By PETER WORTHINGTON
Edmonton Sun: November 4, 2007 - What most irritated the regime in China was not Prime Minister Stephen Harper meeting the Dalai Lama, but that a photograph of the two together was circulated around the world.
Until U.S. President George W. Bush broke precedent and was photographed with the Dalai Lama when he received the U.S. Congress' highest award, many world leaders chose not to be photographed with His Holiness for fear of upsetting China.
In 2004, when he was PM, Paul Martin had his photo taken with the DL -- something I'd forgotten (or missed) in an earlier column where I said Harper was the first PM to risk this. Martin's photo op was not as public an event as Harper's. It was taken in the residence of the Catholic archbishop, and didn't invoke the outrage Beijing is directing at Harper.
In Canada, only fellow-travellers and mindless lefties object to the Harper meeting, on grounds that it needlessly provokes Chinese animosity. Baloney, of course.
The Chinese have endless audacity when it comes to "demanding" from democracies -- and endless resistance when it comes to upholding human rights.
Forget, for a moment, that the Dalai Lama no longer seeks autonomy for Tibet -- just decent treatment for Tibetans and respect for Tibetan religion.
Not a big deal, civilized people might think.
Still, the greatest outrage in China these days is the ferocious repression of Falun Gong members, who are not only imprisoned and tortured, but many have organs "harvested" for transplanting to needy foreigners with money.
This practice has been condemned by human rights bodies like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the European Parliament. Various journalists and former federal cabinet minister David Kilgour have amassed persuasive evidence that organ harvesting is a thriving industry.
The Wall Street Journal's Ian Johnson won a Pulitzer Prize for investigating the repression of Falun Gong -- a curious sect that stresses truthfulness, compassion and tolerance. It has 100 million followers, which alarms the Chinese Communist Party.
On Tuesday at 10 p.m., CBC Newsworld airs a documentary -- Beyond the Red Wall -- that follows the phenomenon of Falun Gong that so incenses and frightens China's Communist leaders.
The newspaper Epoch Times, which specializes in human rights issues, has reliable reporting on organ transplants in China, where criminals (and others) condemned to death routinely have executions delayed to accommodate those awaiting transplants.
Beyond the Red Wall shows the waiting times for kidney transplants in various countries: Canada, seven years; the U.S., five years; Britain, three years; China, 15 days. Surely, that discrepancy speaks volumes.
A continuing mystery is why China so fears Falun Gong, which started in the early 1990s and was at first tolerated by the Chinese regime as harmless. It has no political structure or agenda, but Beijing became fearful when Falun Gong was proving more popular than the Communist Party.
Considering this, China's protests about the PM appearing in a photo with the Dalai Lama is trivial, and should encourage probes into other outrages -- as the Beyond the Red Wall seems to have done.