By Hon. David Kilgour, J.D.
Centre Block, Parliament of Canada
April 06, 2009
I should say immediately that rules-based international trade has helped peoples around the world to live more fulfilled lives. A return to protectionism would only worsen the present economic problems for most of us. What many of us oppose is unfair trade, which, in one of its worst forms, involves the export of consumer products made by forced labour.
We are hearing today in effect about the link between involuntary labour done since 1999 by tens of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners and other prisoners of conscience in camps across China and the resulting loss of manufacturing jobs in Canada and elsewhere. One estimate of the number of these camps across China as of 2005 was 340, having a capacity of about 300,000 inmates.In 2007, a US government report estimated that at least half of 250,000 officially recorded inmates in the camps were Falun Gong adherents.
These camps have existed in China since the 1950s. Since then, any Chinese national could be sent to one of them without any form of trial for up to four years upon commital by a simple police signature. No appeal is possible. The Beijing party-state closely duplicated the work camp model set up in Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany, although the earlier networks did not appear to have been involved in forced labour exports.
Another major difference is that since 2001 only Falun Gong inmates in the Chinese camps have been used as a live organ bank to be pillaged for sales to foreigners. Medical testing is required of such inmates before organs can be matched with recipients.
Ms. Guizhi Chen, 62, just spoke of her four years of forced labour without pay in two different labour camps camp. Among the products, some for export, she worked on were purses and sweaters for an average of twelve hours daily. In the first facility located near the outskirts of Beijing, about half of the other 700 female labourers were Falun Gong practitioners. In the second located far from the capital, there were about 300 women labourers, again with approximately half being Falun Gong. The practitioners in both were examined medically with blood tests and x-rays periodically.
You have also heard from Ms Lian Yao now of Montreal, the wife of a Falun Gong practitioner, Jian Ma, who was the manager of a European company in Beijing, but has already served 767 days in effect as a slave labourer in one of these camps for being a Falun Gong practitioner. She was also arrested, fired from her job and tortured before coming to Canada. She urges Trade Minister Day to seek her husband`s release while visiting China. All of us here today, of course, support her request.
It is illegal under the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to export goods made by forced labour, but the party-state in China does not respect WTO rules or other undertakings it gave to the world organization when it joined in 2001. WTO inspectors rarely, if ever, identify such exports, which is why governments anxious to protect their nationals must act effectively and together now to keep this kind of competition out of our markets. The Doha Round should deal with effective remedies to this, among other trade issues of concern to all world economies.
It's a well-established fact that in recent years "cheap goods" from China have dominated most world markets; slave labour is certainly one reason for this phenomenon. It is certainly not the fault of the Chinese people, who are often grossly underpaid, work long hours, and often have neither medical insurance, nor clean air/ water, nor pensions nor work safety regulations from a regime which, often with the help of its own and foreign business communities, exploits more than one fifth of the world’s population.
David Matas, and I were asked by the Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong in 2006 to study allegations of organ pillaging against the Falun Gong community across China. We did so as volunteers because we both believe in human dignity for all. He’ll tell you about our report, which you can access our report website (www.organharvestinvestigation.net). From eventually 52 kinds of proof, we concluded beyond any reasonable doubt that the government of China since 2001 has killed without any form of prior trial thousands of Falun Gong practitioners in order to sell their vital organs for high prices to ‘organ tourists’.
Falun Gong is an exercise movement with a spiritual component, which began in China only in 1992 and received full government sanction. In fact, state-run media even praised the group for their contribution to health improvements among the Chinese population. It grew so quickly that by 1999 there were 70-100 million Falun Gong practitioners across the country by the regime’s own estimate, with participants that included well-educated professionals, high-level officials and veteran Party members. With their belief in “truth, compassion and forbearance,” the Falun Gong diaspora today include many non-Chinese individuals and live as good citizens in some eighty countries. China, which is homeland to the majority of Falun Gong practitioners, is now the only country where they do not have the freedom to practise. Worse yet, it is the only country where they are blatently persecuted by the party state with every element of government machinery.
Why did Beijing declare war on Falun Gong in the summer of 1999? The main reason no doubt was totalitarian paranoia. The movement had grown so fast that its participants were more numerous than the membership of the Communist Party of China. Its values were very different from those of then President Jiang Zemen and others governing the country since 1949. When thousands of Falun Gong practitioners held a silent protest at Party headquarters in Beijing on April 25th that year, the mercilous persecution began. Hundreds of thousands were initially imprisoned, tens of thousands went to forced labour camps and thousands were killed for their vital organs. The party-state media continues to demonize and vilify them across China just as the persecution continues.
Matas and I are not practitioners, but we have both been most impressed by those we have met in perhaps 45 countries. Almost with no exceptions, they are hard-working, peaceful, loving and caring individuals with amazingly enduring dignity. In my judgement, the war on the large group of its own people began and continues today because of totalitarian governance combined with 'anything-is-permitted capitalism'. If the party-state is truly a government of the people, as it so often claims, it would have respected its fellow citizens and such crimes against humanity would not occur.
Finally, I should mention Gao Zhisheng, a courageous lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, who was once ranked one of the ten best in the country by China's ministry of Justice. When he, a Christian, defended Falun Gong in court, he and his family became targets of the same persecution imposed on Falun Gong practitioners, including 50 days of harrowing torture for him in prison. His wife and two children escaped China a few weeks ago, but Gao disappeared yet again in February to the great conern of many of us.
It is therefore imperative that the international community heed our appeal to hold the Chinese government accountable and block the export of goods produced by forced labour.