Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Crusader up for Nobel Prize

Lawyer lauded for investigating abuses in China

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Winnipeg lawyer and human rights advocate David Matas has been nominated for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.

Matas has been nominated along with former MP David Kilgour for their investigative work over the past four years into allegations that Falun Gong followers in China are being killed for their organs.

Matas and Kilgour said they uncovered overwhelming independent evidence that confirms the allegations and have issued three reports detailing their findings, the last written as a book, Bloody Harvest: The killing of Falun Gong for their organs.

"It's an honour to be nominated," Matas said. "David Kilgour and I have been working on this issue since 2006.

"Our goal is to stop this abuse. I can't say it's stopped yet."

Matas and Kilgour began their investigation at the request of the Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong, a Washington-based organization.

Matas and Kilgour won the prestigious 2009 Human Rights Award from the International Society for Human Rights for their work.

The Chinese government has dismissed their reports as groundless and biased, and part of a Falun Gong smear campaign.

Falun Gong has been described as a new religious or spiritual movement based on the teachings of its founder Li Hongzhi, incorporating aspects of Buddhism and Taoism and modern science.

The movement began in 1992 and became hugely popular in China but the Chinese government branded it a cult in 1999 and initiated a crackdown on followers, who are persecuted, jailed and executed.

Matas said their work found that jailed Falun Gong followers were unwilling organ donors.

Matas said that while there is no direct link between the organ harvesting and the central Chinese government, the organ harvesting is being conducted with the support and co-operation of prison officials and the Chinese medical community.

There is a great deal of money to be made from organ donations, he said, adding the Falun Gong followers are easy targets for such an immoral trade.

"We've travelled around the world talking about this, about 50 different countries between the two of us," Matas said.

Matas and Kilgour were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize separately by federal Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj and Balfour Hakak, chairman of the Hebrew Writers Association in Israel.

Matas is an immigration and refugee lawyer in Winnipeg and senior legal counsel for B'nai Brith Canada, an advocacy and service agency for the Jewish community. He has been involved with several national and international human rights groups. He was named to the Order of Canada in 2008.

Kilgour was a federal Alberta MP between 1979 and 2006, sitting as a Progressive Conservative, Liberal and as an Independent.

The Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 was awarded to U.S. President Barack Obama.

The Nobel Peace Prize ceremony will be held Dec. 10 in Oslo, Norway.

World-class honour

The Nobel prizes were established in the will of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, who patented dynamite and nitroglycerin, and were first awarded in 1901.

The Nobel Peace Prize is one of six Nobel awards given out each year. The others are physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and economics.

Each prize recipient is determined by a separate committee. The Peace Prize is awarded by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which is appointed by the Norwegian Parliament.

Each winner receives a medal, a diploma and a cash prize. In 2009, the cash prize was 10 million Swedish kronor (SEK), or $1.4 million Cdn.

Each Nobel prize committee invites nominations from thousands of people around the world -- university professors, scientists, previous Nobel winners, members of parliamentary assemblies and others.

Nominations for the Peace Prize are supposed to be confidential and the identities are only formally released by the Norwegian Nobel Institute after 50 years. However, individual nominators occasionally disclose their choice for nominee, as was done this year for David Matas and David Kilgour.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 20, 2010 B1

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