Friday, April 21, 2006
HU AT THE GATES OF MEDINA, AND BEYOND
es, it's true. Chinese president Hu Jintao arrived this week in the United States, and the first thing on the agenda was to visit the Gates of Medina. Wait -- isn't that in Saudi Arabia? Yes, and no. The world's richest capitalist entrepreneur, Bill Gates, hosted the Chinese president at his grand estate in the exclusive residential district of Medina (apparently a ritzy suburb of Seattle).
There were Chinese, Taiwanese and Tibetan protesters to greet him in Seattle, as well as pro-PRC supporters waving large communist flags. The president's party needed to be driven over back roads out of the airport in an effort to avoid soiling his view, although on this occasion Tibetans mostly abided by the wishes of the Tibetan exile government not to hound Mr. Hu at this delicate stage of Tibetan - Chinese negotiations. There are persistent rumours that the Dalai Lama, also visiting the United States presently, will be given permission in the near future to visit China. Falun Gong practitioners were not under any such pressure to tone down their protests.
And so, it was on to Washington to meet President Bush. The Chinese side had apparently been pushing to have as much pomp and ceremony as they could extract from the Bush administration, wanting to have the affair deemed as a full state visit. The US government simply calls it "an official visit." Mr. Hu wanted a full state banquet -- what he got was lunch. And there was an embarrassing moment during the official welcome outside the White House, when Mr. Hu began his speech. He had barely begun, when a Chinese woman perched on the camera platform began screaming out, that he should stop killing Falun Gong practicing Chinese people, and begging Mr. Bush to help them. I saw the tape this morning, and the commotion went on for some minutes while Mr. Hu attempted to continue his speech -- it must have taken some time to get her down off the platform, before she was taken away.
As such, it was unavoidable that Mr. Hu's people back home would have seen large portions of his speech cut out by Chinese censors, to avoid them hearing the cries of the protesting woman (she also screamed in Chinese). So far, this has been the only interesting part of the Hu visit. I watched a string of video clips on State Dept. TV this afternoon, including the White House speeches, Oval Office Q&A with both presidents, toasts at the luncheon, etc. -- platitudes upon platitudes from all sides, seasoned as always with that distinct Chinese communist phraseology that Chinese leaders have mastered over the years.
Hu Jintao is considered to be the least well understood leader of the PRC. He's known for keeping his thoughts or opinions to himself, indeed upon his ascension, the most often repeated fact about him was that "he's a good dancer." He came up through the party very fast, by holding his cards close to his vest. Is he a reformer? Is he a hardliner? After years in office, nobody is really sure even now. But his background, which I've written about here, is particularly tied to Tibet. President Hu previously served as Party Secretary for the Tibet "Autonomous" Region. This position amounts to be the virtual dictator of Tibet. There is actually a provincial "Governor" of the TAR (sometimes it's even held by an ethnic Tibetan), but this position is without power. The real power lies with the provincial Party Secretary, which was wielded by Mr. Hu mostly from afar. For he was not comfortable with the altitude of the Tibetan plateau, and ruled the occupied country, for most of his tenure, from Beijing. Which didn't diminish his abiltiy to order harsh and violent crackdowns on expressions of Tibetan nationalist sentiment. Tibetans do not remember Mr. Hu's rule with fondness. I wonder if they realise he's a good dancer.
One thing I certainly hope Mr. Bush brings up with him (besides encouraging him to deal fairly and openly with the Dalai Lama on the Tibet issue), is the recent revelations regarding Chinese "organ harvesting." It's long been known that organs for medical transplant are harvested from executed convicts (a Chinese official recently admitted as much, with assurance that the convicts have signed away their organs prior to execution). But I came upon this column by Toronto Sun writer Peter Worthington:
It is increasingly substantiated that the Chinese government is maintaining concentration camps and special prisons linked to hospitals, to "harvest" the organs of dissenters for sale to foreigners and those who can afford to pay.The taking of hearts, livers, kidneys, eyes etc. from executed convicts is one thing -- even if we believe the convicts have signed a "permission paper." Even if we gullibly believe that no coercion is involved in securing these, which I don't. Could it be possible that, now in the 21st century, "undesirable" people are simply being killed to fulfill organ requirements? Transplant tourism is big business for some Chinese hospitals, and after all, only 4 -5 thousand convicts are executed in China every year.
Surgeons at the British Transplantation Society, according to reports yesterday from London, believe that prisoners in China are selected for execution in order to match the "donors" with transplant patients in a timely way.
Professor Stephen Wigmore said: "The evidence has accumulated to a point where it's incontrovertible in our opinion."The BBC has a longer report on the BTS statement here.
But does this organ selling business go beyond executed criminals? Last month, Bill Gertz reported in the Washington Times on a Chinese journalist who accidentally stumbled upon evidence of this while researching the Chinese government's response to the SARS outbreak (and the PRC's comical cover-up) there. A Chinese official was the first one to reveal the secret work to the journalist Jin Zhong (a pseudonym), who now has fled China. Mr. Jin says that some imprisoned Falun Gong practitioners, of which there are tens of thousands across the country, were kept in an underground prison beneath a hospital in Sujiatun, near Shenyang in northeastern China. He gathered accounts from hospital workers, and the wife of a doctor involved in the gruesome organ extractions, who had suffered psychological trauma from the work and subsequently disclosed the activity. According to what Mr. Jin has learned about the Sujiatun operation, after extracting the organs, bodies are burned in the hospital's boiler room. Mr. Jin has been harassed by Chinese agents, and was arrested twice for his reporting before fleeing the country.
Jay Nordlinger also reported on the Sujiatun story in National Review. He quotes the wife of the tormented doctor, who says her husband told her, "You don't understand my suffering. Those Falun Gong practitioners were alive. It might be easier for me if they were dead, but they were alive." Nordlinger also spoke to the journalist Jin Zhong, who says he is not even interested in Falun Gong, but in justice and humanity. "I trust that the CCP [the Chinese Communist Party] will try to kill me," for revealing this story, he says. Mr. Jin is now seeking asylum in the US, but that's surely no guarantee against China's agents abroad.
This information has been passed to government and congressional officials in Washington. Officers of the US embassy Beijing and US consulate Shenyang travelled to the Sujiatun hospital, and found nothing amiss. Just a normal hospital operation, according to a State Dept. response to a press briefing question earlier this month. Yet the question was raised at today's State Dept. briefing (which I watched a few hours ago), and the spokesman replied that the matter was still being investigated. Evidently they don't consider the case closed, despite the preliminary finding of no evidence.
There is extensive reporting on the taking of organs from living Chinese prisoners of conscience at (where else?) Epoch Times. Many may scoff at this source (if they haven't already scoffed at Gertz and Nordlinger, heh), but when a story is potentially damaging to the Chinese Communist Party, one can count on Epoch Times to give it full attention. They provided the best reporting on the high profile Chinese defections last year, as well as the PLA's killing of protesters in Dongzhou last December. Here the paper responds to the denials of the Chinese government, noting communist China's official policy toward their arch enemy, the Falun Gong spiritual practice. "Destroy their reputation, suffocate them financially, and exterminate them physically." Sounds like something Ahmedinejad might say.
An investigative group of overseas Chinese is hoping to travel to China for further investigation. I don't hold much hope for them acquiring visas for this purpose, but here is an interview with the spokesperson of the group which hopes to expose the truth. I'll say one thing about Chinese transparency -- after the CCP sponsored fiasco that was the SARS cover-up, spiriting patients out of hospitals in a game of musical ambulance rides around Beijing, I wouldn't trust a PRC official as far as I could throw him.
There is an index of all Epoch Times reporting on this issue here, going back to a March 10 interview with Jin Zhong. Sujiatun is not the only facility implicated in this trade in organs from living prisoners of conscience -- there are thought to be up to 100,000 Falun Gong detainees in facilities across the country. Testimonies from potential organ recipients tell of doctors bragging that their new kidney or liver will come from a clean, healthy Falun Gong practitioner (they are believed to be in top physical condition due to their meditation practices, so this is a big selling point for a potential organ buyer).