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Monday, July 20, 2009

China's Deadly Harvest

July 20th - China's Deadly Harvest by NTDTV

2009-7-15 0:31280

Numbers are symbols; they represent anything and everything. But they also hide what they represent, like a mask. In ten years, the names of over 3,000 Falun Gong practitioners have been collected; they are the names of people who have been killed through torture by Chinese authorities. But, how many more people simply disappeared after the persecution began? And what is the connection to China's booming organ transplant industry. Though the truth is still unknown, the evidence points to a disturbing conclusion about the new China, and of what the rest of the world is willing to ignore. In this original investigation, NTD attempts to discover: 'what happened to the people who disappeared?'

CCP Crimes Exposed

Miramichi Leader: Published Monday July 20th, 2009

July 20, marks ten years since the brutal persecution of Falun Gong began in China. For ten years, Falun Gong practitioners have been branded as criminals by the regime, tortured and killed for no just cause.

It's no secret that the communist authorities use hundreds of different Stalinist torture methods on them in an effort to force practitioners to renounce their belief in truth, compassion and tolerance. So far, there are an estimated 50,000 deaths by torture with tens of thousands still missing after being detained by authorities. Many of them have become unwilling organ donors which is a booming industry in China.

The funny thing about all this is that — no matter how sinister a plight this persecution is — governments of the free world have made friends with the Chinese dictators and perpetrators of these crimes against humanity, rather than supporting the innocent victims who are at the mercy of a bloodthirsty regime. One only has to look at the present massacre of the Uighurs in Northern China to get a taste of the extent of their blood lust. For all these reasons we must persevere in exposing these crimes by the Chinese communist party officials so that our world leaders will come to see the true picture sooner than later and will do the right thing by protecting human rights universally like they should and stopping the bloodshed.

Marie Beaulieu,

Friday, July 17, 2009

Falun Gong As Decade Long Victims of Rule by Terror

Falun Gong As Decade Long Victims of Rule by Terror
By Hon. David Kilgour

Media Conference , 130s Centre Block, House of Commons


MWC: Ottawa ,16 July 2009: Almost exactly ten years ago, the party-state in Beijing launched its campaign against a government-estimated 70-100 million Falun Gong practitioners. The then determinedly-non-political Falun Gong, which is an exercise community with a spiritual component, soon became the latest in a long list of 'enemies of the party'. Atrocities against Falun Gong supporters continue today across China.

Reigns of terror against Party-selected groups and persons have occurred periodically since Mao Zedong seized power in 1949. In the name of revolution, millions were starved to death, for example, in the Great Leap Forward of 1958; countless others were tortured, abused, executed and deprived of basic human dignity. Probably very few Chinese citizens have been treated more brutally than the Falun Gong.


Organ pillaging from Falun Gong practitioners has been studied in an independent report by legal scholar David Matas and myself ( http://organharvestinginvestigation.net ). The two of us found 52 kinds of evidentiary proof indicating that this crime against humanity is occurring. The Government of China has to date made no substantive response to our report.

Just this month, three lawyers were arrested in China for daring to defend Falun Gong practitioners. The persecution of another prominent attorney, Gao Zhisheng, who defended Falun Gong, continues. He was twice arrested and suffered seventy days of torture. Despite repeated appeals from a range of Chinese and international groups for accounts of his whereabouts and release, Beijing ignores them.

Genocide?

David Matas to the International Association of Genocide Scholars at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia, concluded on June 9th of this year:

''Every Chinese embassy around the world participates in this incitement (against Falun Gong). Despite their denials, they have to know about the mass killings of Falun Gong practitioners. The evidence fills human rights reports. There are constant media stories. The information is a click of a mouse away on the internet. Any claim of ignorance would mean that they have wilfully been turning blind eyes to the obvious, not a defense in law. So, in sum, the crime of genocide has been committed against the Falun Gong community, through torture, through organ harvesting and through the incitement that leads to both. The elements of the crime, the mass killings based on identity and the intent to destroy the group, can be established. ''

Mr. Matas provided detailed reasons for coming to this legal conclusion, which are available in the Update section of our report website.

China's Gulag

Forced labour is tragically all too common today, but only the party-state of China uses it to punish and suppress fellow citizens. Any Chinese national can be sent to a camp without any form of trial for up to four years upon committal by a police signature. No appeal is possible. Mao in the 1950s closely duplicated the work camp model set up in Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany, which in China alone continues today.

In China, only Falun Gong camp inmates are used as a live organ bank to be pillaged for sales to foreigners or Chinese nationals. Medical testing is required before organs can be matched with recipients, but only Falun Gong prisoners in the camp populations are tested medically on a regular basis. In the estimated 340 camps across China as of 2005, up to 300,000 "workers" toil in inhuman conditions for up to sixteen hours daily without any pay, producing a wide range of consumer products, mostly for export in blatant violation of World Trade Organization rules.


Universal Declaration of Human Rights


Such practices are fully consistent with Beijing`s rejection of the recommendations advanced by a number of governments, including Canada's, in a Universal Periodic Review by the UN Human Rights Council earlier this year.


The recommendations rejected by the government of China included: ending all forms of arbitrary detention, including labour camps; guaranteeing freedom of belief and the right to worship in private; implementing the recommendations of the UN Committee Against Torture, which included references to the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners and organ pillaging from them; and ensuring that lawyers can defend their clients without fear or harassment.


Trade with China has been in reality a costly proposition for many around the world. A host of its violations of international trading practices contributed to Canada's bilateral trade deficit rising in China's favour from $3.9 billion in 1997 to $26.8 billion in 2006, while ending many manufacturing livelihoods across Canada.

Conclusion


As the world suffers the economic crisis and seeks China's cooperation in dealing with its challenges, it is tempting to overlook Beijing's appalling human rights record. We must remind our leaders that to equivocate on China's record is a departure from Canada's own values of human dignity and the rule of law. We must caution them that trade with China at any price is costly both for the people of China and the world. We must remember the sacrifices of victims of the Tiananmen massacre and other abuses. We must demand that, instead of mocking the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, China should honour its provisions.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

China and the World Medical Association

by David Matas

(Revised remarks to the International Association of Law and Mental Health Congress, New York City, New York, USA, 1 July 2009)

In China, organs for transplants are sourced almost exclusively from prisoners, a basic violation of ethical standards. The Government of China has openly admitted this sourcing. According to Deputy Health Minister Huang Jiefu speaking in July 2005, 95% of all organs for transplants come from prisoners1.

The World Medical Association Statement on Human Organ Donation and Transplantation provides:

    "Free and informed decision making is a process requiring the exchange and understanding of information and the absence of coercion. Because prisoners and other individuals in custody are not in a position to give consent freely and can be subject to coercion, their organs must not be used for transplantation except for members of their immediate family."2

Former Canadian Minister of State David Kilgour and I wrote a report on organ sourcing in China released first June 2006 and, in a second version, January 2007 under the title "Bloody Harvest: Organ Harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners in China". In that report we concluded that between 2001 and 2006 China killed Falun Gong practitioners in the tens of thousands so that their organs could be sold to foreign transplant tourists.

The Government of China denies this sourcing of organs from Falun Gong practitioners. The debate David Kilgour and I have with the Government of China is not whether organs are coming from prisoners. It is only a debate about what sorts of prisoners are the sources of organs3. However, ethical standards for organ sourcing do not distinguish amongst types of prisoners.

The Chinese Medical Association is a member of the World Medical Association. Its membership continues despite this uncontested, unethical sourcing. Why?

Two years ago, at the International Association of Law and Mental Health Congress, Padua, I expressed concern that the Chinese Medical Association remained a member of the World Medical Association. I asked why the World Medical Association now could not behave as the World Psychiatric Association had behaved in the 1980's in the face of Soviet psychiatric abuse. The Soviets withdrew from the World Psychiatric Association in 1983 when it faced almost certain expulsion.

I expressed my concern not only to the previous session of this Congress, but also directly to the World Medical Association. I sent my Padua text both to the headquarters of the World Medical Association and to all the individual country members of the Association.

David Kilgour and I are human rights activists as well as human rights researchers and writers. Once we came to the conclusion that Falun Gong practitioners were being killed for their organs, we travelled around the globe to try to put an end to that abuse. In the course of our travels, we met with parliamentarians, government and intergovernmental officials, patients who had gone to China for transplants, victims of Chinese oppression who had managed to get out of Chinese jails and out of China, academics, researchers and transplant professionals.

Wherever, whenever we met members of the medical profession, we raised the question I had raised in Padua. Why is the Chinese Medical Association still a member of the World Medical Association?

Three months after the Padua Congress, the World Medical Association moved. In a news release dated 5 October 2007 the World Medical Association announced at the annual General Assembly in Copenhagen an agreement with the Chinese Medical Association. The Chinese Medical Association agreed that organs of prisoners and other individuals in custody must not be used for transplantation except for members of their immediate family.

In a letter to the World Medical Association, the Vice President and Secretary General of the Chinese Medical Association, Dr. Wu Mingjiang, said:

    "We would like to inform you that after discussions in the Chinese Medical Association, a consensus has been reached, that is, the Chinese Medical Association agrees to the World Medical Association Statement on Human Organ Donation and Transplantation, in which it states that organs of prisoners and other individuals in custody must not be used for transplantation, except for members of their immediate family.

    The Chinese Medical Association will, through its influence, further promote the strengthening of management of human organ transplantation and prevent possible violations of the regulations made by the Chinese Government. We also hope to work more closely with the WMA and exchange information and views on the management of human organ transplantation."

Dr Edward Hill, chair of the World Medical Association, said the announcement by the Chinese Medical Association was a very positive step forward and added:

    "We shall now continue our dialogue with the Chinese Medical Association and include other national medical associations in a project to find best practice models for ethically acceptable organ procurement programmes. This would help not only China and its high demand for organs, but also other regions in the world that have the same problems of coping with a severe shortage of organs."

The agreement between the World Medical Association and the Chinese Medical Association to end organ sourcing from prisoners in China except for prisoners donating organs to their immediate family members is welcome. I was pleased to see that the agreement covered all prisoners and not just prisoners sentenced to death. This broader terminology means that in principle the agreement encompasses also Falun Gong practitioners who are held in detention but sentenced to nothing. Yet it does not remove all my concerns.

1. The Chinese Medical Association is not a governmental entity. Its promise to avoid to avoid organ sourcing from prisoners indicates the good will of some Chinese medical doctors. However, it is not binding on the government, and is not binding on doctors in China who are not members of the Chinese Medical Association. The Chinese Medical Association cannot make decisions for the government. The Government sets the rules for associations and not vice versa. The practice of sourcing organs from prisoners, whether prisoners sentenced to death or Falun Gong practitioners, was and is tolerated by the Chinese government. Only the Chinese government that can stop this practice.

2. Even if it had been the Government of China which had entered into the agreement instead of the Chinese Medical Association, it is questionable whether the agreement would be effective. The Chinese government has issued over time issued several laws and regulations prohibiting the selling of organs without the consent of the source, the most recent dating May 2007. The very repetition of such laws is evidence that these laws are not effective.

The Chinese government has had a history of duplicity in this field. One example is the case of Dr. Wang Guoqi. On June 27, 2001, Dr. Wang Guoqi testified before the Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights of the US Congress, that organs for transplants are sourced from prisoners. The Chinese government called him a liar. This position was held until 2005, when for the first time Chinese officials admitted publicly that they indeed harvested organs from prisoners.

3. The Chinese Medical Association is not doing what it can to respect the agreement. Liu Zhi of the Chinese Medical Association's international department said that the agreement with the World Medical Association has no legal effect. He expressed the hope that the agreement would influence China's 500,000 doctors and government decisions. This statement, in my view, minimizes the effect the agreement might have.

At the very least, the Chinese Medical Association can insist that its own members comply with the terms of the agreement as a precondition for continued membership in their association. The fact that the Chinese Medical Association has not done this indicates a less than wholehearted support for the agreement.

4. The Chinese Medical Association agreement does not bind military doctors who are not members of the Chinese Medical Association and military hospitals. Yet, organ recipients indicate that military doctors and hospitals are heavily involved in organ transplant surgery.

5. The agreement does not address the issues of onus of proof. In many cases in China, doctors are supplied an organ and told a source, but make no independent determination whether what they are told about the source is accurate or not.

Tom Treasure, a transplant surgeon wrote in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine4 considered it plausible that organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners could happen and that doctors could be "sufficiently distant to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear." The transplant professional is not acting ethically as long as he or she makes no inquiries or only cursory ones.

The agreement with the Chinese Medical Association would not mean very much if Chinese Medical Association doctors could claim respect for the agreement simply by turning a blind eye to practices around them. The agreement needs to ensure that Chinese transplant professionals are respecting the substance of the agreement as well as its form.

The Professional Code of Conduct of the Medical Council of Hong Kong provides a salutary example. The onus is on the Hong Kong professionals to ascertain the status of a donor for a transplant outside Hong Kong.

Specifically the Professional Code of Conduct of the Medical Council of Hong Kong states:

    "27.4 In the case of a referral for an organ transplant outside the HKSAR (Hong Kong Special Administrative Region) from any donor, a doctor would be acting unethically if he made the referral without ascertaining the status of the donor...."

This principle should apply to transplant professionals operating within China. The onus should fall on Chinese transplant professionals to ascertain the status of the donor.

6. The agreement does not address the standard of proof. Applying the right onus of proof does not exhaust the duties which fall on transplant professionals. They must also apply the right standard of proof.

If there is any reasonable doubt as to whether the consent is given freely or voluntarily by the donor, the professional within China should have nothing to do with the donation. In light of the fact that no donation from a prisoner can be considered voluntary, then, if there is any reasonable possibility that the organ source is a prisoner, then the transplant professional should not participate in either the sourcing or the transplant.

Again the Professional Code of Conduct of the Medical Council of Hong Kong is instructive. The onus is on the Hong Kong professionals to ascertain the status of a donor for a transplant outside Hong Kong. The Code provides:

    "27.3 Consent must be given freely and voluntarily by any donor. If there is doubt as to whether the consent is given freely or voluntarily by the donor, the doctor should reject the proposed donation."

This principle too should be incorporated into the agreement between the Chinese Medical Association and the World Medical Association.

7. In China, transplant surgery has become essential for financing the medical profession and hospitals. A dramatic decrease of transplant surgeries would impose financial burden on the health care system.

Without an increase in the Government funds to the health care system, it is unlikely that hospitals will cease relying on transplant for money. While sourcing of organs and payment for organs are conceptually distinct, they are linked in reality. The need for funds pushes doctors and hospitals to increasing transplant numbers and using historically available sources, prisoners.

8. The agreement with the Chinese Medical Association does not change the Chinese infrastructure for organ transplants. China still does not have a public organ donation program. There is still no law allowing for organ sourcing from the brain dead but cardiac alive.

The implementation of the agreement with the Chinese Medical Association, in the absence of an organ donation system and a brain dead law, would mean that the organs transplantation in China would be almost non-existent, a most unlikely result. Unless China develops an organ donation system and allows for the sourcing of organs from the brain dead cardiac alive, the promises of the Chinese Medical Association are just empty words.

9. The mere fact that the recipient is an immediate family member of the prisoner does not automatically mean that the prisoner has freely consented to the donation. Our concern about this exception is heightened by the fact that people in China can be sentenced to death for a wide variety of economic and political crimes (for example tax fraud).

I am aware that this exception is found in the World Medical Association's Policy on Human Organ Donation and Transplantation. However, it is not to be found in the ethical principles of the Transplantation Society. In my view, the prohibition without exception which the Transplantation Society has adopted is preferable to the prohibition with the immediate family member exception which the World Medical Association has adopted. The case of China highlights why this exception is problematic.

We have to be wary in this context of the excuse of tacit consent. The first Chinese law on transplants, enacted in 1984, presumed tacit consent from "uncollected dead bodies or the ones that the family members refuse to collect" of prisoners sentenced to death and then executed5.

This sort of excuse was raised by defendant Karl Gebhardt in the Doctors Trial at the Nuremberg Military Trials. The Doctors Trial was conducted by a US military court in the US occupied zone of Germany in Nuremberg after the International Military Tribunals were completed.

Gebhardt was the personal physician for Himmler charged with crimes against humanity for his participation in Nazi medical experiments. In his defense his lawyers argued that subjects on whom he was experimenting faced execution. Though the experimental subjects did not give explicit consent, they gave tacit consent, his lawyers argued, "being certain that they could not escape execution in any other way".

There was also, so his lawyers pleaded, presumed consent because the consent of the victim "could be expected normally". Rationally and objectively, the victims would have agreed to the experiments to avoid the certainty of their eventual execution.

Gebhardt did not himself select the experimental subjects. Even if there was no actual or presumed consent, his lawyers asserted that Gebhardt should not be held criminally responsible if he erroneously assumed the consent of the experimental subjects. An action can not be considered intentional if it was done on an erroneous assumption of justificatory facts.

The Nuremberg Military Tribunal rejected these arguments. The Tribunal noted that many of the experiment subjects who otherwise faced execution had not gone through any semblance of a trial. The Tribunal wrote:

    "That fact could have been known to Gebhardt had he made the slightest inquiry of them concerning their status."

Moreover, so the Tribunal reasoned, even if the experiment subjects had been sentenced to death, the law

    "does not under any circumstances countenance the infliction of death or other punishment by maiming or torture."

Gebhardt was found guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced to death in August 1947. He was executed in June 1948.

10. The World Psychiatric Association eventually agreed in 1989 to readmit the Soviet Union provided four conditions were met. One these conditions was that the Soviet Psychiatric Association acknowledge that systematic abuse of psychiatry for political purposes had taken place.

It would seem that a precondition for resolving any problem is acknowledging that the problem exists. Yet, those who enacted the new law are not prepared to do this. The official announcement of the May 2007 law states

    "Most organs are donated by ordinary Chinese at death after the voluntary signing of a donation agreement".

This statement is patently untrue and is contradicted by information from other official Chinese sources.

If the Chinese officials are prepared to lie about the present when they talk about this new law, what hope is there that they are telling the truth about the future? How can a law resolve the problem of sourcing organs from prisoners when those who enact the law are not prepared to acknowledge that this sourcing even exists?

In a state where the political arm controls the police, the army, the prosecution and the courts, there is no need for legislation to give the state power to do anything. Legislation serves a propaganda, or, if you will, educational purpose. Especially in a country of over one billion people, it is this propaganda or educational purpose which is paramount. Legislation is a vehicle for communicating a state message.

What is the message of a law which pretends the problem which generated it does not exist? What does this pretence say to those responsible for creating the problem? The message, we suggest, is "go ahead, carry on". "We have not noticed and we will not notice". We are enacting this law for outsiders so that they can think something is being done, not for you.

It is hard to take seriously any suggestion that the authorities are cracking down on misbehaviour when they refuse to acknowledge that this misbehaviour is even taking place. While anti-corruption campaigns in China do not amount to much, at least there is an acknowledgement that there is corruption. Would any one in China take seriously an anti-corruption campaign which refused to acknowledge that there was corruption? Can anyone even in China take seriously legislation to ban the use of improperly sourced organs when the Government of China refuses to acknowledge that organs are improperly sourced?

Another of the conditions the World Psychiatric Association imposed on the Soviet Union as the price of readmission was that the Soviet Union rehabilitate the victims. Rehabilitation of the dead has no significance in this context. But redress does. Redress can take a variety of forms. But at the very least it involves acknowledgement of the reality of what happened.

Whether it be the price of continued membership or the price of readmission after eviction, the Chinese Medical Association, to continue membership in the World Medical Association should do no less. For membership of the Chinese Medical Association in the World Medical Association to continue, the Chinese Medical Association must acknowledge that systematic abuse of transplant surgery for has taken place.

11. There is no verification system in place to determine whether or not the agreement with the Chinese Medical Association is being kept. Such a verification system needs to be independent from the Government of China and the Chinese Medical Association itself.

There has be transparent documentation of the sources of organs used by Chinese Medical Association doctors in transplant operations. The Chinese Medical Association should make accessible to the World Medical Association and human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, as well as human rights lawyers' organizations, transplantation numbers which involve its members, donor names and the names of the immediate family members who may receive transplants from prisoners.

12. Statistics about sources of transplants should be publicly available. Both the World Medical Association and the Chinese Medical Association should call for the publication of these statistics.

The United Nations Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, and the UN Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance, Asma Jahangir, in their 200 report wrote:

    "Allegation transmitted: Organ harvesting has been inflicted on a large number of unwilling Falun Gong practitioners at a wide variety of locations, for the purpose making available organs for transplant operations.... It is reported that there are many more organ transplants than identifiable sources of organs, even taking into account figures for identifiable sources, namely: estimates of executed prisoners annually, of which a high percentage of organs are donated, according to the statement in 2005 of the Vice Minister of Health Mr Huang Jiefu; willing donor family members, who for cultural reasons, are often reluctant to donate their organs after death; and brain-dead donors. Moreover, the reportedly short waiting times that have been advertised for perfectly-matched organs would suggest the existence of a computerized matching system for transplants and a large bank of live prospective donors. It is alleged that the discrepancy between available organs and numbers from identifiable sources is explained by organs harvested from Falun Gong practitioners, and that the rise in transplants from 2000 coincides and correlates with the beginning of the persecution of these persons....6"

The Government of China responded but without addressing the concerns raised. As a result, the Rapporteurs reiterated their concerns in 2008 with these words:

    "A critical issue was not addressed in the Government's previous responses, in particular: It is reported that there are many more organ transplants than identifiable sources of organs, even taking into account figures for identifiable sources, namely: annual estimates of executed prisoners by whom a high percentage of organs are donated, according to the statement in 2005 of the Vice Minister of HLTH, Mr. Huang Jiefu; willing donor family members, who for cultural reasons, are often reluctant to donate their organs after death; and brain-dead donors. Moreover, the short waiting times that have been advertised for perfectly-matched organs would suggest the existence of a computerized matching system for transplants and a large bank of live prospective donors. It is alleged that the discrepancy between available organs and numbers from identifiable sources is explained by organs harvested from Falun Gong practitioners, and that the rise in transplants from 2000 coincides and correlates with the beginning of the persecution of these persons. The Special Rapporteurs note reports that on 15 November 2006, Vice-Minister Huang reiterated at a conference of surgeons in Guangzhou that most organs harvested come from executed prisoners. And notwithstanding the reported stringent criteria in place for donors, including for those sentenced to death, the Government informed in its response of 28 November, that voluntary donations, and donations between relatives are the two other legitimate sources of transplant organs. According to the allegations, based on data from the China Medical Organ Transplant Association, between the years 2000 and 2005 there were 60,000 transplantations performed, or approximately 10,000 per year for six years. This period coincides with the alleged rise in the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners. In 2005, it is reported that only 0.5% of total transplants were accounted for by donations by relatives; non-relative brain dead donors were around nine in 2006; and estimates-given that the Government does not make public statistics on executions-for 2005 indicate 1770 executions were carried out, and 3900 persons sentenced to death. It is alleged that the discrepancy between the number of transplants carried out and the number of available sources is made up from the harvesting of organs from Falun Gong practitioners. However, it is also reported that the true number of executions is estimated to be around 8,000 to 10,000 per year, rather than the figure of 1770 executions referred above. As the Special Rapporteur on torture recommended in his report on his visit to China, he reiterates that the Government (E/CN.4/2006/6/para. 82, recommendation q) should use the opportunity of the restoration of the power of review of all death sentences by the Supreme People's Court to publish national statistics on the death penalty. A full explanation of the source of organ transplants would disprove the allegation of organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners, particularly if they could be traced to willing donors or executed prisoners. The request for an explanation for the discrepancy in the number of transplants between the years 2000 to 2005 and the numbers from identifiable sources of organs is reiterated.7"

The Chinese government, in a response sent to the Rapporteurs by letter dated March 19, 2007 and published in the report of Professor Nowak to the UN Human Rights Council dated February 19, 2008, stated that

    "Professor Shi Bingyi expressly clarified that on no occasion had he made such a statement or given figures of this kind, and these allegations and the related figures are pure fabrication."

Moreover, the Government of China, lest there be any doubt, asserted that

    "China's annual health statistics are compiled on the basis of categories of health disorder and not in accordance with the various types of treatment provided."8

Shi Bingyi was interviewed in a video documentary produced by Phoenix TV, a Hong Kong media outlet. That video shows Shi Bingyi on screen saying what the Government of China, in its response to Nowak, indicates he said, that the figures we quote from him he simply never gave. He says on the video:

    "I did not make such a statement because I have no knowledge of these figures I have not made detailed investigation on this subject how many were carried out and in which year. Therefore I have no figures to show. So I could not have said that."

Yet, the actual source of the quotation is footnoted in our report. It is a Chinese source, the Health News Network. The article from the Network was posted on the website for transplantation professionals in China9. The text, dated 2006-03-02, stated, in part, in translation:

    "Professor Shi said that in the past 10 years, organ transplantation in China had grown rapidly; the types of transplant operations that can be performed were very wide, ranging from kidney, liver, heart, pancreas, lung, bone marrow, cornea; so far, there had been over 90,000 transplants completed country-wide; last year alone, there was close to 10,000 kidney transplants and nearly 4,000 liver transplants completed."

Moreover, the information in this article continues to be recycled in Chinese publications. The official web site of the Minister of Science and Technology of the People's Republic of China posts a newsletter of June 20, 2008 which states:

    "Up to date, China has performed some 85,000 organ transplants, only next to the United States in number. In recent years, China performed organ transplants on more than 10,000 patients a year...Liver transplants have exceeded 10,000 in number... Heart transplants went over 100 in number..."10

This article flies in the face of the official Chinese statement to the Rapporteurs that China's health statistics are compiled on the basis of categories of health disorder and not in accordance with the various types of treatment provided.

China is a state party to the Convention against Torture. The Convention obligated China to report periodically to an expert committee established under the Convention on China's compliance with the Convention.

The United Nations Committee against Torture, when considering China's most recent compliance report, in November 2008, in its concluding observations, wrote:

    "While noting the State party's information about the 2006 Temporary Regulation on Human Organ Transplants and the 2007 Human Organ Transplant Ordinance, the Committee takes cognizance of the allegations presented to the Special Rapporteur on Torture who has noted that an increase in organ transplant operations coincides with "the beginning of the persecution of [Falun Gong practitioners]" and who asked for "a full explanation of the source of organ transplants" which could clarify the discrepancy and disprove the allegation of organ harvesting (A/HRC/7/3/Add.1)."

This issue then was further amplified by the United Nations Universal Periodic Review Working Group in February 2009. The Universal Periodic Review is a new element of the United Nations Human Rights Council which was created in 2006 to replace the failed UN Human Rights Commission. Under the Universal Periodic Review, every state gets reviewed once during a four year cycle. China's turn came up February 2009 in Geneva.

Only states can intervene in the Universal Periodic Review Working Group debate. But it can be any state; it does not have to be a state which is a member of the Human Rights Council. The debate is an interactive dialogue, meaning China has a right to respond.

Regrettably, today in China, there is no publicly available information on numbers of convicts sentenced to death and executed. This information should be publicly available. That would, one would think, be a simple task, now that the Supreme People's Court In Beijing must approve all death sentences. The World Medical Association and the Chinese Medical Association should ask the Government of China to make this information available.

At the Universal Periodic Review in January 2009, Canada, Switzerland, United Kingdom, France, Austria, Italy recommended that China publish death penalty statistics. The Government of China said no to this recommendation.

13. Organ transplant statistics as well as information about execution of prisoners sentenced to death since the advent of the agreement indicate no improvement in the situation. The enforcement of the law of May 2007 has led to an decrease in transplant tourism into China. However, patients from abroad have been replaced by patients from within China.

Before January 1, 2007, the death penalty could be imposed by regional courts, the Higher People's Courts. As of January 1, 2007, any death penalty imposed by a regional court has to be approved by the central Supreme People's Court.

This shift in procedures reduced temporarily the pool of prisoners sentenced to death, according to the tabulation of Amnesty International by about half. Fewer people sentenced to death meant fewer people with these sentences available for organ transplants.

Statistics from the Government of China show that organ transplant volumes have not declined as much as this declining supply. The China Liver Transplant Registry reports these figures year by year:

1998-17, 1999-73, 2000-177, 2001-291, 2002-618, 2003-1128, 2004-2219, 2005-2970, 2006-2781, 2007-1822, 2008-2209.

A blogger toeing the Chinese Communist Party line and disagreeing with the report that David Kilgour and I wrote attempted to argue that these statistics showed that the increase in transplants coincident with the persecution of the Falun Gong was attributable to the acquisition in China of transplant technology and not to the persecution. This argument ignores the statistics of kidney transplants, a technology which had matured and spread a good deal earlier than liver transplant technology and which shows the same increase when the persecution of Falun Gong began.

Year by year figures for China for kidney transplants before the persecution of the practice of Falun Gong began were 1989 - 1,049, 1990 - 1,670, 1991 - 1,746, 1992 - 1,906, 1993 - 1,849, 1994 - 1,621, 1995 - 2,382, 1996 - 2,792, 1997 - 2,552, 1998 - 3,37911. In 1999, the year the persecution began, the figure was 4,265. For 2000, the figure was 5,501, for 2001 - 5,496. By 2004, the figure was 7,300 and for 2005, 10,000.

Amnesty International figures of prisoners sentenced to death and then executed or those years are 1998-1067, 1999-1077, 2000-1000, 2001-2468, 2002-1060, 2003-726, 2004-3400, 2005-1770, 2006-1010, 2007-470, 2008-1718.

If prisoners sentenced to death and then executed were the sole source of organs for transplants, one would expect transplant figures to track execution of prisoners sentenced to death figures. But that is not happening.

2007 shows a decrease in liver transplants, consistent with the fall off in the execution of prisoners sentenced to death and the change in organ transplant law. Yet, the fall off in liver transplants in 2007 was nowhere near the fall off in execution of prisoners sentenced to death.

From 2006 to 2007, the decrease in execution of prisoners sentenced to death was 53%. The decrease in liver transplants was 34%.

Moreover, in 2007 there were two downward pulls on liver transplants. There was not just the decrease in execution of prisoners sentenced to death but also the Health Ministry requirement imposed in 2007 that transplants take place only in registered hospitals. This requirement shut down completely transplants in non-military non-registered hospitals and shut down temporarily transplants in later registered hospitals until they were registered.

This dual downward pull in principle should have created a decrease in transplants substantially more acute than the decrease in the execution of prisoners sentenced to death. Yet, the opposite has occurred.

Persons executed after being sentence to death were, according to Amnesty International, near an all time high in 2004. The figures in 2008 for prisoners executed after being sentence to death were nowhere near as high, about half. Yet, liver transplant numbers in 2008 bounced back to 2004 levels.

How was China been able to hold in 2007 its reduction of liver transplant volumes to only 34% in the face of the imposition of a licensing requirement for non-military hospitals doing transplants and a 53% reduction in what Chinese officials claim to be their almost exclusive source or organs? How has China been able to return to historically high liver transplant volumes in 2008 in the absence of a commensurate increase in execution of prisoners sentenced to death?

The only plausible answer is an increase in sourcing of organs from the only other significant available source, Falun Gong practitioners. Since the report David Kilgour and I wrote came out, the problem of sourcing of organs from Falun Gong practitioners has become worse.

The temptation Chinese hospitals face is obvious when there is a clamorous demand for organs, a ready supply from one source - disappeared, unidentified, calumnied Falun Gong practitioners held in indefinite detention, a reduction in supply from the only other substantial source, and huge amounts of money at stake. Since the agreement between the World Medical Association and the Chinese Medical Association, transplants sourced from Falun Gong practitioners must have increased substantially.

14. There needs to be an independent investigation of the claims that Falun Gong practitioners have been used for organ transplants. The World Medical Association and the Chinese Medical Association should call for such an investigation.

The United Nations Committee against Torture wrote further in its November 2008 concluding observations:

    "The Committee is further concerned with information received that Falun Gong practitioners have been extensively subjected to torture and ill-treatment in prisons and that some of them have been used for organ transplants (arts. 12 and 16). The State party should immediately conduct or commission an independent investigation of the claims that some Falun Gong practitioners have been subjected to torture and used for organ transplants12."

David Kilgour and I are independent from the Government of China and the Falun Gong community. The Committee against Torture did not mean to suggest anything different. What they were proposing was an investigation independent from the Government of China with which the Government of China would nonetheless cooperate by giving access to Chinese territory, documents, places of detention and witnesses in China without fear of intimidation or reprisals.

At the Universal Periodic Review Working Group, Canada recommended that China implement the recommendations of the Committee against Torture. The Government of China explicitly, in writing, rejected this recommendation.

15. The Government of China needs to take measures to ensure that those responsible for organ transplant abuses are prosecuted and punished.

The United Nations Committee against Torture, in its November 2006 concluding observations, called on China to "take measures, as appropriate, to ensure that those responsible for such abuses [torture and organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners] are prosecuted and punished." The World Medical Association and the Chinese Medical Association should do likewise.

The former chair of the World Medical Association, Dr. Yoram Blachar, who led the World Medical Association delegation to China, said that differences between the two sides remained. The World Medical Association needs to continue to press the Chinese Medical Association on this issue until this appalling practice in China of killing prisoners for their organs ends entirely.

Yet, there is no visible activity from the World Medical Association on this issue since its October 2007 Assembly. The issue of abusive organ transplantation in China appears simply to have fallen off the radar screen. What has the World Medical Association been doing?

..................................................................................................................................

David Matas is an international human rights lawyer based in Winnipeg.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Communist myth of Falun Gong's original sin

An Occurrence on Fuyou Street By Ethan Gutmann,

National Review July 20, 2009, VOL. LXI, NO. 13

Ten years ago, on April 25, 1999, while attending a Beijing wedding, I heard a rumor that a large crowd of people had gathered at Zhongnanhai, the Chinese government's compound. I phoned an acquaintance at the South China Morning Post. "Who are they?" I asked. "We think they are called 'Falun Gong,'" he said. "Apparently it's a huge Chinese religious movement, but we don't really know anything about them." Nobody knew much about them, but the scale of the event was shocking: 10,000 Chinese standing silently in the first mass demonstration since Tiananmen. Equally shocking was the party's ferocious crackdown, which came on July 20.

Falun Gong, at its peak a movement of 70 million people, is mostly invisible to China journalists and little more than a footnote in the West. One reason for this is that, of all the dissident groups, Falun Gong is stylistically the most impenetrable and the most Chinese: the torture displays with their strict Daoist delineations of good and evil, the traditional yellow silk costumes that suggest waving fields in an old five-year-plan newsreel, the banners that read like half-translated Chinese semaphores ("SOS URGENT RESCUE," "Bring to Justice Atrocious Police," "Falundafa open out a new era in mankind!"). Their slogans have a distinctly metallic sound to Western ears — a Communist timbre.

Many in Washington would prefer to exclude Falun Gong from the dissident pantheon. The Tiananmen commemorations of June 4 mobilized official Washington: conferences, hearings, Nancy Pelosi's endless references to her human-rights advocacy in Shanghai, and "Where is the Tank Man?" pieces in the major newspapers. Yet when it came time to rally at the Chinese embassy on Connecticut Avenue, only 300 people showed up. Expect three miles of Falun Gong practitioners on July 20, perhaps as many as 5,000. They will dry-clean their yellow silk, purchase plane tickets, and sleep on floors so that Washingtonians can complain that they are blocking traffic. A few congressmen might briefly speak at the rally, but most will keep a safe distance. And there will be no political price for nonattendance, because there will be little press. Covering a Falun Gong parade is the bake-sale beat.

This is curious, considering Falun Gong's achievements: They are the only dissident group that has broken through the Chinese Internet firewall on a mass scale (Iranian dissenters use Falun Gong-designed systems to communicate and surf the Web freely). Until quite recently, they operated the only independent television station on air in China, broadcast into the country 24 hours daily. They print the only dissident daily newspaper, maintain the only significant shortwave radio presence, and on and on.

Or consider Falun Gong from a bleeds-leads perspective. Each of the 300 who came to the Chinese Embassy on June 4 was metaphorically carrying perhaps three or four victims of Tiananmen Square on his shoulders; on the Falun Gong side, we have only begun to assess the damage. They have suffered more than 3,000 confirmed deaths by state torture, abuse, and neglect. According to my current research, a minimum of 10,000 Falun Gong have been killed for their organs. I suspect the final tally will go far beyond that, because the practice is ongoing. So let's speculate that every one of those 5,000 Falun Gong practitioners is carrying ten, perhaps even twenty, corpses on his back — murdered in labor camps, detention centers, psychiatric hospitals, or on operating tables, usually at the hands of a military surgeon. Quantitative analysis by my colleague Leeshai Lemish demonstrates that American media attention to Falun Gong fell in almost exact proportion to rising fatalities. So as we think about the anniversary of Falun Gong's suppression, we must acknowledge that the Western response has given the Chinese Communists a free hand. And the failure starts with the Western media's acceptance of the party's interpretation of April 25, 1999.

It is hard even to refer to the episode without endorsing Beijing's interpretation of events: Out of the clear blue sky, on April 25, 10,000 majestically disciplined Falun Gong practitioners "surrounded" (that's AP and Reuters) or "besieged" (that's AFP) Zhongnanhai, blindsiding the Chinese leadership. The idea that Falun Gong besieged Zhongnanhai in a threatening way is a direct transmission of the Communist-party line. It is repeated in scholarly works on Falun Gong history, and is regarded almost as the movement's original sin. Even practitioners writing in Falun Gong publications — perhaps feeling the history is too hard to explain — often refer to April 25 as a mass "gathering at Zhongnanhai." They treat the word "demonstration" as if it were dirty, which to the Chinese Communist party it is. Whatever you call the demonstration, it was not specifically targeted at Zhongnanhai, much less was it a siege of the compound. Regardless, for the Chinese audience that Falun Gong is trying to reach, the party still owns the language and the history.

But surely not in the West? Recall that Henry Kissinger's statement on Tiananmen — "No government in the world would have tolerated having the main square of its capital occupied for eight weeks by tens of thousands of demonstrators" — was echoed by Charles Freeman, the Obama administration's recent nominee to chair the U.S. intelligence council. If the foreign-policy elite talk this way about the students of Tiananmen Square, imagine how they view an obscure Eastern revival movement: Well, that's China, and those Falun Gong were asking for it. Scholars might phrase it a little differently. In their telling, the suppression of Falun Gong began as an action-reaction phenomenon and ended as a tragedy: Falun Gong are very good at making mistakes, aren't they?

But it is difficult to believe that they asked to be martyred or that they were given a signal from their spiritual leader to run like lemmings into the labor camps and operating rooms of China. If you do believe that, you should review the history and interview the people who participated on April 25 and the events leading up to it.

Chinese society is often compared to a pyramid, an image that suggests permanence and imperial grandeur. But under Communism it has been more like a rocket in the early days of space exploration: ambitious, jerry-rigged, and potentially explosive. At the bottom is a vast booster filled with masses of peasants and impoverished workers. Moving upward through the second and third stages, one finds the intellectuals, the military, the entrepreneurs and nouveaux riches, and, at the top, a tiny capsule containing the party. From the party's perspective, Falun Gong, with its emphasis on traditional Chinese morality, seemed to spread through the rocket like an electrical fire. By 1996, only four years after the movement began, it had made it to the capsule, and the smoke was attracting serious attention. The response: Founder Li Hongzhi's book, Zhuan Falun, was banned, and Li left for America.

The party continued to watch Falun Gong, but no immediate repression followed. In early 1998 Amy Lee, a well-connected practitioner from boomtown Guangzhou, returned to her parents' home in Shandong for a visit. Opening the door, she saw something that spooked her: Her parents, both active practitioners, had removed every Falun Gong poster and portrait of Li Hongzhi from their walls. All the books were gone. Employing a sixth sense developed over decades of Communist rule, her parents, like animals before a storm, had gone underground.

In 1999, the Public Security Bureau estimated that Falun Gong had attracted 70 million practitioners, 5 million more people than belonged to the Communist party itself. It was at that point that a physicist published an article in a Tianjin Normal University journal portraying Falun Gong as a dangerous cult. China isn't the West, and these things aren't random: The physicist, He Zuoxiu, is the brother-in-law of Luo Gan, at that time the head of public security, and the Tianjin Normal University journal answers to the state. The article was a flare in the night sky, a signal and trial of the party's designs.

In China, when you see such a signal and know you are targeted, there are two options. You can keep quiet — and probably get crushed. Or you can stand up — and still probably get crushed. But Falun Gong takes refuting lies to be a central part of its morality. And it had a method for doing this: show up en masse (it's easy to chop the head of a single religious leader, harder with thousands of believers), stay silent, and simply stand around until someone talks to you. It had employed this method already against earlier negative reports — newspaper articles in 1997, a Beijing television segment in 1998.

Prefiguring the events of April 25, about 5,000 practitioners staged a silent demonstration on April 22 at Tianjin Normal University, asking for a dialogue or a retraction of the physicist's article. The police were called in, and Officer Hao Fengjun was one of them. He says his "entire police force was suddenly maneuvered to the college, told to enforce martial law and close off the area." When he arrived at the scene, he says, "we all realized that it was nothing like what had been described to us — Falun Gong looking for a fight, disturbing public order, and so on. But we had no choice." Indeed, the video surveillance shows nothing more than people sitting around, but the police nonetheless beat and arrested 45 practitioners. Those who tried to reason with the officials and the police were told that the matter had been taken up by the Public Security Ministry, under the central government, and were instructed that they should go Beijing to appeal.

In the two days following the Tianjin arrests, the term "appeal" spread widely among Falun Gong practitioners — not by central command, but simply by word of mouth. It had an explicit meaning: the National Appeals Office, a safety valve against corruption, the only location in China where a citizen can legally complain about the government. Everyone knew that the arrests in Tianjin had set a frightening precedent, and some believed it was better to stay home — Master Li had said more than once that practitioners should avoid politics. Others argued that truth had to be defended, and that what they were considering wasn't a demonstration but a legal protocol. On April 24, thousands of practitioners set off for Beijing. Some made out their wills the night before.

They were followed. A group from Jilin Province was intercepted at a bus station by a special police division and told: Go home, the Tianjin problem is resolved. Others were intercepted in Shenyang by a policeman who had carefully memorized phrases from Zhuan Falun, the better to facilitate communication. One group of 20 took an overnight train from the northeastern city of Harbin. As they stepped onto a Beijing platform that swarmed with practitioners, a phalanx of policemen firmly directed them back on the train.

Not surprisingly, the location of the National Appeals Office wasn't well publicized. Not a single practitioner that I have interviewed could place it precisely on a map. The mysteriousness of its location, near the bull's-eye in the sensitive political center of Beijing, is central to the story. The western border of Zhongnanhai, which lies adjacent to the Forbidden City, is defined by a long, tree-lined avenue, Fuyou Street, which bulges slightly, as if accommodating the power of the walled leadership compound. To the north, Fuyou ends at Wenjin Street, the northern border of Zhongnanhai. To the south, Fuyou intersects Chang'an Avenue, Beijing's central east-west thoroughfare. Some practitioners thought the National Appeals Office office was near the Wenjin Street intersection. Others thought it was closer to Chang'an. But most believed that it was in the hutongs, the labyrinth of narrow alleys right off of Fuyou Street to the west. The entrance to those hutongs is located across from the guarded western entrance to Zhongnanhai.

As April 25 dawned, Zeng Zheng, a young consultant and Falun Gong practitioner, pulled her bike into Fuyou Street and noticed that something was a little off. Zeng had worked at Zhongnanhai briefly and knew the security intimately. Normally there were so many guards that it was difficult to enter the street without being questioned. Now, just before 7 a.m., practitioners were strolling down Fuyou Street, chatting and looking around for the appeals office as if they were in a shopping mall. But a line of police stood on the southern end. The police ordered the Falun Gong to go back up the block and stand at the entrance to the hutong, across from Zhongnanhai's western gate. The Appeals Office would open at 8, Zeng understood. "They were very well prepared," she says. "They were expecting us."

At 7:30, a young couple on their way to the Appeals Office passed by the moat on the eastern side of the Forbidden City. They saw a large detachment of Red Army soldiers sitting in jeeps, bayonets fixed, facing towards Fuyou. By 8, Luo Hongwei, a young newlywed, had just taken her place close to Zhongnanhai's western gate. Perhaps everything would be okay, she thought, exulting in the practitioner's discipline. "There were a lot of people, a lot of people," she says. "It's hard to avoid things' becoming chaotic. But the cars driving past were going swish-swish." By 8:30, an elderly practitioner who asked that I not use her name — let's call her Auntie Dee — made her way into the intersection of Chang'an and Fuyou. The street was now packed with practitioners, mainly country folk, plainly dressed and wearing cheap cloth shoes. As she watched them mill about, carrying their rations of dried food or crouching and eating, the anxiety she had been controlling suddenly swelled in a vivid moment of déjà vu. Ten years ago, she had felt the tanks thunder toward students as they squatted and ate and protested — peacefully, but they were shot anyway.

People were still pressed together in front of the western gate of Zhongnanhai. Yet it was becoming obvious from the enormous police presence moving in from the hutongsthat the Appeals Office, wherever it was, wouldn't be opening — not today. Auntie Dee pushed through the crowd as quickly as she could, not daring to stand in front of Zhongnanhai, straining to keep her eyes from even glancing at it. Eventually she reached Fuyou's northern intersection with Wenjin Street. People were flooding in from the northeast now, and she could see policemen carefully herding practitioners along Wenjin directly opposite the northern exposure of Zhongnanhai. A friend of Auntie Dee's — let's call her Aunt Sha — remembers it well: "They just told us, go this way, go this way, and we followed."

While buses and police cars cruised around the intersection, Auntie Dee suddenly realized that video cameras had been set up at regular intervals and were filming them. Sick with fear now, she tried to move back from the front row: "I thought if they caught me on film, they would come for me later." (She was right: Auntie Dee and Aunt Sha would ultimately be sentenced to labor camp for three years. Zeng Zheng would get two, and Luo Hongwei's husband was released from prison last year.)

It was now nearly 9 a.m. The stage was set for the kabuki performance that followed: Premier Zhu Rongji's conciliatory public appearance and Jiang Zemin's smoldering circle around Zhongnanhai in his smoked-glass limousine. No record, film, or plausible account suggests that the Falun Gong practitioners did anything even faintly provocative during the entire episode, which continued for 16 hours. No littering, smoking, chanting, or speaking to reporters. When one practitioner suggested that they take turns to go eat or drink, others said no, definitely not — if we drink, we'll have to go to the bathroom, and that could disturb those living or working in the area. Even by the Communist party's hair-trigger standards, there was no pretext to the use of the troops waiting by the Forbidden City. The evening announcement that the Tianjin practitioners would be released was greeted with quiet relief. The demonstrators left feeling optimistic. The next day Aunt Sha read the official media reports. "They said: 'Falun Gong gathered at Zhongnanhai.' They didn't say we surrounded Zhongnanhai. They also said that there is freedom to practice or not practice as one wishes," she says. The myth of a disorderly demonstration or riot would not be manufactured until later, in official media reports and in an hour-long film portraying the demonstration as a terrorist act. Because the Western media know so little of Falun Gong, this fiction survives in accounts of April 25.

The rest, I think you know, or can guess: constant reassurances from the party that everything was normal, that the existing policy toward Falun Gong — essentially, don't ask, don't tell — was still operational. Meanwhile, practitioners' phones were tapped, spies appeared at practice sites, warnings were selectively issued at workplaces, and the party created the 6-10 Office (named for its formation on June 10), one of the most terrifying secret police agencies ever created. The machine of the crackdown was ready to be switched on, and the "ringleaders" of April 25 were arrested on July 20.

In response to the July 20 crackdown, practitioners came back to Fuyou Street on July 21. Luo Hongwei was among them: "July 21 was like April 25. We lined up on the street waiting for an official to come so we could talk to them. But no officials came. Instead these huge trucks, one after another, came with police officers and took us away." The crackdown was justified with the myth of a day of infamy — April 25 — a fiction concocted as a pretext to stage an unprecedented persecution, one that continues to this day.

One final point. Officer Hao Fengjun went to work at the 6-10 Office in 2000. "Our monitor room already had a comprehensive record and data on the Falun Gong practitioners," he says. "These things are not something that can be done and collected in just one or two years." According to a former district-level official — call him Minister X — the party's decision to eliminate Falun Gong, and its preparation for that task, happened long before any ban was made public. It was discussed explicitly in party meetings. Jiang Zemin could not resolve the tension that followed the Tiananmen slaughter except by creating a new target, and Falun Gong was it. At least one source claims a communiqué to this effect was being circulated in Qinghua University as early as 1998. No real evidence has emerged that Zhu Rongji, or any other party leader, put up any serious opposition to that decision then, or indeed at any other time. Minister X, for his part, was told to stop granting business licenses to practitioners. April 25, then, was simply the unfolding of an elaborate bait-and-switch, with Falun Gong as the patsy.

Perhaps that term could just as well be applied to the West. It's been ten years. Did the party really mean to kill so many? Perhaps not. It is prone to believing its rhetoric.

So are Western reporters. The party will not fire itself, and it is time for the West to engage the reality of China. A post-Communist civil society in China will include a role for Falun Gong, and we should better understand the real history of the movement. For today, it's enough to dispel at least one myth that feeds the misplaced idea that the West has no business commenting on an obscure family quarrel. Falun Gong did not start this war. The Chinese Communist party did. And the party should be held fully accountable for the results.

Mr. Gutmann, an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, is the author of Losing the New China: A Story of American Commerce, Desire, and Betrayal. He wishes to thank the Earhart Foundation and the Peder Wallenberg family for research support.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Tear Down This Cyberwall!

The New York Times

Nicholas D. Kristof

Published: June 17, 2009 - The protesters’ arsenal, such as those tweets on Twitter.com, depends on the Internet or other communications channels. So the Iranian government is blocking certain Web sites and evicting foreign reporters or keeping them away from the action.

The push to remove witnesses may be the prelude to a Tehran Tiananmen. Yet a secret Internet lifeline remains, and it’s a tribute to the crazy, globalized world we live in. The lifeline was designed by Chinese computer engineers in America to evade Communist Party censorship of a repressed Chinese spiritual group, the Falun Gong.

Today, it is these Chinese supporters of Falun Gong who are the best hope for Iranians trying to reach blocked sites.

“We don’t have the heart to cut off the Iranians,” said Shiyu Zhou, a computer scientist and leader in the Chinese effort, called the Global Internet Freedom Consortium. “But if our servers overload too much, we may have to cut down the traffic.”

Mr. Zhou said that usage of the consortium’s software has tripled in the last week. It set a record on Wednesday of more than 200 million hits from Iran, representing more than 400,000 people.

If President Obama wants to support democratic movements on a shoestring, he should support an “Internet freedom initiative” pending in Congress. This would include $50 million in the appropriations bill for these censorship-evasion technologies. The 21st-century equivalent of the Berlin wall is a cyberbarrier, and we can help puncture it.

Mr. Zhou, the son of a Chinese army general, said that he and his colleagues began to develop such software after the 1999 Chinese government crackdown on Falun Gong (which the authorities denounce as a cult). One result was a free software called Freegate, small enough to carry on a flash drive. It takes a surfer to an overseas server that changes I.P. addresses every second or so, too quickly for a government to block it, and then from there to a banned site.

Freegate amounts to a dissident’s cyberkit. E-mails sent with it can be encrypted. And after a session is complete, a press of a button eliminates any sign that it was used on that computer.

The consortium also makes available variants of the software, such as Ultrasurf, and other software to evade censors is available from Tor Project and the University of Toronto.

Originally, Freegate was available only in Chinese and English, but a growing number of people have been using it in other countries, such as Myanmar. Responding to the growing use of Freegate in Iran, the consortium introduced a Farsi-language version last July — and usage there skyrocketed.

Soon almost as many Iranians were using it as Chinese, straining server capacity (many Chinese are wary of Freegate because of its links to Falun Gong, which even ordinary citizens often distrust). The engineers in the consortium, worrying that the Iran traffic would crash their servers, dropped access in Iran in January but restored it before the Iran election.

“We know the pain of people in closed societies, and we do want to accommodate them,” Mr. Zhou said.

China is fighting back against the “hacktivists.” The government has announced that new computers sold beginning next month will have to have Internet filtering software, called Green Dam (the consortium has already developed software called Green Tsunami to neutralize it). More alarming, in 2006 a consortium engineer living outside Atlanta was attacked in his home, beaten up and his computers stolen. The engineers behind Freegate are now careful not to disclose their physical locations.

Granted, these technologies are not a panacea. One Chinese journalist estimated that only 5 percent of the country’s Netizens use proxy software, and the Iranians themselves managed a grass-roots revolution in 1979 without high-tech help. And at the end of the day, bullets usually trump tweets.

Still, it does make a difference when people inside closed regimes get access to information — which is why dictatorships make such efforts to block comprehensive Internet access.

“Freegate was a kind of bridge to the outside world for me,” said a Chinese journalist with dissident leanings, who asked not to be named. “Before accessing the Internet through Freegate, I was really a pro-government guy.”

Human-rights activists from Cuba, North Korea, Syria and elsewhere have appealed to Congress to approve the $50 million Internet freedom initiative, and Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch says he supports it as well.

The Obama administration has been quiet on the proposal. For Mr. Obama, this would be a cheap and effective way of standing with Iranians while chipping away at the 21st-century walls of dictatorship.

I invite you to visit my blog, On the Ground. Please also join me on Facebook, watch my YouTube videos and follow me on Twitter.

Oppressed for exercising Falun Gong

Oppressed for exercising: Refugees' tale resonates

Posted 7/02/09

Howard County Times/The View: Perhaps before you go to the picnic and take in the fireworks this weekend, you'll head for your Saturday morning yoga class, where once a week you spend an hour with 10 or 12 people similarly seeking physical well-being and a sense of spiritual peace and focus.

Now imagine police bursting into the studio, smashing the boom box playing waterfall sounds and hauling you and your friends off to jail, where you're beaten until you renounce the subversive practices of mountain poses and meditation.

Running that scenario through your mind will give you some idea of the experiences of a group of people profiled in this week's edition.

For the past 10 years the Chinese government has suppressed Falun Gong, a practice with similarities to yoga that adherents describe as spiritual, though not religious. By 1998, according to the Falun Dafa Association, at least 70 million people in China alone had taken up the practice. The Chinese government, apparently threatened by Falun Gong's popularity and fearing it as an engine of political unrest, imposed a crackdown.

Falun Gong devotees who escaped to the west -- including some who have renewed their practice in weekly sessions in Centennial Park (see story, Page 42) -- recount arrest, detention and torture.

It's difficult for most of us to fathom how a style of exercise could inspire this kind of brutality. That's a testament to the kind of society -- imperfect though it may be -- that we and our forebears have built in America on a foundation of principles outlined in our Constitution.

You might think about that as you're enjoying Saturday night's fireworks and consider for a moment the deeper symbolism behind the pyrotechnic fun.