MKs who signed a petition demanding that the United Nations investigate organ harvesting by the Chinese government have backed down, with at least three of the nine MKs who signed the petition removing their names from it. The apologies came after the Chinese government demanded that Israel disavow the petition, informing the Foreign Ministry of its displeasure over the participation of the MKs.
The MKs' support for the petition was reported several days ago by Arutz Sheva. Among the MKs who demanded that the UN investigate whether China was harvesting and selling organs of inmates in the country's prisons – an accusation that has been leveled against Beijing by numerous human rights groups – were Uri Orbach, Yoel Hasson, Michael Ben-Ari, Shai Hermesh, Ibrahim Sarsur, Daniel Ben-Simon, Haim Amsalem, Akhram Hassan, and Taleb a-Sana.
The Chinese embassy contacted the Foreign Ministry, and at a meeting with officials, expressed “amazement,” reported Ha'aretz Tuesday, that Israeli politicians would be involved in the petition. Officials contacted the MKs, the report said, exerting stiff pressure on them to recant; one MK said that the officials had asked for an apology in writing, to be signed by the MKs.
Three of the MKs – Hasson, Hermesh, and Ben-Simon – consequently asked that their name be removed from the petition, claiming that they did not know what they were signing when approached by several youths for their support. It turned out, the MKs said, that the youths were affiliated with a pressure group that has long been campaigning against the alleged Chinese organ harvesting. Hasson drafted a letter saying that the MKs had not meant to injure the sensibilities of the Chinese, and the letter was quickly translated into English. “I want to stress that the incident was the result of a misunderstanding,” Hasson wrote.
According to Ha'aretz, Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin intends to read the letter to Chinese officials, and that other MKs are considering writing their own letters, or adding their names to Hasson's apology. Rivlin, along with Foreign Ministry officials, fear that China will express its displeasure with Israel over the incident by canceling or withholding business deals, or denying Israeli businessmen visas to China. Trade between Israel and China has sprouted in recent years, and many Israeli companies have been successful in selling technology and products to the Chinese.
However, the report said, at least four of the MKs, among them Uri Orbach, have refused to back down. “I don't remember who asked me to sign, but I do remember reading the petition and agreeing fully to its contents,” he said. “Some very extreme things are being done in China. If they decide to ban me from entering the country for signing the petition, then so be it.”