David Kilgour: The Beijing Games, Human Rights Torch Relay, and Democracy

By David Kilgour

Oct 23, 2007

David Kilgour speaks at a press conference prior to the opening of the Human Rights Torch Relay in Athens on August 9, as 2006 Winter Olympics Bronze medallist Martins Rubenis, official Torch Relay Ambassadoy, looks on. (Jan Jekielek/The Epoch Times)
David Kilgour speaks at a press conference prior to the opening of the Human Rights Torch Relay in Athens on August 9, as 2006 Winter Olympics Bronze medallist Martins Rubenis, official Torch Relay Ambassadoy, looks on. (Jan Jekielek/The Epoch Times)

The Human Rights Torch Relay is already having an impact on the government of China because of its concerns about the success of its Beijing Games next summer.

All of us involved with the relay are asking the party-state to:

  • End the persecution of Falun Gong immediately and release all practitioners,

  • Stop harrassing the friends, suppporters and lawyers for Falun Gong victims, such as Gao Zhisheng, Li Hong and Li Heping, and

  • Hold discussions to open up forced labour camps, prisons, hospitals and related facilities for inspection by independent persons.

David Matas and I of Canada have done an independent report into allegations of organ pillaging from Falun Gong practitioners. We looked at 33 avenues of proof and disproof.

For example, we interviewed the ex-wife of a surgeon, who told us he removed the corneas from about 2,000 un-anesthetized Falun Gong prisoners in Shenyang city during a two-year period before October 2003. Her testimony was credible to us.

It's easy to take each piece of evidence and say that this or that one does not establish the case conclusively, but it was the combination of all of them, each pointing in the same direction, that led to our chilling conclusion that over six years the government of China and its agents have killed a large number of Falun Gong prisoners of conscience and sold their vital organs for high prices, often to organ tourists.

Virtually no independent reader of our report we know has not been been convinced of the validity of our conclusion, which can be accessed in 18 languages at organharvestinvestigation.net.

This new crime against humanity is incompatible with the Olympic Charter and Olympic movement. It also violates the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights and many other international instruments dealing with human dignity.

If the role of the government in organ pillaging had been known by the International Olympics Committee when it awarded the 2008 Games to Beijing, I choose to believe that no such choice would have occurred. Similarly, the activities of the same government since both domestically and abroad, particularly in Sudan/Darfur, Burma and Zimbabwe, and in its ongoing abuses of China's natural environment, should disqualify it.

If anyone is not persuaded that the efforts by many across the world on the particular issue that brings us here today are not paying off, consider some recent media reports. One of them in the Sydney Morning Herald on Oct. 10 was headed, "Olympic jitters behind China's organ pledge." The first part of the article reads: "China has conceded that international pressure before the 2008 Olympic Games is behind its latest pledge to crack down on illegal organ transplant."

The vice-chair of the Chinese Medical Association, Chen Zhonghua, is quoted in the article saying that ''huge international pressure'' led to the latest commitment. He added to the South China Morning Post, "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." In short, the torch relay is taking China's government in a human rights direction.

This verbal undertaking by the Chinese Medical Association must now be followed by deeds, because there have been similar promises in the past. When will it take effect? Does it apply to military surgeons, who are now doing so many of the transplant operations in both civilian and military hospitals? Matas and I are told they are not included.

Governance Reform Needed

Permit me to add some thoughts about related issues of governance in China. Why does the Hu-Wen regime not allow open political competition? Why not respect basic liberties for all the people of China? Why does it still imprison more journalists than any other government on earth? Why does the rich-poor gap continue to widen across the country?

What kind of "harmonious society" has a penal code which prescribes capital punishment for 65 offences, including "undermining national unity"? Why does the legal system regularly use torture to induce confessions? Why is there no such thing as independent judges and the rule of law in China?

Tibetan Buddhists, Muslims, and Christians face frequent harassment and sometimes much worse. Thousands of North Koreans refugees who manage to enter China are sent back to face arrest, torture, and sometimes death.

Over the past weekend, the new figure on the EU trade deficit with China was released: 185 billion dollars for only the first nine months of 2007. If this trend continues, will any European have a good job with good wages twenty years from now? We have, of course, a similar challenge in Canada.

For example, Goodyear Tire put 85O employees out of work near Montreal about five months in order to move production to China. We've since seen our neighbour recall large numbers of tires made there for safety reasons.

Natural Environment

Last week, the Nobel Peace Prize went to former U.S. vice-president Al Gore and the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Is anyone in the Hu-Wen government thinking seriously about what three decades of virtually 'anything goes' capitalism is doing to the people of China, their neighbours and the world as a whole?


Nearly half a billion Chinese citizens now lack access to safe drinking water, yet many factories continue to dump waste into surface into surface water with impunity.

Last spring, a World Bank study done with China's environmental agency concluded that outdoor pollution is causing 350,000-400,000 preventable deaths a year across the country. Indoor pollution contributed to those of another 350,000 persons for a total in the range of 750,000 a year.

Coal now provides about two-thirds of China's energy and it already burns more of it than Europe, Japan and the U.S. combined. Sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides from coal plants in China are now reaching South Korea.

Some multinational companies from Europe, North America, and elsewhere are full partners in degrading China's natural condition by dumping waste into its rivers and dumping smoke into its sky. Have such businesses not heard of corporate social responsibility?

The Hu-Wen government in office since 2003 has failed to achieve anything substantive concerning water, air, and soil. Many experts have concluded that China cannot go green without political change.

Why doesn't the government introduce surcharges on coal and electricity to reflect the true cost to the environment? Why does it subsidize the cost of driving cars by controlling the price of fuel oil? Why does the regime treat advocates for clean water and air as larger threats than the degradation that causes such patriots to speak out?

Lake Tai

Let me illustrate this key point with the case of Lake Tai, which has been much in the news about China lately. The large lake, located inland from Shanghai, was for centuries one of the Middle Kingdom's most beautiful natural endowments.

Here's what the International Herald Tribune said about it in a front page story on Oct. 15 under the heading, "In China, a lake's champion imperils himself.'' Writer Joseph Kahn makes a number of points.

The lake succumbed this year to industrial and agricultural waste by turning fluorescent green. At least two million people who live among the rice paddies and chemical factories on its shores must stop drinking or cooking with their main source of water.

Local farmer Wu Lihong had protested for more than a decade that the chemical industry and its friends in the local government were destroying one of China's ecological treasures.

In 2001, for example, when then vice-premier (now prime minister) Wen Jiabao came to inspect a typical dye plant located near Lake Tai, word of his visit was predictably leaked in advance. The canal beside the factory was quickly drained, dredged and refilled with fresh water.

Shortly before Wen's motorcade arrived, thousands of carp were placed in the canal and farmers with fishing rods were positioned along the banks. Wu courageously wrote to Wen that he had been "deceived."

Shortly before the pond scum erupted on Lake Tai this year, Wu was sentenced to three years in prison on what Kahn desribes as "an alchemy of charges that smacked of official retribution."

At trial, Wu testified that his confession had been coerced by deprivation of food and being forced to stay awake for five days and nights by police. The judges, however, ruled that, since Wu could not prove that he'd been tortured, his confession remained valid.

In contrast, consider some of the points carried by the China Daily, the party-state English paper about the same Lake Tai on Oct, 16.

"To curb the problem, some 3000 small- and medium-sized chemical plants, many located on the banks of the lake, are to be closed down by the end of 2009. 1700 of the plants…have been shut down.''

"(Jiangsu) province will require all companies to pay in advance for any waste or sewage they discharge into (Tai) lake from next year."

Li Yuanchao, party secretary of the province, is quoted as saying, "with this series of measures, we are confident of being able to return (Tai) lake to its beautiful natural state within 2O years".

Which version of the lake's past, present and future do you take as more realistic? The larger tragedy, of course, is that Lake Tai is only one instance of what unregulated capitalism since 1978 has done to much of China's water, air and soil. The party-state punishes the heroic Wus and promotes the Lis. All of us on the planet are victims of the environmental abuses going on in China and everywhere else.


In conclusion, please go on your computers and send emails to MPs, editors, friends and blogs. 'Naming and shaming' the government of China in this pre-Olympics period is working. We must all do more to support the Global Human Rights Torch relay as it visits an expected 100 cities in 35 countries in the cause of human dignity for all and the Olympic movement.

Thank you.

David Kilgour is the co-author, with David Matas, of Bloody Harvest: Revised Report into Allegations of Organ Harvesting of Falun Gong Practitioners in China. This speech was delivered on Oct. 17 in Dublin at a rally for the Human Rights Torch Relay.

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