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Free speech never more needed

Free speech never more needed

CHINA I Growing evidence of atrocities against Falun Gong followers
leaves Mayor Sam Sullivan looking more than a little foolish
Daphne Bramham, Vancouver SunPublished: Saturday, August 26, 2006

Free speech is a messy business. The Falun Gong's shack and wall of
protest signs outside the Chinese consulate's residence in Vancouver
is proof of that.

And unless Mayor Sam Sullivan has his way, it proves daily to
passersby that free speech is alive if not always thriving in Canada.

The posters aren't pretty. They aren't meant to be.

That the Chinese consul must face this each day is no doubt
unpleasant. But that discomfort pales beside the gross inhumanity of
which the Chinese government is accused.

There is growing evidence that in addition to harvesting organs from
prisoners, the Chinese government is complicit in the harvesting of
live organs from Falun Gong members who are found to be a match with
wealthy patients from the developed world who are desperate for new
hearts, lungs, kidneys and corneas.

Falun Gong teaches meditation through exercise -- a new twist on the
centuries-old qigong -- that was begun in 1992 and had grown to
include more than 70 million adherents before it was banned by the
Chinese government in July 1999.

Last month, David Matas, a respected human-rights lawyer, and David
Kilgour, a lawyer and former secretary of state for the Asia Pacific,
released a report into the allegations that they did for the Coalition
to Investigate the Persecution of the Falun Gong. The report is
available on its website ( entry to China
to search for proof of the allegations, Kilgour and Matas concluded
that there is enough evidence of large-scale organ seizures from
unwilling Falun Gong practitioners that there must be a serious and
determined effort to substantiate the claims and legislation in all
countries to prevent cross-border organ shopping.

"The allegations, if true, would represent a grotesque form of evil,
which, despite all the depravations humanity has seen, would be new to
this planet," they wrote. "The very horror makes us reel back in
disbelief. But that disbelief does not mean that the allegations are

Their report was denounced by the Chinese government before it was released.

Before the Falun Gong was outlawed, there were 18,500 transplants in a
five-year period in China. Between 2000 and 2005, there have been
60,000. Matas and Kilgour found that there are 10,000 more transplants
annually than there are identifiable donors. They believe as many as
4,000 Falun Gong members have died after organ harvesting.

There are dozens of Chinese companies offering transplants. One cited
by Matas and Kilgour was offering liver and kidney transplants for
$180,000 US, hearts for $160,000 and $30,000 for a cornea. A quick
search pulled up half a dozen different sites all offering competitive
prices. BEK-Transplant, which does the transplants at Peking
University hospitals and in Shanghai, has variable rates. Seniors get
a $5,000 US discount on kidney transplants that go for $80,000. But
there's a $5,000 additional fee for people with O-type blood.

Liver transplants are $135,000 -- $120,000 for seniors.

BEK says the donors are executed prisoners and waiting times vary from
two to six months. Another site said waiting times are often a week
compared to three or four years in Canada and the United States.

Matas and Kilgour have described what is going on in China as as a
grotesque crime against humanity. Their report has bolstered growing
outrage. This week, Rabbi Reuven Bulka, a member of the Canadian
Council for Donation and Transplantation, joined Kilgour in urging
Canada and other countries to boycott the 2008 Summer Olympics in
Beijing if no independent investigation is held.

Last week, after Kilgour met with Australian MPs, Australian foreign
affairs officials confirmed that in July they asked China to allow an
independent investigation.

For Sullivan to lump the messiness of this principled protest with
derelict boats in False Creek, graffiti and litter belittles what may
be an unfolding genocide.

But it seems the long arm of China has tapped the mayor -- an
unabashed Sino-phile -- on the shoulder.

"When I go to China, they treat me like an emperor," the mayor told
The Sun's Wency Leung recently. "We don't have that tradition of that
red-carpet thing, so it's a little embarrassing for me in a way."

What seems to embarrass Vancouver's mayor is not the over-the-top
treatment of minor officials like him who visit China, but that we
democracy-prone Canadians don't do more kowtowing here.

Without the Falun Gong protest on one of Vancouver's busiest streets,
many people would know nothing about the Falun Gong or the persecution
of its adherents.

Without the protests of Falun Gong members and others, the Canada
Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission might have blithely
supported the Rogers-sponsored application to beam nine
Chinese-government channels directly into Canadian homes via
satellite. The Chinese media is strictly controlled by the Communist
party. Reporters Without Borders has described China as one of the
worst countries for censorship and in its 2006 report notes that
"television and radio are subjected to even greater control than the
written press."

The Falun Gong protest reminds us that we are part of a broader
community and have a responsibility to do what we can to stop human
rights violations wherever they occur. If that means putting up with a
little bit of mess to ensure justice for people with no voice, it's
worth it.

The mayor clearly doesn't get it, but he is only one vote on council.
The rest of the councillors need to stand up for free speech, and they
should add their voices to the call for an independent investigation
into organ-harvesting in China.
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