ABC The Religion Report: Chinese repression of Falun Gong

Stephen Crittenden: Welcome to the program.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd leaves for the Beijing Olympics tomorrow night, and
judging by the sneak preview of the opening ceremony that we’ve had, thanks
to a South Korean camera crew, he’s in for a dazzling show.

The BBC has described what was conveyed in that 30-second video clip as ‘an
immense demonstration of power and unity’, so perhaps we’re in for a glimpse
of what our Chinese future holds for all of us.

But while you’re being dazzled, the Chinese spiritual movement Falun Gong is
asking that you spare a thought for the persecution of religious groups and
political dissidents in China.

Erping Zhang is a Mason Fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government
at Harvard University where he specializes in China’s censorship of the internet.
He’s also the international spokesman for Falun Gong, and he is in Australia
at the moment as a guest of the Australian Institute of International Affairs.
He says that while no Olympics is without its fair share of theatrics and drama,
the Beijing Olympics in particular ‘has all the signs of becoming one of the
most highly staged, highly orchestrated and calculated events the world has
ever seen.’

He’s calling on Australians to remember the human misery behind the scenes
and he’s urging Prime Minister Rudd to raise the plight of Falun Gong with the
Chinese authorities while he is in Beijing.

Erping Zhang: Well in the lead-up to the Olympic Games, according to different
estimation by the different rights groups, there are over 8,000 practitioners
of Falung Gong inside of China have been rounded up and sent away, either to
labour camp or detention centre. And the families didn’t know where their relatives
are being sent to and there’s no news whatsoever.

Stephen Crittenden: In fact Falung Gong is claiming that it is the main target
of a massive security crackdown that’s happening in the lead-up to the Games.

Erping Zhang: Indeed, there are reports that under the pressure from the international
media the Olympic media centre finally could have some access to overseas prohibited
websites, such as the website of Amnesty International, but Falun Gong websites
are still blocked about some other critical Chinese websites overseas.

Stephen Crittenden: Indeed, in the last week it’s become apparent that the
Chinese government misled the IOC over internet censorship. Falun Gong says
that the Chinese government also has misled the IOC over human rights; it never
intended to improve human rights either. Did China ever make any specific undertakings
to the IOC in relation to its treatment of Falun Gong?

Erping Zhang: Well what happens is in bidding for the Olympic Games in Moscow,
they promised the IOC and voting member states that they will improve the human
rights and they will allow the full access of the media and the internet. But
the fact obviously tells a different story, because not only the conditions
for human rights for Falun Gong has deteriorated, also information on the internet
remains to be blocked and censored.

Stephen Crittenden: Did they make any specific undertakings in relation to
Falun Gong?

Erping Zhang: No, they didn’t. They just made pretty much like an overall statement,
general statement.

Stephen Crittenden: And is Falun Gong planning any actions or demonstrations
in China during the Games?

Erping Zhang: Well we’re not going to have organised protests inside of China,
but will continue as ever to highlight the plight of the practitioners of Falun
Gong inside of China. We’ve been doing that regardless whether there is Olympic
games or not. We have always been since 1999, having people into China who voluntarily
spread fliers, put out banners on the buildings and on the trees in the parks,
to alert the public about the labour camp that they use about the harvesting
of the organs from the practitioners of Falun Gong held in labour camps.

Stephen Crittenden: Well let’s talk about those two specific issues. This week
Falun Gong released a guide for journalists covering the Olympics, showing the
location of various labour camps where practitioners are being held. I notice
a couple of those camps are only really an hour away from the main Olympic Games
venue in Beijing.

Erping Zhang: Yes, actually there are two that are outstanding and well-known
labour camps near Beijing, one is Tuanhe labour camp where a lot of the Falun
Gong practitioners have been held, and there’s a women’s labour camp near Beijing
that is where all the female practitioners of Falung Gong practitioners are
being held. According to a Novak Manfred who is the United Nations Representative
for Torture he has made two-thirds of the people who are being held at labour
camps, are practitioners are Falun Gong.

Stephen Crittenden: And what about organ harvesting? I mean we’ve heard reports
of organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners for some time, maybe Falun Gong
has a public relations problem with these allegations, because I know many Australians
I talk to are prepared to believe that the Chinese government is capable of
such a thing, but people want to see concrete evidence that it’s really happening
on a large scale.

Erping Zhang: Well this news is not brought out by Falun Gong. The independent
investigation on the organ harvesting of the practitioners of Falun Gong held
in labour camps were conducted by two Canadians. One is David Kigour who’s former
Canadian Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific. The other person is David Matas
who is a prominent counsel for Amnesty International in Canada. So they are
independent who have produced this report.

Stephen Crittenden: But in their report they did acknowledge didn’t they, that
one of the difficulties was collecting evidence.

Erping Zhang: Indeed, because Beijing is not opening up their organ transplant
hospital to show people how they slaughter the people for their organs. But
the dat is more persuasive. According to Amnesty International each year China
actually killed about 3,000 to 4,000 prisoners. However, they performed 60,000
kidney organ transplants. Where do the kidneys come from? In China we don’t
have a donor culture like in the United States or Western countries. People
are very superstitious about the holistic body and mind. After they die they
want to keep the whole body, so there’s no such a donor culture as in the West.
Where do these organs come from? The funny thing is as soon as the Canadians
published and released a report, the Chinese government issued a law saying
they’re going to ban organ transplant abuse. So that means they acknowledged
there is an organ transplant abuse.

Stephen Crittenden: Australia’s Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd is probably more
versed in Chinese language and culture than any other Western leader at the
moment. He’s leaving for the Games this week. Has Falun Gong been lobbying him
at all?

Erping Zhang: Well so far as I know, we have not been able to meet with him
in person to address our plight in China. I mean it’s his call – what he’s going
to do, but –

Stephen Crittenden: Has he been approached by Falun Gong?

Erping Zhang: Well we have not been able to meet him in person, that’s in my
knowledge, and we would urge him to bring up our plight in China should he go
there, but I’ll not interfere with the Australian foreign policy, but I really
believe that history will look very kindly at those who stand up for justice
and for humanity.

Stephen Crittenden: Thank you very much for being on the program.

Erping Zhang: Thank you.

Stephen Crittenden: The international spokesman for Falun Gong, Erping Zhang.

Posting date: 31/Aug/2008
Original article date: 6/Aug/2008
Category: Media Report


Leave a Comment