Fight for Falun Gong a Legacy to Holocaust, Says Matas
In the world where torture, forced labour camps, child slavery and ethnic cleansing are still as prevalent as they were last century, our fight for survival may hinge on just a few people in "power".
But Canadian lawyer and Holocaust expert David Matas disagrees. He says human rights are not the domain of specialists, but belong to everybody.
A Jew and a devoted campaigner for the "underdogs" of society, Mr Matas draws his inspiration from his roots.
"As a child I was very much struck by the Holocaust. I wanted to do something about it. My contact with human rights gave me a way of doing it," says the 64-year-old Oxford University graduate who for the last four decades has worked for the rights of Colombians, Turkish Kurds and Nigerians to name but a few. For the last year he has lobbied for the persecuted Falun Gong practitioners in China.
"What I've been trying to do is a learn lessons from the Holocaust and apply them as a legacy to the victims of the Holocaust," he continued.
So why would a Jew take on the mission to defend the rights of millions of people in China – a country just as foreign to him as Israel would be to the average Australian? The answer, he says, is simple: "Because we are all human beings."
"The Falun Gong, in my view, are victims of bigotry. If you look at what's being said, it's prejudice against the group. If these sorts of things were said against the more traditional victim groups – the Jews, the blacks – people would jump on it right away.
"But I'm amazed at the way people are insensitive to a group when it's prejudice to a group to which they're not familiar," said Mr Matas, referring to the spiritual discipline that draws its roots from ancient Buddhist and Taoist traditions, but has been under harsh repressions since 1999.
Named as the "man of the year" in 2006 by the Brotherhood Interfaith Society in Canada, Mr Matas knows how to cross boundaries—religious, ethnic and even geographic.
In the last year, he has traveled to over 40 countries. He has spoken to more politicians than a diplomat would and has given hundreds of interviews to media across Europe, North America and Australia. His goals are simple—to end forced organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners in China, a crime he branded as a "new form of evil" after compiling an independent report into the allegations with a long-time friend and Canada's longest serving politician, David Kilgour.
The 40-page revised document titled Bloody Harvest was released in January this year. After months of investigation, which included making undercover calls to Chinese hospitals and speaking to numerous eyewitnesses, the Canadian team concluded that thousands of Falun Gong practitioners have been and are being killed for their body parts to service the lucrative organ trade in China.
Mr Matas clearly states that he is not a Falun Gong practitioner, has never studied Falun Gong texts and is proud of his Jewish heritage. However, he is angered by the fundamental lack of freedom of belief in China.
"To me it doesn't really matter who they are. They are people who have a belief and should be free to do, believe what they want and practise that belief."
Scapegoats of society
So why in the world would the Government of China go after, more than any other target group, a bunch of innocents who do nothing more than exercise and meditate, asks Mr Matas. The answer, says Mr Matas, lies not with the victims, but with the perpetrators.
To understand anti-Semitism, one must look at the anti-Semites, not the Jews, he explains. "To understand the victimisation of the Falun Gong does not require knowledge about the Falun Gong; but it does require some appreciation of the Communist Party of China". The regime, he said, must have a scapegoat on whom it can lay all its misfortunes.
Just like the Jews were made the scapegoats under the Nazi dictatorship, Falun Gong practitioners are being demonised by the Chinese Communist regime.
According to Mr Matas, this alone is enough for him to stand up and say that the Chinese regime is not fit to hold the 2008 Olympic Games.
"Falun Gong and many others cannot compete in Olympic sports, cannot coach or train Olympic athletes, cannot even sit in the stands and watch the games. This deterioration in the run-up to the Games has led to an understandable call for boycott of the games."
However, the fight for Falun Gong has not ended with the investigations into organ harvesting, says Mr Matas.
"Beyond [organ harvesting], I would like to see the end of the persecution to Falun Gong. Beyond that, I would like to see the end to the Chinese Communist Party rule in China. "Beyond that, I would like to see the end to all human rights violations around the world..."