March 5, 2010
Work nets nomination
David Matas gets Nobel Peace Prize nomination.
David Matas, a Winnipeg lawyer and human rights activist, has been nominated for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize with former MP David Kilgour for their work on behalf of Falun Gong practitioners in China, who are being systematically killed for their organs in a for-profit government scheme.
Matas told the Independent, “Falun Gong is a set of exercises with a spiritual foundation which began in 1992.... It can be thought of as Chinese yoga. It was initially encouraged by the government of China as beneficial to health, but was banned in 1999. The Communist Party of China represses every belief system it does not control.”
In addition to publishing two reports, Kilgour and Matas co-authored Bloody Harvest: The Killing of Falun Gong for Their Organs, (Seraphim Editions 2009), detailing evidence that tens of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners had been killed by the Chinese regime in the process of extracting their organs for lucrative transplant surgeries. Matas said that he and Kilgour estimate that “41,500 organs were harvested between 2001 and 2006 from Falun Gong practitioners.”
Matas and Kilgour won the 2009 Human Rights Award from the International Society for Human Rights for their work in this area and were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize separately, by MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj and Balfour Hakak, chairman of the Hebrew Writers Association in Israel.
Matas believes that Falon Gong have been targeted for dehumanization by the Chinese government. “One reason is simply the numbers. Falun Gong, before it was banned, had about 70 million adherents in 1999. That year, the Communist Party of China membership was an estimated 60 million.... A group of that size, no matter what its belief, attracts the attention of a repressive government.... The Falun Gong stand for three basic beliefs – compassion, tolerance and truth. Anyone who believes in any one of these principles spells trouble for the Communist party government.”
He added, “The collapse of the Soviet Union and communism in central and eastern Europe haunts the Chinese Communist party.... Its leaders fantasized the Falun Gong as the engine of their destruction. They turned a group of innocents into an enemy and launched a persecution to combat an imaginary enemy.”
In a letter to the Nobel Committee, Wrzesnewskyj wrote that, as a result of Matas and Kilgour traveling to 44 countries, “world leaders and global citizens have gained a better understanding of the issue.”
In his letter, Hakak wrote, “It is hoped the esteemed Nobel committee will recognize these distinguished gentlemen for their efforts because the awareness it would bring to the issue could very well save many, many lives.”
Kilgour and Matas have urged countries to discourage or prevent their citizens from going to China for transplants. Their investigations found that many wealthy foreigners seek transplants in China, where a matching donor can be found in mere weeks, while the process can take an average of two and a half years in other countries.
Matas estimates that “about 100 Canadians went to China for transplants since the abuse began.”
The release of the initial report prompted Chinese leadership to implement regulatory changes regarding transplants, but the trade in illegal organs has continued.
Matas said he first became aware of the issue of organ harvesting in China when “the ex-wife of a Chinese surgeon made a public statement in Washington, D.C., in March 2006, that her husband had been harvesting corneas of Falun Gong practitioners in Sujiatun China between 2003 and 2005. The government of China claimed she was lying. The Coalition to Investigate Persecution against the Falun Gong, an NGO headquartered in D.C., asked me and David Kilgour to investigate.”
Wrzesnewskyj wrote that awarding the prize to Matas and Kilgour “would help the world realize that liberty, human rights and the rule of law can be won by determined peaceful acts of conscience.... They investigated, they produced reports and, now having produced those reports, they’ve continued on a global campaign to inform the world of what was taking place.”
Matas believes the Canadian government ought to be raising this issue with China “every which way it can, publicly, privately and persistently.”
The 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Award ceremony will take place on Dec. 10 in Oslo, Norway.
Rhonda Spivak is a Winnipeg freelance writer and editor of the Winnipeg Jewish Review.