Disabled San Franciscan to Collect 1 Million Signatures before Olympics

By Perple Lu
Epoch Times San Francisco Staff
May 19, 2008

Tatiana A. Kostanian has made it her personal mission to stop organ harvesting in China. (The Epoch Times)
Tatiana A. Kostanian has made it her personal mission to stop organ harvesting in China. (The Epoch Times)

SAN FRANCISCO—"I am asking students, civilians across the United States and globally to join with us in a town meeting," said Tatiana A. Kostanian, a disabled San Franciscan, who has taken it as a personal mission to collect one million signatures, including from the disabled and the severely disabled, to end organ harvesting in China. "Our voices, lives are the least and last invited in on both local and global issues."

At 65, wheelchair bound, and on life support, Kostanian, who spends her time visiting physicians and the Mayor's Disability Council in San Francisco, nevertheless, took up a new mission to help save the myriads of lives that are in danger of involuntary organ harvesting. According a Canadian human rights lawyer and coauthor of an independent organ-harvesting investigation, David Matas, transplant tourism banking on the organs of Falun Gong practitioners has become a billion-dollar industry.

Thirty-five years ago, Kostanian started her work with a support group for survivors of violent trauma. "I have had in my life, every conceivable issue thrown my way…from toddler-hood to my late age of 65," said the founder of MHONA International, a nonprofit group for the disabled. Having faced multiple challenges in getting around, of not being heard, and not being included, Kostanian finally took up the issue of universal human rights.

Together, four sides of Kostanian's family experienced the Armenian genocide, the Ukrainian genocide, and the Holocaust. "As a family, we've faced communist tyranny, treachery, traitors, torturers," Kostanian recalled. "I have faced extremes of rape, torture and starvation, abuses as a child into adulthood from a father who was tortured by the communists in Russia."

After attending the Human Rights Torch Relay in San Francisco in early April, she soon came up with the idea for a million-signature Internet petition. "What I want to do is to gather signatures from around the globe of both people who are disabled/profoundly disabled as well as friends and families," wrote Kostanian on April 13, to stop "the extremes of abuses, torture and killing actions of the Chinese Communists, as well to stop the selling and harvesting of organs, tissues, of the Falun Gong and other prisoners incarcerated in the Chinese communist's Gulag Prisons and Slave Labor Camps."

Tatiana A. Kostanian collects signatures at Union Square, in the heart of San Francisco's shopping district. (Perple Lu/The Epoch Times)
Tatiana A. Kostanian collects signatures at Union Square, in the heart of San Francisco's shopping district. (Perple Lu/The Epoch Times)

On May 1 Kostanian set up her own petition website. "Yes, I'm on life support, but I can't sit back ready to die, without giving something of definite purpose," she said. "I believe it is time for our lives to step forward and show the world what we feel, think about these crimes against humanity as individuals and as disabled communities."

Her mission to collect a million signatures was only the beginning, however. Kostanian showed up in her wheelchair in San Francisco's Union Square again on May 10 to collect signatures. She recalled many people who passed by the table, shocked to see a picture of a woman terribly charred from electric shock tortures, started to talk and to ask questions, but then suddenly looked away and said, "This has nothing to do with me."

"In that moment of their statement, it is I who look shocked, not quite believing that any human being can walk away and deny a simple signature that just might be the key to stopping the continuum of genocide in operation in Mainland communist China," she later recounted.

"We may have less of finances, or every day needs met, but our hearts, our very conscience is not empty in wanting our message to reach every available heart," she said, referring to the community of disabled.

But some people have also been particularly quick to offer their signatures. They include tourists, locals and young children.

"Organs from the poorest of the poor to give to the rich. Disgusting!" Sherri O'Connor of Canada left her signature and commented on Kostanian's petition website on May 15.

Another signer, Kathleen A. H. of Arizona wrote, "It is barbaric, and we, as human beings should be held accountable for such savage acts against other humans!"

Isabella Hillmayr from Greece wrote of the prisoners of conscience on the website, "Your thoughts and mind is free, while your body is imprisoned—my spirit is with you."

With only three months to go and less than 200 signatures so far, Kostanian is not daunted. "I will not sit back … and let my voice, or the voices of my sisters and brothers … who gave up the ultimate, their life, and their organs and tissues, to say we can't gain a million or more signatures," she wrote on May 10.

"I want to see if we might be able to reach out to some people of leadership in San Jose as well," she said on May 13, referring to a global town meeting of disabled and non-disabled people alike. "It has to be done and pulled together by the people, not by leaders of governments, or nations, but by the heart of everyday human beings."

Tatiana Kostanian's petition website is: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/petition/928204536

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