The Ottawa Citizen questions 'The story of Sujiatun'
Posted in the Top Stories Forum
Since: Jul 11
#1 Apr 8, 2013
Mr. Kilgour, who once served as secretary of state for the Asia-Pacific region, has a long record as a human rights advocate. In 2005, when sitting as an independent MP, he threatened to withdraw support for then-prime minister Paul Martin's narrow minority government if Canada did not do more to help the people of Darfur, in the Sudan.
Mr. Kilgour made international headlines last year with a report on the persecution of Falun Gong, co-written with Winnipeg lawyer David Matas.
Like no other document before it, the Matas-Kilgour report gave credence to allegations advanced by Falun Gong. Today, its conclusions are regularly cited by the movement's devotees as evidence of abuse at the hands of the Chinese government.
And while much of their work has been embraced by international human rights experts, some have raised doubts about some aspects of the report and its methodology.
The Chinese Embassy in Ottawa dismissed it as "groundless" and "based on rumours and false allegations."
But others were also dubious. Researchers working for the U.S. Congress concluded that some of the key allegations in the report "appear to be inconsistent with the findings of other investigations."
At the centre of the report is the claim that the Chinese government harvests the organs of Falun Gong practitioners for sale to foreign tourists. Falun supporters have charged that the Chinese government operated a facility where practitioners were imprisoned, executed, their organs removed and their bodies cremated.
The stories of an alleged concentration camp in northeastern China first surfaced in March 2006 with reports in the Epoch Times, a newspaper that publishes virulently anti-Communist commentary and stories alleging persecution of the Falun Gong movement. The paper cited a secret concentration camp at Sujiatun where, it alleged, 4,500 followers had been executed and cremated.
The mainstream media soon jumped on the story. The National Review Online, a conservative website in the U.S., wrote that Chinese human-rights activists believe that this name should cause the same shudders as Treblinka and the others. The Toronto Sun made the easy comparison between the Sujiatun claims and Nazi death camps.
Mr. Kilgour and Mr. Matas were asked by a U.S.-based group called the Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of the Falun Gong in China to look into the allegations of human rights violations. They were not allowed into China, but worked from documents and interviews. In July, they issued a report that concluded China had put to death a large but unknown number of Falun Gong prisoners of conscience.
Although the authors stress that they did not rely on any one piece of evidence to reach their conclusion, they said they found credible the story of an unnamed woman living in the U.S. with the pseudonym Annie, who claimed to be the former wife of a surgeon in China.
Annie, previously featured in an Epoch Times story, told the Canadians that her husband had removed the corneas from approximately 2,000 Falun Gong prisoners at Sujiatun. The bodies were passed on to other doctors who removed more organs, and then cremated the remains, she claimed. Mr. Matas and Mr. Kilgour used her information only where it could be corroborated by other information, they wrote.
The report also relied on translated transcripts of telephone calls in which Chinese officials were said to confirm the common harvesting of organs from Falun Gong detainees.
By the time the report was released, doubts about the veracity of the Sujiatun story were growing.
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