By Joahu Philipp
|Apr 10, 2008|
SAN DIEGO, CA–David Matas, an award winning international human rights attorney gave a seminar on organ harvesting and human rights in China on Apr. 3 at the Cross Cultural Center, UCSD.
Matas discussed the findings of an report investigative report, "Bloody Harvest," which he co-authored with David Kilgour, a former Canadian Crown Prosecutor, member of Parliament, and Secretary of State. The report investigates the allegations that the Chinese government has been harvesting organs from living Falun Gong practitioners, which concludes, "... there has been and continues today to be large scale organ seizures from unwilling Falun Gong Practitioners."
Matas discussed why he had decided to take the responsibility to do an investigation on the issue after having heard the allegations from a medical doctor's wife, under the alias of "Annie" back in 2006, that Falun Gong practitioners were being killed for their organs.
He mentioned that as a human rights lawyer who has worked with many major human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, he recognized that this would be an investigation that human rights organizations would have difficulty with, illustrating this point by describing the case that he and Kilgour were faced with, saying, "Somebody is killed in an operating room and their body is cremated. So there are no surviving victims and there's no corpse. It's an operating room so it's cleaned up afterwards, there's no crime scene. It's a hospital, it's a closed place, no witnesses."
Matas continued, "There'd be presumably hospital records, but this is the Chinese government, no access to information, so we're not going to get any documents. . . that was the kind of evidentiary panorama we were faced with."
Facing this challenge, Matas and Kilgour found a way to launch an investigation by creating a list of evidentiary trails that could either prove or disprove the allegations. Altogether, they came out with 33 evidentiary trails to follow at the time of the report.
"Basically, in a nutshell, what we came up with was that every evidentiary trail that we could think of, that could have disproved the allegations, went nowhere. Every evidentiary trail that proved the allegations gave us something. The result of which is, putting it all together, that 'standing back from the pile,' so to speak, we came to the conclusion that this was true. That what Annie had said was true. Not just for corneas, but for all organs. Not just for 2002 to 2003, like she talked about, but from 2001 till when our reports came out. Not just in Sujian [province], but in all of China," said Matas.
The evidentiary trails included a number of different areas that would be necessary for or would allow for the harvesting of organs from people. Matas said that one evidentiary trail was calling the hospitals, posing as patients looking for organ transplants, and asking the doctors whether the organs were from Falun Gong practitioners on the grounds that since Falun Gong practitioners do exercises, they must have healthy organs.
Of the calls, 10% confirmed that the organs were from Falun Gong practitioners, with voice recorded admissions. Other evidentiary trails pointed to things such as military involvement in organ transplants, systematic blood testing of only prisoners who practice Falun Gong, and a large spike in the number of organ transplants in China corresponding with the Communist Party's launching of their persecution of Falun Gong.
"...The almost exclusive source of organs in China, from the very moment that transplants began, was prisoners. It started off being prisoners sentenced to death and that was the, more-or-less, soul source of organs transplants in China, until the persecution of Falun Gong began. But after a year or two of the persecution of Falun Gong began, the transplant numbers started going way up. The numbers went way up, but the people being sentenced to death remained the same," said Matas.
Also pointed to was the fact that with China's switch from socialism to capitalism, the central government started withdrawing money from the health system as they figured the hospitals would charge people for services and make their own money. This caused the Chinese health system to become heavily reliant on money from organ transplants in order to stay in business.
"Not only do the hospitals raise money through private sectors, the army raises money through private sectors. The military in China is a conglomerate business so they're involved in all sorts of different ways to raise money, including selling organs," said Matas.
Now with 51 evidentiary trails and with a possible third edition of their report in the works, Matas said that he and Kilgour have been doing much work speaking with officials around the world and holding seminars on their findings in hopes to stop the practice of organ harvesting in China.
Despite the findings of their report, Matas explained that he and Kilgour have received heavy pushback by the Communist Party in China through methods of false propaganda. Matas said that one of his first encounters with their propaganda on his report was during a debate with a representative from the Chinese Embassy in Israel.
Matas said, "What he did was manufactured quotations from our report and disagreed with the quotations [he manufactured]. I mean I could see those quotations. First of all, I remember what I wrote, but also, our report is on the internet and it's word searchable."
"Normally when people disagree with me they tend to adopt a position that looks plausible or sounds sensible or is a position that somebody might reasonably take. But that's not what the Chinese government has done. The Chinese government, in disagreeing with us, seems to avoid the plausible and gravitate towards the outrageous to take positions that no person would possibly believe. At first I was quite taken back by this. I wasn't quite sure what to make of it," said Matas.
Matas continued by illustrating other examples of his encounters with the Communist Party's propaganda. "It's called the 'big lie technique' it's a propaganda technique. It was actually something defended and articulated by the Nazis, by Hitler, who said that if you're going to succeed in propaganda, you're more likely to succeed with a big lie than a little lie because a big lie is going to be so outrageous that people won't think you have the impudence to engage in such a lie," said Matas.
Matas said that he feels that the Chinese government's avoidance of producing any valid refutations or plausible arguments to his report and their gravitation towards lies and propaganda is itself an admission to guilt. "[The propaganda] doesn't refute the report, but it certainly does confirm it," said Matas.
Despite China's resistance, Matas said that some progress has been made. Yet, he pointed out that there is still much to be done. "Even if the problem were to cease completely, which I'd certainly hope. Even if China were to cease the persecution of Falun Gong, which it certainly should. Even if China became democratic, which is something I guess we can all hope for, there would still be a problem because what has happened is a crime against humanity and as a crime against humanity, it cries out for regress," said Matas.