GENEVA–"A systematic form of inhuman and degrading treatment" is how
Manfred Nowak, United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur, described what he sees
as "widespread" use of torture in the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
Nowak spoke to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on September 20. His statement
was only one of several putting the PRC’s appalling human rights record under
close scrutiny on days three and four of the Second Session of the Council.
believe that the practice of torture, though on the decline–particularly in urban
areas–remains widespread in China, said Nowak, who’s mandate encompasses torture
and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
was particularly concerned about the continuing practice of forced re-education
of persons with dissident or non-conformist opinions, aiming at changing their
personality and breaking their will, both in special re-education through labor
camps, regular prisons, and even in pre-trial detention facilities," he said.
In his reply to Nowak, PRC representative Sha Zukang said that the Chinese
government had done all it could to assist Nowak, and wanted to "continue
to cooperate" with UN human rights mechanisms.
In his report, however,
Nowak notes that during his China visit a number of alleged victims, family members,
lawyers and human rights defenders were intimidated by security personnel. They
were placed under police surveillance, instructed not to meet with him, or were
physically prevented from attending meetings.
One human rights lawyer who
Nowak did secure a meeting with, Gao Zhisheng, is currently in detention, held
in China for unspecified alleged "criminal activities." He has not yet
been formally charged.
Organ Harvesting Practices Exposed
a speech to the Council on September 21, former Canadian Member of Parliament
and Secretary of State for Asia Pacific David Kilgour summarized the findings
of his recent report on allegations of organ harvesting from innocent people in
China. He co-wrote the report with Canadian human rights lawyer David Matas. In
his speech, Kilgour stressed their key recommendation: that the practice of organ
harvesting from living Falun Gong practitioners end immediately.
is a terrible outrage, a new crime against humanity, and it has to stop,"
he said in an interview.
"It certainly has to stop before the Olympic
games, and if it doesn’t stop before the games I think a lot of people, hopefully
a lot of governments and a lot of athletes will decide they simply cannot go to
a country that is killing human beings who have done nothing wrong except believe
in Truth, Compassion and Forbearance," he said.
Exercising his right-of-reply,
the PRC representative verbally attacked the Falun Gong movement, and tried to
discredit the report’s findings by pointing to Sujiatun hospital.
was first identified by a dissident Chinese journalist as a concentration camp
where organs we being harvested against their owners’ will. Later, the wife of
a surgeon at the hospital who she said removed corneas from living Falan Gong
practitioners confirmed the story.
Sujiatun was visited by US embassy officials
two weeks after the initial organ harvesting allegations were made public, in
a tour escorted by Chinese officials. The diplomats found little of interest.
Falun Gong spokespeople and other experts have described the site as a
Potemkin village. They have highlighted the ample time available for a thorough
cover up, and China’s repeated history of doing just that.
To not be dependent
on Sujiatun, however, Kilgour and Matas expressly avoided using any single point
of evidence as central to the report’s arguments. The report instead points to
credible evidence of many hospitals scattered across mainland China being involved
in the practice of live organ harvesting. It says that over 40,000 organs appear
to have come from unexplained sources.
"They [Chinese authorities]
have reacted to our report with absolutely nothing in terms of substance,"
"They’ve now had two months to try to find something
wrong in the report…they have found two things, two cities were in the wrong
provinces in our report, so we take that [to mean] that they’ve been able to find
nothing wrong with our report."
In his response to Kilgour’s statement,
Nowak said that he had sent a letter to Beijing asking for clarification on allegations.
Officials had told him that they had not yet had the time to respond to each of
the specific questions, but would soon, he said.
None of Beijing’s several
responses to Kigour and Matas’ allegations to date appear to directly address
the evidence that the two lawyers presented. The official responses largely seem
to attack the two men personally, and question the independence of their findings.
"In a curious way, I take it that they are unintentionally endorsing
our report as being sound," said Kilgour.
Torture Victims Speak
Several victims of persecution at the hands of Chinese Communist
Party (CCP) also spoke out during days three and four. At a UN parallel session
co-sponsored by Interfaith International and the Transnational Radical Party,
a husband and wife pair spoke, both Falun Gong practitioners and victims of torture.
Each of them had spent over five years in prison and forced labor camps, before
finding asylum in Norway via Thailand.
"Once they forced me to read
propaganda materials that slander Falun Gong. I refused. Then several policemen
rushed to me, restrained my arms behind my back, grabbed an electronic baton,
and started beating me on my head," said Li Jianhui, 49, describing one instance
among an uncountable number of abuses he was subjected to in detention.
affluent businessman in 1999, Li was one of the first Falun Gong practitioners
to be tried in court, but at that time the legal system was unsure what to charge
"In court, I asked the prosecutor to produce evidence of
my committing any crime," he said. To that the prosecutor replied, ‘We know
we don’t have evidence. If we did, things would not be like this.’…They just
ignored all the laws." On February 30, 2000, he was sentenced four years
Dai Ying, Li’s wife, said she spent 17 hours per day sewing
leather shoes for export of the US and Europe, as part of her labor camp experience.
She has partially lost sight in one of her eyes due to electric baton torture.
In her speech, however, she recalled a different aspect of her incarceration:
Extensive physical examinations without any apparent purpose.
did not know the reason why only Falun Gong practitioners were physically examined,
but one thing we did know: it was not done for care of our health," she said.
Apparently, non-practitioners were not examined this way. After the organ harvesting
allegations surfaced last spring, Dai began to suspect she had been assessed as
a potential organ donor.
The pair then took part in launching the European
Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong, inviting international
organizations, state agencies and media outlets to join it, "with the aim
of sending a delegation to China to collect all the necessary evidence and to
bring fully to light the truth on the persecution of Falun Gong, including on
the concentration camps."
Independent Investigation Crucial
Hom, Executive Director of Human Rights in China (HRIC), who is also attending
the Human Rights Council, has been lobbying to get that sort of inside access
to China for years.
"I think the most important thing that we need
to push for, not only on organ transplants but on all the violations [is] that
there must be access by independent investigators inside China, and that’s the
way I think we will get the full story," she said. "That’s what we have
to push for, because we can’t just allow them to close the doors."
in the main plenary meetings, Interfaith International representative and Falun
Gong practitioner Ng Chye Huay addressed the assembly. She thanked Yakin Ertürk,
Special Rapporteur on violence against women for her interventions in cases involving
female Falun Gong practitioners, highlighting the important role Special Rapporteurs
play in exposing human rights violations.
"Falun Gong practitioners,
especially women, have suffered unimaginable ravages, from public rape to gang
rape, from forced abortion to live organ extraction," she said.
the time when no government is willing to risk economic repercussions to speak
up against the severe and extensive violations in China, the voices of the UN
Special Rapporteurs become the only console of these victims."
herself was recently the subject of an intervention by Ertürk, who jointly
with the Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and
the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom
of opinion and expression sent an urgent appeal to the Singapore government.
had been arrested in Singapore for "illegal assembly" and "harassment"
for publicly revealing Beijing’s persecution of Falun Gong to Singapore residents,
and for repeatedly meditating in front of the Chinese embassy with a banner.
by the Chinese government, the Singapore authorities has discriminated Falun Gong
also," said Ng. The Special Rapporteurs’ urgent action came after she was
tied up and force-fed during a hunger strike she began to protest her incarceration.
Ng’s defense counsel, Ravi Madasamy, was arrested by Singapore authorities
and put in a psychiatric hospital on the day he was due to fly to Geneva to address
the Human Rights Council. Ng is asking the Special Rapporteurs again to intervene.
From its headquarters in Britain, Amnesty International issued its own
damning perspective on human rights in China, highlighting Beijing’s Olympic bid,
in a report published on September 21, day four of the Council.
serious human rights abuses that continue to be reported every day across [China]
fly in the face of the promises the Chinese government made when it was bidding
for the Olympics," said Catherine Baber, Deputy Asia Pacific Director at
Amnesty International, in a press release.
"The current state of affairs
runs counter to the most basic interpretation of the ‘Olympic spirit’ with the
‘preservation of human dignity’ at its heart."
A cautiously optimistic
Kilgour maintains that the Olympics could yet prove to be a powerful tool to change
"I think momentum is growing. I think if all of us
get on our Internet and on our computers and send emails by the thousands, we
will reach the tipping point when the government of China will think if it doesn’t
stop this terrible [organ harvesting] its Olympic games might be affected. That’s
the thing, that’s the tipping point, and we have to take advantage of that, to
push and push and push, all of us."
Posting date: 25/Sep/2006
Original article date: 23/Sep/2006
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