People should not feel powerless about human rights atrocities occurring around the world, says international human rights lawyer David Matas; there is plenty people can do. Indifference, he says, is the real restraint.
In Australia to address the XXII International Congress of The Transplantation Society on illegal organ harvesting in China, Mr Matas told an audience at a forum in Melbourne that no one person could bring about changes in human rights.
“The reality is, if there is going to be change, it has to be people working together to do that,” he said, “and you’re only going to get a lot of people working together to affect change if individuals make the choice to do so.”
The co-author of Bloody Harvest, a report on illegal organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners in China, Mr Matas said human rights violations by Chinese authorities had extended beyond the boundaries of the mainland, including in Australia. It was important, he said, that locals were awake to those issues and addressed violations happening in their own backyard.
“The change does not necessarily have to happen in China, it can happen here because there are problems here in Australia and even in Melbourne.”
He referred to one incidence where Falun Gong practitioners were invited to participate in the Moomba Parade and then had their invitations withdrawn, forcing the Falun Dafa Association of Victoria Inc to appeal to the Australian Human Rights Commission.
“They won in court and they got a judgment against the city council and the discrimination was remedied that way,” he said. “But I mean that’s the sort of thing that shouldn’t be necessary to go to court over.
“There are a lot of examples like that around Australia where the discrimination and the invective and the incitement and the harassment is happening here and so if people are worried, well, that it is asking too much to change China, you can still deal with problems here and focus on the problems that the Falun Gong face.”
Mr Matas, who is also an author, analyst and writer, said he was a committed advocate of human rights, but it required perseverance.
Although he believed organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners continued, despite the report and some two years of campaigning, he could see that he and his co-author, former Canadian Secretary of State, David Kilgour, were having an impact.
“…Once David Kilgour and I had determined that this particular violation was happening, we both became very committed to try to stop it.
“…And even though it hasn’t stopped, our advocacy work has had an impact...that gives us encouragement. It keeps us going; we can see that we are getting some audience and some response so we just want to carry on until the problem is resolved completely.”