David Matas and I are pleased to be back in Ukraine for the first time since your December 2004 runoff election, when both of us were among the more than one thousand Canadian election observers of your noted-around-the-world presidential election.
The voting stations observed by the international team I was part of were near Luhansk, a 15-hour train ride from Kiev and close to your border with Russia. There were many memorable moments during those days that December, including the genuine appreciation of many residents that observers from abroad were present, but one voter in his eighties will never be forgotten. He came up to some of us at a polling station and said, “When I was a small child, I watched both my parents die of starvation in front of me.”
Famine of 1932-1933
Your fellow citizen was, of course, referring to the terrible Ukrainian Famine of 1932-1933, which took millions of innocent lives, not because there was any food shortage, but because the Communist dictator Joseph Stalin wanted to exterminate many of your farmers and their families to overcome widespread resistance in this country to his collectivization of agriculture. Food was exported from Ukraine by Stalin’s henchmen even as millions of your fellow citizens starved to death.
Far away in Edmonton, Canada, we residents, led by our neighbours of origin in Ukraine, unveiled near our city hall a number of years ago a monument to the victims of the Ukrainian Genocide or Holocaust. There have been many estimates as to the number of millions of victims, ranging up to ten million, but, whatever the most accurate number, this crime against humanity was simply unspeakable and must never be forgotten.
One reason there is still some doubt at least outside Ukraine about the numbers of deaths in those fateful years lies in the gross irresponsibility of most Western journalists, who visited Ukraine during the famine and chose not to report on the human catastrophe they observed. Walter Duranty of the New York Times, dean of the foreign press in Moscow at the time, appears to have been among the worst in putting misplaced loyalty to Stalin ahead of his duty to his readers and profession, but he was hardly alone. One journalist who did report accurately on what was going on, the late Malcolm Muggeridge of Great Britain, lost his job for doing so.
A decade later, in December, 1942, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill learned from Jan Karsky of the Polish resistance that thousands of Jews were being rounded up and sent in cattle cars to the death camp at Belzec in eastern Poland. Churchill used Karsky’s report to persuade the Allies, including the Russians, to condemn “a bestial policy of cold-blooded extermination” in Germany.
Time unfortunately does not permit me to go into the Holocaust here more fully. Let me only say that the world will never know how many lives might have been saved if the hideous details of both genocides had gotten out sooner. Many observers-including this one- will say that enough was known soon enough about both catastrophes, but, as in the later cases of Rwanda and Darfur, the problem was the absence of robust political will. Tragically, human dignity was not universalized then or now.
Falun Gong in China
This brings me to the independent report which David Matas and I did on what is still happening to the Falun Gong community across China and the importance of raising public awareness about it worldwide in the months prior to the Beijing Olympics in August, 2008. We concluded to our horror that since the latter part of 2000 the government of China and its agencies have murdered thousands of Falun Gong practitioners across China without any form of prior trial, and then sold their vital organs for large sums of money, often to ‘organ tourists’ from wealthy countries.
Virtually no independent person we know who has read our report, which is available in 18 languages at www.organharvestinvestigation.net, is not convinced of the validity of our dismaying conclusion.
None of these deaths would be occurring if the Chinese peoples as a whole enjoyed the rule of law and their government believed in the equal worth and dignity of each one of them. Most human beings across China appear to have no more importance to those still monopolizing power there than does the natural environment, work safety, the lives of African residents in Darfur or Buddhist monks and democracy protesters in Burma. It is the combination of totalitarian governance and ‘anything goes’ capitalism that allows this new form of evil on the planet to continue across China today.
The propaganda phase of the regime’s war began in mid-1999 against a then estimated 70-100 million Falun Gong practitioners across China. The party-state media demonized, vilified and dehumanized them in a manner somewhat similar to that used by the government of Rwanda against its Tutsi community prior to the genocide there in April-July, 1994. Both nationals and some outside China were thus persuaded to think of the community as disruptive to social harmony and even somehow less than human.
Health in China
When observers understand the present state of public health across China as a consequence of three decades of ‘pollute anything’ capitalism for water, soil and air and the condition of the once-vaunted health care delivery system, they are better able to understand the context of our report. Consider only two of the observations made by journalists Joseph Hahn and Jim Yardley of the New York Times this past summer: only one per cent of China’s city dwellers are breathing air considered safe by the European Union; last spring a World Bank study concluded that air pollution is causing premature deaths in the 750,000 persons range a year. The two also noted that many experts have concluded that China “…cannot go green without political change.”
On the health care delivery system, my primary source is The Coming China Wars by Peter Navarro, who has a PH.D in economics from Harvard, has published six other books and is a professor at the Paul Merage School of Business at the University of California. Navarro concludes that the health care system has collapsed: “…sick people are forced to pay for their health care upfront. Those lacking the means to pay are cast out of hospitals and left to die an often slow and painful death. A big part of the problem is the cost of medical insurance-$50 to $200 per year-in a country where the annual per-capita income for the vast majority of the population remains well below $1,000.”
With this melt-down of the health care systems, coupled with continued totalitarian governance, I think you can better understand the context for organ pillaging during the past six years. Between 1980 and 2004, the central government also cut funding for health care by more than a half. Doctors, hospitals and pharmacies were converted to “profit centres” and expected to finance their activities through patient fees.
New Organ Transplantation Policy
The Chinese Medical Association recently agreed with the World Medical Association that it will no longer take organs from executed prisoners, presumably including Falun Gong ones, even conceding that international pressure before next year’s Olympics in Beijing was the motivation. The CMA’s vice-chair, Chen Zhonghua, admitted: “China is worried that if it doesn’t take a stand on this some countries may use this issue as a pretext to boycott the Games.” Whatever the motivation, it is a step in a more human direction, although many of us would like to know if the pledge has any legal consequence. Will it bind military surgeons, who are doing many of the transplantation operations (we’re told that it doesn’t)? Will the new policy be abandoned for the huge profits to be made from organ pillaging once foreigners leave Beijing next August?
David Matas and I have spoken in various countries to some of the tens of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners sent to forced labour camps since 1999, who managed to gain release from both the camps and China itself. They speak of working without pay in appalling conditions for up to sixteen hours daily, making export products, ranging from chop sticks to garments to Christmas decorations for multinational companies from the West. This is corporate social responsibility?
“Naming and Shaming”
What can we all do to stop organ pillaging? Emails to MPs, friends and blogs will certainly keep the pressure on the party-state in Beijing. ‘Naming and shaming’ the regime with placards in front of its embassies and consulates ought to be effective in the months before next summer’s Olympic Games. As the world observed in the case of ‘Magnificent Mia’ Farrow’s comment about “the Genocide Olympics”, the Hu-Wen government in Beijing really listens when the success of its Games can be brought into issue. Let’s use ‘Bloody Harvest’ placards too. Let’s also support the Global Human Rights Torch relay when it continues to more than 100 cities on five continents. You can get more information about the relay at www.humanrightstorch.org.
The people of Ukraine and the nine other countries represented at this symposium do not need a Canadian to tell them what they lived through under the Communist genre of totalitarianism. Let me therefore close with a list of only some of the more glaring crimes and other failures of Communism in Europe:
The abuse and much worse of tens of millions of innocent families during almost half a century.
Continuous economic failure.
The persecution of faith communities, little realizing that they would play a major role in its eventual downfall.
Causing proud and hard-working farm producers to give up working their soil by forcing them into collectives, which seized both their land and animals.
Criminalizing talk about representative democracy in order to protect incompetent, violent and otherwise criminal dictatorships.
Communism twisted the noble concept of human equality into a shield for the special privileges of party officials, the nomenklatura.
Communism removed all rights of workers’ unions, including the right to exist in any meaningful form and to bargain collectively, demonstrating that nowhere where it governs does it care about the rights of working people.
It destroyed any concept of the rule of law and independent judges.
It turned art and culture into a sterile propaganda, thereby forcing many artists and writers into exile.
The general conclusion for all of us wherever we live today seems clear: if human dignity is finally to become indivisible everywhere around the world, the remaining Communist and other authoritarian regimes must be replaced by governments of, by and for their peoples.