When we hear about human rights, we often hear about China due to its poor human rights record. Whilst China is well known for a range of human rights abuses, its economy continues to grow and the State has been working on its international relations. President Xi Jinping visited the USA last September, followed by the UK in October and protesters drew attention to China’s human rights abuses. Indeed – it’s essential more than ever to bring China’s often bloody secrets (further) out of the closet.
One such ongoing issue that has been publicised but is not frequently in the media is that of China’s illegal organ harvesting. This tragic issue has many shocking elements: illegal imprisonment, torture, death, blood money, religious and ethnic oppression – in short… mass murder.
Organ transplants in China
China is the world’s second biggest organ transplant provider – with the USA at the top. However there are a variety of worrying factors regarding China’s:
- High number of organ transplants: 10,000 per year
- Incredibly low rate of voluntary organ donors due to cultural beliefs
- Lack of a national organ donation or distribution system (supposedly until 2014)
- Incredibly short waiting times: two to four weeks (according to 165 organ transplant centres)
- Lack of laws allowing the use of organs from people who are brain dead or have undergone cardiac arrest
- Lack of accountability – transparency and traceability according to the World Health Organisation‘s guidelines
- Resistance to investigation
- Duty to ethical organ donation which requires “voluntary and informed consent”
Sources: European Parliament (2013), Matas (2008)
In 1984, China introduced a law to allow transplants from executed prisoners. In 2005, Deputy Health Minister Huang Jiefu declared that 95% of organs used for transplants were sourced from executed prisoners (Sherif et al., 2014). However, following allegations of forced organ harvesting using imprisoned Falun Gong practitioners, Canadian human rights lawyer David Matas and former Canadian Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific David Kilgour were asked to investigate the issue by The Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of the Falun Gong in China (CIPFG) in 2006. Their report Bloody Harvest (2007) declared the allegations to be true: China is harvesting organs through the imprisonment of persecuted Falun Gong practitioners.
The anti-Falun Gong campaign
Falun Gong (aka Falun Dafa) is a peaceful spiritual movement akin to Buddhism, founded in China by Li Hongzhi in 1984. It is now practised worldwide. In 1992, Falun Gong was officially recognised by the State and was given a permit to teach across the country. However, by 1996 problems began to arise with the Falun Gong movement and the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) political and economic demands. Censoring and harassment later started and by 1999 the CCP started its campaign to wipe out the practice and banned Falun Gong. Practitioners were beaten and taken to detention centres and an anti-Falun Gong media campaign began. The reason? Whilst the CCP has labelled Falun Gong as an “illegal cult” (see this Chinese non-governmental anti-cult website as an example), reasons cited are “fear” and “jealousy”.
As one of China’s persecuted religious minorities, the Falun Gong face discrimination in regards to work, finance and education, destitution and are forced into labour camps and “education centres” – facing imprisonment, various forms of torture and death – including: forced labour, beatings, burning, water torture, rape and sexual assault, brainwashing and worst of all since 2000: the unwilling removal of their organs and death.
Harvesting high price human organs
The Matas-Kilgour report was first published in 2006 – in which roughly 20,000 organ transplants are reported to have taken place (2007, Sharif et al., 2014). Their research across China included:
- Evidence from organ transplant/information centre websites (later closed down)
- Donor recipient interviews
- Information on corpses of imprisoned Falun Gong practitioners with missing organs
- Telephone calls to hospitals/transplant centres
The following is taken from a phone call to Director Song at the Oriental Organ Transplant Centre in Tianjin City (2006):
N: Her doctor told her that the kidney is quite good because he [the supplier] practises …Falun Gong.
Song: Of course. We have all those who breathe and with heart beat…Up until now, for this year, we have more than ten kidneys, more than ten such kidneys.
N: More than ten of this kind of kidneys? You mean live bodies?
Song: Yes it is so.
Source: Matas and Kilgour (2007)
After being imprisoned, Falun Gong prisoners undergo specific medical tests (unlike other prisoners). When required they are “taken to surgery” – still conscious and under a low level of anesthetic Falun Gong prisoners’ organs are removed. Medics then place the bodies in a boiler/incinerator to remove all traces – the victim could be alive or dead at this stage. There have also been other cases of corpses being “collected” by so-called ” relatives”.
Confessions from medics and their families confirm claims involving Falun Gong practitioners and other persecuted minorities. Former Uyghur surgeon Enver Tohti declared he removed the organs of an executed Uyghur prisoner in 1995:
A moment later there were gun shots. Not one, but many. […] An armed police officer approached us and […] pointed to a corpse, saying ‘this is the one’.
[…] our chief surgeon [..] told me to remove the liver and two kidneys. […] we took the body into the van and removed his liver and kidneys. An operation to repair an organ is very difficult and takes a very long time to do, but this […] was an operation of extraction, so it was easy and quick.
Falun Gong and other persecuted minorities share the same fate. Not only have Falun Gong practitioners suffered but Uyghur (Muslim) and Tibetan prisoners have also been victims of forced organ transplants as well as House Christians (European Parliament, 2013).
Donor recipients were originally high ranking officials and their family members. Nowadays however, anybody from within and outside China with enough money can buy an organ. In 1996, The China International Transplantation Network Assistance Centre in Shenyang City advertised the following prices on its website (http://en.zoukiishoku.com/):
Source: Matas and Kilgour (2007) – website archive
National and overseas donor recipients from countries such as Taiwan are paying for nothing more than state murder with huge revenues.
Although Matas and Kilgour (2007) acknowledged the potential difficulty in proving or disproving the allegations due to a lack of corpses, freedom of speech in China and information from the State, their conclusion from their research was that the allegations were true. Author Ethan Gutmann in his 2014 book “The Slaughter” declared that between 2000-2008, organs were harvested from: 65,000 Falun Gong practitioners and 2,000 – 4,000 Uyghurs, Tibetans or House Christians and Kilgour has confirmed that human organ trafficking in China is ongoing today.
In 2014 China claimed to have introduced a new computerized system including organs of both voluntary donations (following a Red Cross scheme introduced in 2010) and those of executed prisoners but this excludes prisoners of conscience and the fact that China had previously declared it would stop using organs belonging to executed prisoners (Sharif et al., 2014).
Human rights abuses
China is abusing a number of universal human rights, including: the right to life, religious freedom and freedom from torture. Whilst the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – supported by China – is not legally binding, some of the very few international human rights conventions that China has ratified and consequential legal violations are:
- The Genocide Convention (ratified in 1983)
- The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) (ratified in 2001)
- The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (ratified in 1988)
These conventions establish a variety of rights including: freedom from torture and “the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health” (ICESCR, Art.12).
The ongoing campaign
Despite investigations, reports and the ratification a number of human rights conventions, 15 years later this tragedy is ongoing. So what can we do to stop this brutality? Well for starters, how many of your friends, family members and acquaintances know about this shocking reality? The first time I heard about it myself was in London in China Town just a few years ago. There is a mountain of information online and various NGOs involved in research and campaigning such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch and the organisation Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting (DAFOH) who launched a petition to the United Nations in 2013.
To take action, you can:
- Raise awareness – blog, Tweet, share, give a talk, street campaign
- Sign the Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting petition to the UN
- Sign the Friends of Falun Gong petition to the US Secretary of State (US and non-US residents)
- Sign the Stop Organ Harvesting in China petition (US residents only)
- Donate your time/money to relevant NGOs
It’s crucial that Falun Gong practitioners, Muslims, Christians and Tibetans be free from persecution. The Tibetan struggle is ongoing, religious discrimination and persecution is increasing towards Uyghur Muslims and House Christians and the issue of forced organ harvesting has not disappeared even if the media remains rather quiet.
Get signing and get shouting!
Sources and further information:
- European Parliament (2013) European Parliament resolution on organ harvesting in China (2013/2981(RSP))
- Falun Dafa Information Centre
- Matas, D. (2008) Organ Harvesting of Falun Gong Prisoners in China: An Update
- Matas, D. and Kilgour, D. (2007) BLOODY HARVEST: Revised Report into Allegations of Organ Harvesting of Falun Gong Practitioners in China
- NDT Television (2012) Killed For Organs: China’s Secret State Transplant Business (video documentary)
- NDT Television – Between Life and Death (video documentary)
- Sharif. A et al. (2014) ‘Organ Procurement From Executed Prisoners in China‘, American Journal of Transplantation, 14: 2246 – 2252
- The International Coalition to End Organ Pillaging in China
- United Nations Status of Ratification Interactive Dashboard
*Images from FreeImages.com shares under a Creative Commons licence