CTV (Canada): Cdns. probe China 'organ harvesting' allegations

Updated Tue. May. 9 2006 8:14 AM ET

Former MP David Kilgour and human rights lawyer David Matas are to investigate allegations that China has been executing Falun Gong prisoners in order to harvest and sell their vital organs.

The announcement of an investigation comes just days after Chinese officials publicly denied the practice took place.

Most of the allegations come from the spiritual movement Falun Gong (also known as Falun Dafa), which has a substantial following in Canada, but has been banned in China since 1999.

The Falun Dafa Association of Canada says there is evidence that the organs of thousands of executed prisoners in China are being removed every year for transplants without consent and last week asked Kilgour and Matas to investigate.

There has been no independent confirmation of the reports.

Former Liberal MP Kilgour told a news conference in Ottawa Monday that an investigation would be done "completely independently" and "as quickly as reasonably feasible."

"Given the nature of some of the allegations made to date, we think it is in the public interest to weigh the probative value of what some of the individuals have said, seen, and heard within China on these issues," said Kilgour.

Renowned lawyer David Matas told the news conference he hoped the report would be completed within six weeks.

He said if the allegations were true, "there would have been thousands of people killed for their religious convictions."

Matas said the plan was to "interview personally whatever witnesses are available in North America," and to ask the Chinese government to grant he and Kilgour visas "to make our own investigations" in the country.

"We hope to assess objectively to see whether these allegations they are true," he said. "If they are true, it will require the mobilization of the international community to stop this."

Tory MP Rahim Jaffer said the allegations were "a disturbing affront to human life."

"Given China's record on human rights abuses we have a duty to take these allegations seriously," he said. "This investigation is the first step in putting all the facts on the table."

Widespread allegations into organ harvesting have persisted for several years -- including from international human rights groups.

Reports suggest that the speed of matching donors and patients -- which are matched sometimes as quickly as a week -- implied prisoners were being selected before execution.

The emergence of transplant tourism has made the sale of health organs even more lucrative, while secrecy surrounding executions in China makes it difficult to gather facts.

Patients increasingly come from Western countries, including the U.S and U.K., as well as Japan and South Korea.

But Chinese health officials insisted publicly last month that organs from executed prisoners were only used with prior permission and only then very rarely.

They also announced that the selling of organs would be banned from July.

May 10,2006
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