When people understand the state of public health across China as a consequence of almost three decades of virtually 'anything goes' capitalism, they can better contextualize the independent report on organ pillaging David Matas and I did last year. Permit me therefore to start with some indicators on health among the Chinese population. My source is an article by Joseph Hahn and Jim Yardley in The New York Times last year (26 Aug.2007) under the heading, "As China Roars, Pollution Reaches Deadly Extremes".
Among their observations:
Nearly half a billion Chinese lack access to safe drinking water. Many factories and farms dump waste into surface water with few legal or other consequences.
- The Ministry of Health in China itself admits that ambiant air pollution alone causes hundreds of thousands of deaths yearly. Coal provides about two-thirds of China's energy and it already burns more of it than Europe, Japan and the US combined. Only one per cent of the city dwellers are breathing air considered safe by the European Union.
- One coastline of China is so polluted that a section of it no longer sustains life.
- Multinational companies building manufacturing facilities in China are partners in degrading the natural environment by dumping waste in rivers and pumping smoke into the sky.
- Last year, a World Bank study done with China's environmental agency concluded that outdoor air pollution was already causing 350,000-400,000 preventable deaths a year, with indoor air pollution contributing to the deaths of another 350,000 persons, for a total in the 750,000 range yearly.
Hahn-Yardley conclude their piece somberly: "The government rarely uses market-oriented incentives to reduce pollution. Officials have rejected proposals to introduce surcharges on electricity and coal to reflect the true cost to the environment. The state still controls the price of fuel oil, including gasoline, subsidizing the cost of driving...at least two leading environmental organizers have been prosecuted in recent weeks, and several others have received sharp warnings to tone down their criticism of local officials..."
What is the condition of health-care delivery in China? My primary source here is The Coming China Wars, a book published last year by the Financial Times. The author, Peter Navarro, has a PH.D in Economics from Harvard and is a professor at the Paul Merage School of Business at the University of California.
Navarro concludes that the once-vaunted public health system in China has effectively disintegrated. "There is a shortage of doctors and 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".
One of Mao Zedong's policy successes on assuming control in Beijing in 1949, notes Navarro, was his health care system. Taxation funded the care of civil servants. Government-owned companies and rural co-operatives provided coverage for their employees, including retired ones. The achievements during the three decades it lasted included a large drop in infant mortality and more than doubling life expectancy.
In the 1980s, virtually all of this was abandoned. De-collectivization ended the co-operatives and the 90 per cent of the farmers covered earlier by health care dropped to ten per cent. Some former government companies on being privatized cut health care for employees; others went bankrupt. The central government between 1980 and 2004 cut funding for health care by more than half.
Under the new privatized model, doctors, hospitals and pharmacies were converted to "profit centres" and expected to finance their activities through patient fees. Today, Navarro notes, the price of drugs not covered by price controls in hospitals as a result can be twenty times higher than at the factory gate.
With the melt-down of the health-care systems, coupled with ongoing totalitarian governance and 'anything is permitted' capitalism raging since 1978, I think you can better understand the context for organ pillaging, which began after full-bore persecution was initiated against the Falun Gong community by the party-state across China in mid-1999.
Matas and I concluded following our independent (and volunteer) investigation last year that between 2001 and the present 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.
You can access our revised report in nineteen languages at www.organharvestinvestigation.net. A media section on the site contains numerous print and video discussions. The "Corroborating Studies" part contains analyses by three medical doctors: Dr. Torsten Trey, founder of Doctors Against Organ Harvesting, Dr Kirk Allison of the University of Minnesota and Dr. Tom Treasure of the UK, which you might find of particular interest.
Most independent persons the two of us know who have read our report are convinced of the horrifying validity of its conclusion. Those who are not usually claim that the 33 kinds of evidence we have assessed, which all point in the same direction, are only allegations. The same might be said of evidence of any kind until it is admitted in a court of law. Only when China becomes a country with the rule of law or the specific perpetrators of these crimes against humanity can be brought before the International Criminal Court can our numerous proofs—most of which are independently verifiable- be admitted in authentic criminal trials. Today, the criminals in China, who are often medical professionals, are provided with impunity by the goverment.
Rule of Law
None of these deaths would be occurring if the Chinese people as a whole enjoyed the rule of law and their government believed in the intrinsic worth and dignity of each one of them. Human lives generally across China appear to have no more value to those in power there than does the natural environment, work safety, health care for all, the lives of African residents in Darfur or monks and students in Tibet and Burma. It is the lethal combination of totalitarian governance and 'anything goes' capitalism that allows this new form of evil to continue across China.
The propaganda phase of the party-state's persecution began in mid-1999 against a then estimated 70-100 million Falun Gong practitioners. It demonized, vilified and dehumanized them all party-controlled media at home and abroad. Many Chinese nationals and others outside China were thus persuaded to think of the community as disruptive and tragically even somehow less than human
Ross Terrill of Harvard's Fairbank Centre for East Asian Research puts it well in his 2003 book, The New Chinese Empire: "The Fearful State in Beijing had transformed Falungong from a harmless, health-promoting lifestyle choice of millions of mostly older Chinese into a menace to the "stability and unity" of the Red Middle Kingdom. That loyal and quite senior members of the CCP, some in the army, police and air force, were among the Falungong membership did not undermine the imperative to stamp out a potential, if unwitting, philosophic challenge to the state."
Matas and I are not Falun Gong practitioners, but my experience with them in more than forty countries visited has been overwhelmingly positive. They really do attempt to live their core principles of "truth, compassion and forbearance".One wonders why is it that in only one of the seventy or so countries where practitioners live are they persecuted mercilessly? Their huge and growing popularity among the Chinese people during the 1990s was clearly one reason.
There has been no independently-reported instance of a Falun Gong practitioner using violence to respond to police and other attacks by officials upon them since July, 1999. The UN Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Novak, concluded following his visit to China a year or so ago that fully two thirds of the persons then being tortured across the country were Falun Gong.
Chinese Medical Association
The Chinese Medical Association agreed with the World Medical Association several months ago that it will no longer allow foreigners to obtain organs from Chinese nationals, even conceding that international pressure before this summer'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." It is possibly a step in a better direction, although many would like to know if the pledge has any legal consequences. Does it bind military surgeons who are doing many transplants in both civilian and army hospitals? Will the policy be dropped as soon as the foreigners leave Beijing after the games this August? Will the organs from executed convicted prisoners and Falun Gong practitioners (who rarely are tried for anything) simply go to wealthy Chinese patients instead of wealthy foreigners in the same volumes?
Matas and I have spoken in various countries to a small number of the tens of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners sent to labour camps since 1999, who managed to leave both the camps and China itself. They worked in appalling conditions for up to sixteen hours daily with no pay and little food, making export products, ranging from garments to chopsticks to Christmas decorations for multinational companies.
'Naming and Shaming'
What can we all do to stop organ pillaging? E-mails to Members of Congress, friends and blogs will certainly help. Perhaps you might forward this talk to persons you think might be interested. 'Naming and shaming' the party-state in Beijing with placards in front of embassies, consulates and events attended by Chinese officials offer the best leverage in the remaining 100 days leading up to the Olympic Games this August. As the world saw in the case of Mia Farrow's 'Genocide Olympics' comment about Darfur, the regime does listen when the success of its Games might be in jeopardy.
Virtually all independent observers agree that repression across China is increasing as the Beijing Olympics and Paralympics approach. National leaders planning to attend the games, governments, media and corporate event sponsors should therefore indicate to their respective publics what they are doing to try to reverse this trend. Otherwise, they risk being tainted badly by what a Human Rights Watch spokesperson has suggested could become a "human rights debacle".
To host an Olympiad while escalating the persecution of communities and individuals among your own population is irreconcilable with the modern Olympic Charter. It's difficult to say at times which side appears to grasp this point less-- the government of China or the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The first hopes that building extravagant new facilities--and forcibly removing thousands of Beijing families from their homes without adequate compensation to do so --will somehow improve its international reputation.
China's party-state is counting on overseas visitors this August--and more importantly on those watching television images at home—noticing Beijing's shiny new dragon-shaped airport, its bird's nest-looking national stadium and the athletic events themselves rather the full implications for its nationals of maintaining absolute political control. The same is true of its championing of autocracy across the world.
In 2006, the most recent year for which figures are available, there were more than twice as many arrests in China as the previous year for the 'offence of endangering state security'. The number jumped to 604 arrests in 2006 from 296 in 2005.
Among those arrested was Gao Zhisheng, the self-educated lawyer in Beijing, who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize last year. Gao is a leader who shares many qualities with Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi and is increasingly admired both in and beyond China. His mistreatments included removing his permit to practice, an attempt on his life, having police attack his wife (Nov 2006) and 13-year-old daughter (Dec 2006), and attempting to deny the family any income. In December, 2006 he was sentenced to three years in prison for "inciting subversion of state power", although international pressure appears to have caused a suspension of the sentence for five years. Gao did speak out again and his whereabouts is now unknown to the great concern of many of his admirers.
Like Gao, the Chinese are a strong and resilient people, too many of whom who are currently exploited by the Party bosses of their country. Their friends outside the country should speak up for them--and perhaps especially for women and girls, who are often more mistreated than men and boys. Why, for example, is the government spending an estimated 42 billion yuan on Olympic facilities instead of using much of it for badly needed social programs, education and housing for the poor?
Many outside China think they know the country, having read about it, visited flourishing cities and perhaps having Chinese friends, but much of importance is often over-looked. It was, for example, only when David Matas and I began to search below the surface that I began to realize that things were not harmonious at all across the country.
The Party seeks to equate itself with China as a country, to convince persons within and outside that it is China, and that without the Party there would be no China. This is despite the inconvenient reality that its ideological foundation is now discredited European Marxism. A farmer in China put it best, "Karl Marx does not sound like a Chinese name." This is also the underpinning of the Party strategy to maintain absolute power.
Consider a little of what Jennifer Zeng, now of Australia, said about her own experience in one of the camps, located not far from the shiny new national stadium: "I was sent to the Female Forced Labour Camp in Beijing in 2001 for practising Falun Gong. The police made it clear that the only purpose to be sent there was to be 'reformed', which meant to force us to give up our beliefs. In order to achieve this, the police stopped at nothing. We were not allowed to sleep for as long as 15 days and 15 nights, sometimes even one month. We were shocked with electric batons, beaten up, sexually abused, forced to work under appalling conditions for 16 or even 20 hours a day. We were put under severe and endless mental pressure to betray our own beliefs …"
A number of the world's most brutal dictatorships have fallen under Beijing's sway during its scramble to acquire as much as possible of the earth's natural resources. I'll mention here some details only for Sudan as a representative case, but I'd ask you to reflect on Tibet, Zimbabwe (where the government of China since the election a month ago attempted and thankfully failed to ship 77 tonnes of weapons to Robert Mugabe's regime), Burma, East Turkistan/Xinjian, North Korea, Uzebekistan, and elsewhere in the world.
In Sudan's Darfur province, since April, 2003 an estimated 400,000- 450,000 African civilians have been murdered by bombs, bullets or burning directed by the Bashir military government in Khartoum, or died of related causes, such as starvation and disease.
The government of China continues to assist Bashir in numerous ways, including, financing and supplying arms in exchange for taking most of Sudan's oil production at deeply-cut prices. Since the slaughter began in 2003, China's party-state has also used the threat of its veto in the UN Security Council to block continuously any effective UN action against Sudan.
Protected by China's government, Bashir is confident that he can complete his genocidal work in Darfur. He appointed Musa Hilal, the one-time leader of the murderous militia, the Janjaweed, to a position in his government. Hilal has been quoted expressing gratitude for "the necessary weapons and ammunition to exterminate the African tribes in Darfur."
Growing Shadows over Olympics
The world looks forward to Olympiads because they feature the best athletic talent from our entire family of nations.
China was awarded the Games by the IOC only after it pledged to respect the Olympic Charter and to improve its human rights record. Instead the rest of us are now adjusting to its worsening inhuman practices.
Why, for example, do Falun Gong practitioners face continuing merciless persecution after eight long years? What principle of the modern Olympic Games, especially after the experience in Hitler's Berlin in 1936, allows a host government to bar any spiritual community's members from competing in, or watching, events in Beijing?
The Olympic Games and human rights movements worldwide share the same goals: unity, dignity and equality among the entire human family. When this is violated systematically by the host government of an Olympiad, the Olympic movement as a whole loses credibility.
The IOC should insist to the organizers of the 2008 Games that they conform to its Charter and refrain from discrimination against any group or individual during these Games. As consumers, we might all begin to ask serious questions to the corporate sponsors of the Games, including Manulife, Visa, Kodak, Samsung, Panasonic, Omega, Johnson & Johnson, McDonald's, General Electric, John Hancock and Coca-Cola. Silence from them implies acquiescence with what is going on across China.
Mia Farrow, Steven Spielberg, Uma Thulman and many others around the world have already stood up for human dignity at the 2008 Olympics. Is Minky Worden of Human Rights Watch not correct when she says that corporate sponsors, governments and National Olympic Committees should urge Beijing to improve human rights conditions in China? "Olympic corporate sponsors are putting their reputations at risk unless they work to convince the Chinese government to uphold the human rights pledges it made to bring the Games to Beijing," she said. "Human rights are under attack in China, and Olympic sponsors should use their considerable leverage to persuade Beijing to change policy."
The rest of us should too. We are asking the government of China to honour the promises made when it bid for the Games. If you agree, please press your own government and your national Olympic Committee to urge the government of China to fulfill it commitments.