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Falun Dafa student group concerned about human cadavers on display

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Bodies . . . The Exhibition has raised alarming issues about ethical consent. The human cadavers and full specimens on display at Bodies . . . The Exhibition are obtained from China and "originally received by the Chinese Bureau of Police," as stated on a disclaimer found on Premier Exhibitions' official New York website. The company has admitted that they cannot verify consent from the individuals or from the family members of the bodies on display.

Members of the University of Manitoba Falun Dafa student group first became aware of these issues after hearing human rights lawyer David Matas voice his concerns about the origin of bodies used in the exhibit. Matas has done extensive research on the organ harvesting of Falun Dafa practitioners in China, noting the high likelihood that exhibitions such as these contain prisoners of political conscience. In his book Bloody Harvest, co-written with David Kilgour, they state that close to 90 per cent of organs available for transplant come from Chinese prisons.

Falun Dafa, also known as Falun Gong, is a peaceful meditative practice that originated in China. The three fundamental principles of the practice are truthfulness, compassion and forbearance. Rooted in ancient Chinese Buddhist and Daoist philosophies, the practice was made public in 1992. The practice gained huge popularity among the Chinese population because it revived traditional Chinese values, with close to 100 million people practicing in China by 1999.

Due to its overwhelming popularity, Jiang Zemin, former head of the Chinese Communist Party, began publicly persecuting Falun Gong practitioners in July 1999 with orders such as: "Destroy their reputations, exhaust them financially and eliminate them physically," "Beaten to death can be counted as suicide" and "Cremate immediately; no need to verify name or residence." This was the beginning of a brutal crackdown on the peaceful practice.

In an organ harvesting report by Kilgour and Matas, they write that "there has been and continues today to be large scale organ seizures from unwilling Falun Gong practitioners by the government of China and its agencies . . . the widespread killing of Falun Gong practitioners for profit to provide organs for transplants is so shocking that it represents a new form of evil on this planet."

With so many human rights violations going on in China, it is troubling that Premier Exhibitions has attained these specimens from the country without verifying proper consent. With an extensive profit being made off of these human bodies, Premier Exhibitions has not taken enough measures to assure the public conscience that they are in no way affiliated with the bodies of dead incarcerated political prisoners.

By accepting this exhibition without demanding public transparency in regards to the source of the human bodies, we are making it acceptable to bypass any ethical evaluation when it comes to displaying dead human beings. Winnipeg is home to the new Canadian Museum for Human Rights and this exhibition is an affront to that endeavour.

To this date, over 1,000 citizens of Winnipeg have signed a petition in opposition to Bodies . . . The Exhibition if they are unable to provide proper proof of consent from the bodies displayed. The signatures have been presented to Winnipeg mayor Sam Katz and are currently in the process of deliberation. Those who have signed the petition and the University of Manitoba Falun Dafa student group believe that it would be wise for Canada as a united community to take a stand against these types of exhibitions to uphold our Canadian values on the issues of consent and human rights.

Judith Cheung is a member of the University of Manitoba Falun Dafa student group. You can visit the facebook.com group for more information or sign the petition.

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