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Monday, June 11, 2007

Canadian human rights activist David Kilgour

[11-06-2007] By Dita Asiedu
"Where do the organs come from for all the transplants in China? The allegation of organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners provides an answer." - a quote from a report from Canadian human rights activist David Kilgour. Mr Kilgour, a former Member of Parliament who also served as Canada's Secretary of State for the Asia Pacific region, was recently in Prague lobbying for support in the fight against illegal organ harvesting in China.
Andrea Fajkusova, our colleague from Radio Prague's Spanish section, met up with him during his visit. She first asked him what he thought of the Olympic Watch group, established in Prague in 2001, with the aim of monitoring the human rights situation in China in the run-up to the 2008 Olympic Games:
"I can congratulate you on having an Olympic Watch. I refer to it a lot and there is a sort of an informal network now in that we're trying to get together and build bridges with groups like the Darfur community and community or the number of groups that are concerned about what's going on. There was an article in the paper that I saw in Google saying that human rights are getting worse in China as we get closer to the Olympics. It asks that the government of China said that it would improve human rights if it got the Games but instead they are getting worse. They are locking up more people and they are doing this to Falun Gong... what kind of an Olympic movement would sanction this kind of behaviour?"
"Frankly, we have almost given up on the international Olympic committee. We think they are completely spineless about this matter, but we are pushing the national Olympic committees in the 70 countries where they exist to push this issue. I urge the government of this democratic country to continue to encourage other governments of perhaps countries that have not been through the totalitarian system that you went through to take a stronger stand on this."
A new law came into force in China on May 1, concerning organ transplants. What will this law change?
"I hope it changes everything but the trouble is that the doctors, the military, the hospitals are making hundreds of millions of dollars by selling organs. So, does anyone think that this new law is going to be enforced? So many laws in China are not enforced and they're simply passed for public relations reasons. There is no doubt that the army brags about getting a lot of financing from profits of organ harvesting on one of the websites. So I would be very surprised if the law means anything. This is a quote from the website of the organ transplant centre of the Armed Forces' general hospital in Beijing and the website says: 'the organ transplant centre is our main department for making money'. Its gross income for 2003 was 16 million yuan, which I guess is about 3 million dollars. So they brag about how they are making money.
"So, the short answer to your question is that I think this was announced because of the Olympic Games and I would be very surprised if the practice stopped. We will know if it stops because we have good information and I doubt very much that this law is going to make much difference."
And who are the clients of this organ market?
"That is a really tough question. My co-author David Matas went to a country in Asia. I better not name it but they told him that about 5,000 people a year go to China for organs, from one country. These are obviously wealthy people who can pay the prices. In Canada, for example, we have made inquiries with our medical people and we discovered that from three hospitals alone in Canada, one in Vancouver, in Calgary and one in Toronto about one hundred people from Canada had gone for organs over the last few years. It is rising too. They tend to come from countries like Japan, Korea and Taiwan, but there is no doubt that there are people coming from the USA and Canada...I've never heard anybody say that someone from the Czech Republic was there."
And how can we find out whether a product was made in a labour camp in China?
"That is a question we have been asked in the Czech Republic and Ming and I are going to attempt to come up with a list of products. What happens is that a company asks a sub-contractor in China to get them promotional products for Christmas. The sub-contractor goes to the work camp and they get the products. The company in the West doesn't know, it says, where these products come from. But that's why we have got to get a list of these products so that hopefully this will stop happening. But China has been producing these products for a long time in these forced labour camps.
"I can give you an anecdote of a company called Dynasty Wine. A couple of years ago I was at a friend's place for dinner and somebody from the Chinese Embassy brought a bottle of Dynasty Wine. Well, allegedly this is a product that is made with forced labour in these labour camps. So, in the West when are we going to wake up to realise that these kinds of things that you heard from Ming are going on in these camps?"

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