systematically by the host government of an Olympiad, the Olympic movement as a whole loses credibility. The IOC has to date provided no substantive response on this issue.
The IOC should demand from the organizers of the 2008 Games that they conform to the Charter and refrain from discrimination against any group or individual during these Games. As consumers, we might all begin to ask serious questions to the corporate sponsors of the Games, including Manulife, Visa, Kodak, Samsung, Panasonic, Omega, Johnson & Johnson, McDonald's, General Electric, John Hancock and Coca-Cola. Silence from them implies acquiescence with what is going on across China.
The rest of us should too. We are asking the government of China to honour the promises made when it bid for the Games. If you agree, please press your own government and your national Olympic Committee to urge the government of China to fulfill it commitments.
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