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Beijing Under Spotlight at U.N. Human Rights Council
Jan Jekielek, The Epoch Times
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.
"I 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.
"I 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
In 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.
"This 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.
Sujiatun 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," said Kilgour.
"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."
None of Beijing's several responses to the Kigour and Matas' allegations appear to directly address the evidence that the two lawyers presented. The official responses largely seem to attack the two men personally, and question their independence.
"In a curious way, I take it that they are unintentionally endorsing our report as being sound," said Kilgour.
Torture Victims Speak Out
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.
An 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 him with.
"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 imprisonment
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.
"We 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
Sharon 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."
Back 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.
"At 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."
Ng 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.
Ng 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.
"Pressed 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.
"The 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 the situation.
"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."
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