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Human Rights in China, the Olympics, Falun Gong and the Broader Context
September 28, 2007
United Nations Millennium Plaza Hotel

Statement by: Kirk C. Allison, Ph.D., M.S.
Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong in China
Program Director, Program in Human Rights and Health, University of Minnesota *

As the Olympic Games approach, issues regarding human rights abuses in the People’s Republic of China have come under increased scrutiny, not least of all the discrepancy between the promise of human rights reform in China, in exchange for the Olympic Games, and actual practice. This practice has included the banning of over 40 categories of persons from Olympic venues, including such who promote human rights in China. This moral paradox was highlighted in a recent public letter dated September 13, 2007, by human rights attorney Gao Zhisheng to the United States Congress and was underscored by his arrest on September 22.

The letter details a long history of suppression of religious groups (Falun Gong, unregistered Christians, Tibetan Buddhists), torture, persecution of reporters of forced abortion, sterilizations and coercion, property seizures, the exploitation of farmers, and the destitution of the children of parents arrested for practices protected in letter by the Chinese Constitution. At the same time he notes environmental degradations undermining health as a whole, issuing from a marriage of the excesses of authoritarian socialism and unbridled capitalism. Gao closes his letter citing Franklin Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech of January 6, 1941, which provide key elements cited in the Preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Freedom of speech and expression; freedom of worship; freedom from want; and freedom from fear. The conclusion of the letter speaks for itself:

Not surprisingly, this letter placed him in one (indeed more than one) category of persons without standing before the Olympic project in China. It is for that reason that another Olympic project has been organized.

The Global Human Rights Torch Relay

The Global Human Rights Torch Relay is an event of conscience highlighting the contradictions manifest between Olympic Ideals and the human rights realities in the selected 2008 host country, the People’s Republic of China. Quoting the Olympic Charter:

Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy found in effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.

Olympic Charter, Fundamental principles, § 2
The response of the Government in China to complaints regarding this human rights contradiction has been to draw up a list of over 40 categories of persons to be excluded from the geography of Olympic venues by relocation. Included in this list are pro-democracy advocates, religious practitioners, and those deemed to be critical of the government.

In the past decade however, no group explicitly listed has suffered persecution in China greater than Falun Gong practitioners. This has included the arrest of hundreds of thousands, reeducation camps, the confirmed deaths of over 3000 self-identifying practitioners, and evidence of Falun Gong practitioners used as organ sources. The latter is within an over-all system of transplantation in China which depends on an economy of execution.

The Values of Falun Gong and Olympism

Ironically Falun Gong’s core values of truthfulness, compassion or benevolence, and forbearance integrated into a physical practice aimed at cultivating a soundness of body, will and mind are fundamentally consonant with values underlying Olympism, although without the competitive dimension – in contrast to the dissonance of the human rights record of the host country.

The Persecution against the Falun Gong

  • After its public introduction in 1992, Falun Dafa quickly grew to become the most popular form of qigong ever in Chinese history. It grew orgainically to the point that the number of practitioners was in fact greater than the number of members of the official ruling party, followed by an about-face attitude by the Government.
  • The crackdown against the Falun Gong in China since July 1999 is the most concerted persecution of an identifiable cultural group since the Cultural Revolution.
  • Li Lanqing, head of the 610 office in charge of the extrajudicial crackdown stated in the Great Hall of the People in 1999 that the goal was to “eradicate Falun Gong“ by “defaming their reputations, bankrupting them financially and destroying them physically.” [Kilgour/Matas (2006), p. 9]
  • Since the beginning of the crackdown in July 1999 in Beijing alone by April 2001 830,000 Falun Gong practitioners had been arrested. Those refusing to identify themselves to protect family are the most vulnerable among prisoners. Persons who recant have been largely released.
One of the most disturbing aspects of the persecution has been the allegation of organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners. This is in the context of a well publicized transplant tourist trade from, among others, Japan, Taiwan, Europe and in some cases the US.

One must place this in the context of an organ transplant system which prior, during, and after the onset of the persecution relies on executions as its primary source of organs. Aside from the extrajudicial treatment of Falun Gong arrestees in China there are:

  • Between 64 and 68 capital offenses, over half for nonviolent activity (including ideological)
  • The total number of executions is considered a state secret but range from several thousand to 10,000. The Amnesty International estimate average from newspaper announcements for 2000-05 is 1616, a number unable to account for the ca. 60,000 transplantations of that period.

  • In 2005 Vice Minister of Health and liver transplant surgeon admitted at least 95% of transplants are sourced from executees.i

  • Manfred Nowak, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment reported in 2006 that 66% of victims of alleged torture in China have been FG practitioners.ii
The most thorough investigation on the organ harvesting issue with regard to Falun Gong has been provided by two reports issued July 2006 and January 2007 by David Kilgour, former Secretary of State for Asia Pacific for the Government of Canada, and David Matas, a prominent Canadian human rights attorney.iii These have also been declared as credible by transplant surgeon Tom Treasure in the March 2007 edition of The Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.
  • Since the beginning of the crackdown in July 1999 transplants in China tripled from about 18,500 in 1994-1999 (6 years) to ca. 60,000 in 2000-2005 (6 years): an excess of +41,500 (+3.25 times the total of the previous period and in itself a net increase +2.25 times over the previous total of ca. 18,500).
  • The increase in volume of organ transplants in 2000-2005 as a percentage of the total (41,500/60,000) is 69%. The percentage increase of Falun Gong comprising alleged victims of torture in 2005 (reflected in the 2006 Nowak report) as compared to prior to July 1999, before the onset of systematic persecution, is ca. 66%.
  • In the latter 6-year period the majority of persons in detention facilities have been Falun Gong practitioners, including a significant number who refused self-identification to protect family members, according to released prisoners. This comprised and comprises an especially vulnerable population.
  • Until recently major beneficiaries of organ transplantation have been international transplant tourists with demand driven by inexplicably short waiting periods.
  • Confirmed by consistent reports of recipients and telephone queries, the transplants largely involved military hospitals or associated surgeons who administratively were outside the purview of the civilian Ministry of Health. The 2006 Congressional-Executive Commission on China Annual Report (p.95) notes transcripts of calls confirming Falun Gong among the available organ sources, notwithstanding that a State Department site investigation was unable to confirm one set of allegations.
  • The Transplant Society stated in a circular to TTS members dated 6 November 2006 that it opposes the recovery of organs and tissues from executed prisoners and from any other individual where an autonomous consent for procurement is lacking:iv

While a series of laws and regulations requiring consent from executed prisoners have been passed in China since 1984, and of late countering organ transplant tourism, in the past these laws have been demonstrated to be ineffectual including into 2006.

Recent assurances by the Vice Minister of Health Huang Jiefuv to reform the transplant system make no commitment to abandon procurement based on executed prisoners. Yet following March 2007 there appears to be a reduction in transplant tourism. The latter is welcome development.

The transplant system may become more circumspect yet nothing has altered the Government’s ongoing dedicated policy to eradicate Falun Gong as a community of conscience by any means necessary.

It is precisely this policy of comprehensive violations of human rights of Falun Gong practitioners and others that stands in irreconcilable contradiction to the philosophy that “Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy found in effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.”

Both cannot coexist; rather the contradiction must be dissolved.

Incremental Steps and the Global View of Human Rights in China

Particular violations of human rights are to be understood in the context of a systematic context. At every turn one should be glad for incremental improvements, while watching the fundamental vectors informing the whole. Establishing contract law is a positive step, but does not address ongoing property seizures and the exploitation of farmers. Reducing transplant tourism is positive, but does not address the issue of a system of transplantation based on execution (judicial or extrajudicial). The deployment of an engineering battalion from China to Darfur may provide infrastructure for UN peacekeepers while leaving China’s broad support of Khartoum’s despotic regime which has enabled crimes against humanity (including de facto genocidal actions), protected also by China’s Security Council veto. Finally the ongoing treatment and status of Falun Gong in China, as the group most widely persecuted and unjustly vilified in recent decades, should be recognized as the indicator nearest the core of regress or progress in human rights in China.

Kirk C. Allison, Ph.D., M.S.
Program Director, Program in Human Rights and Health
School of Public Health, University of Minnesota
420 Delaware Street SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455
Tel. 612-626-6559
Fax 612-626-3908

Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong in China

The Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong in China (CIPFG) spans four continents around the world, with chapters in Australia, Asia, Europe, and North America with over 300 members worldwide. CIPFG members are people from all walks of life concerned about the persecution of Falun Gong and about human rights issues in China generally. Members include legislators at federal, state, and local levels of governments, religious and community leaders, medical doctors and organ transplant specialists, international human rights attorneys and criminal defense lawyers. Some members are non-government organizations and others are individuals concerned about human rights and social justice. CIPFG membership continues to grow. It should be noted that the coalition expresses good will toward the people of China as a whole. While a member of the Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong in China (CIPFG), the author is not a Falun Gong practitioner and writes in his own capacity.

* For identification only, writing in my own capacity.
iiReport of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Manfred Nowak - Mission to China. 10/03/2006. E/CN.4/2006/6/Add.6.
iii Report into Allegations of Organ Harvesting from Falun Gong Practitioners in China (July 6, 2006) and Bloody Harvest:  Revised Report into Allegations of Organ Harvesting of Falun Gong Practitioners in China (January 31,2007). Reports are available here.
iv Transplant Society membership letter, 6 November 2006, p. 1.
v Jiefu, Huang. Ethical and Legislative Perspectives on Liver Transplantation in the People’s Republic of China. Liver Transplantation 13:193-196, 2007.
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