February 6, 2007

Four speakers at a panel Thursday accused the Chinese government of systematically harvesting organs taken from practitioners of an oppressed peace movement.

The event, "China's New Genocide: Organ Harvesting from Prisoners of Conscience," was held in Sturm College of Law and was organized by the DU chapter of Amnesty International and the Asian Pacific American Law Students' Association (APALSA).

The speakers included Wenyi Wang, a medical doctor and anti-organ harvesting protest leader, Charles Lee, a former Chinese prisoner, Erping Zhang, director of the association for Asia Research and pro-Chinese democracy activist, David Matas, a human rights lawyer.

The panel discussed the Falun Dafa or Falun Gong movement to improve human rights and inspire peace in China and its relation to the alleged organ harvesting.

The panelists concluded that the Chinese government oppresses followers of Falun Dafa. They are executed, then the government uses their healthy organs in profitable transplants.

Falun Dafa is a philosophical and religious practice common in Chinese culture. It emphasizes the search for truth and self-enlightenment through meditation.

"It's what we call the self-improvement of mind and body," said Wang.

This philosophy has become the basis for a non-violence movement in China. [Editor's note: CCP started the persecution and Falun Gong practitioners oppose it.  It is not Falun Gong's philosophy per se  that leads to the current non-violence movement.]

However, the ruling Communist Party outlawed this practice in 1999. Practitioners and sympathizers have been arrested and sometimes beaten to death.

Lee returned to China in an attempt to publicize the abuse of Falun Dafa followers and was arrested.

After three years of imprisonment he returned to the United States and has spoken about his experience as a Chinese prisoner which included torture, forced labor and brain washing.

"They forced me to attend the brainwashing class everyday," said Lee.

"There are many that go to China to help and are arrested," said Zhang.

According to Zhang, 3,091 people have died of torture for participating in this movement. Zhang said the movement is a threat to the Communist Party for its large numbers. [Editor's note: It is CCP that sees Falun Gong as a threat.  Falun Gong has no interest in power.]

Zhang presented results of a 1998 survey which concluded there are 70-100 million followers of Falun Dafa in China compared to the 50-60 million Communist Party members, making it the largest voluntary organization in China.

According to the panelists, the Falun Dafa exercises are considered healthy and thought to extend life, which makes their organs ideal for transplants.

The panelists believe that the Falun Dafa practitioners are taken into custody and are forcibly hospitalized.

Wang said this is unusual because these people are typically in good health. The prisoners are executed, the livers and hearts are removed from the bodies and then the corpses are burned.

Matas, who brought the organ harvesting issue to light through his research, presented evidence that supports these allegations.

Matas pointed out that the rate of execution in China and the oppression of practitioners of Falun Dafa have both risen, along with the supply of organs for transplant that have no official origin. Matas stated that there is no official system for people in China to donate organs.

Matas, who was invited to present the legal angle to students, called them to action. A large part of the China organ transplant demand comes from Americans that cannot find organ transplant donors in the United States, and therefore go to China to get the operation. Matas suggested stricter legal policy for people who attempt to receive such operations.

"It is important to bring these human rights abuses to light, but our chapter is particularly focused on the legal aspects of the human rights abuses," said Bryony Heise, Amnesty International president.

"Our hope is always to educate our student body and inspire the students to become involved in the fight for social justice."

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