A new petition demands the US government take a stand against an atrocity: It asks the White House to investigate and condemn the Chinese regime’s gruesome practice of systematically harvesting the organs of practitioners of Falun Gong, a Chinese spiritual discipline.
The petition was launched on the White House’s We the People website on Dec. 2, calling on the United States government to “Investigate and publicly condemn organ harvesting from Falun Gong believers in China.”
If it gets 25,000 supporters by Jan. 1 next year, the administration is obligated to respond, something it has yet to do so far.
The subject has been a sensitive one for the administration, according to experts, because of the seriousness of the allegations—live organ harvesting of captive and innocent spiritual believers—alongside the U.S. government’s wish not to rock the boat with relations with the People’s Republic of China, which, among other things, holds a sizable amount of U.S. debt.
But initiators of the petition think it vital that the United States responds. “If there’s any government in the world that will have some impact on Chinese human rights it’s going to be the United States,” said Dr. Alejandro Centurion, a board member of the medical advocacy group Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting.
“If our government does speak out, it would be a huge step to further expose these crimes and bring them to an end,” Centurion said. The petition says that the government has a “moral obligation to expose these crimes.”
A body of evidence around the Falun Gong and other political and religious prisoners has been accumulating since 2006, and has over the last year begun to gain more public traction, with congressional hearings and mentions—there was a time when the allegations were not even mentioned—in official U.S. reports.
“Like many other Americans and citizens around the world, we are very concerned about one of the most horrifying crimes against humanity of our time: Forced organ harvesting from living ‘prisoners’ in China,” says a note sent to the press by the petition initiators. “This barbaric practice has been taking place in China for over a decade.”
Alongside Dr. Centurion, a neurologist, the two other initiators of the campaign include Arthur L. Caplan, professor and head of the division of bioethics at New York University Langone Medical Center, and Jianchao Xu, an assistant professor of nephrology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and also a DAFOH board member.
A social media effort is also being rolled out to drum up signatures, spearheaded by the website organpetition.org, “a grassroots effort of people who care about human rights coming together to support this important issue,” according to an email responding to a query sent to the website.
Estimates from researchers indicate that practitioners of the Falun Gong spiritual discipline have been killed in the tens of thousands for their “retail organs”: mostly kidneys and livers, and sometimes hearts. The victims die as a result of the forced extractions, often carried out by military doctors who cooperate closely with the security services.
Falun Gong is being singled out in this petition because, according to available evidence, that group has been particularly targeted for organ harvesting because of their abundance in China’s system of labor camps, healthiness above the general prison population (many criminal prisoners suffer Hepatitis B, making them ineligible for harvesting), and other factors. There also exists the most cogent and complete body of evidence, from reports and primary research, about forced organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners.
Other groups in smaller numbers have also been targeted, including Uyghurs and Tibetans, according to the research of Ethan Gutmann, who is currently writing a book about the persecution of Falun Gong; the petition will help them too, according to Dr. Centurion.
“Our concern is for all prisoners of conscience and executed prisoners whose human rights are being violated, and this intends to help solve the problem for everybody,” he said in a telephone interview.
“Transplant abuses of this magnitude are crimes against humanity, crimes which people and governments from every country must condemn,” the doctors’ letter says. “Remaining silent in the face of such atrocities is to be complicit in these crimes. The United States as a world leader in protecting human rights has a moral obligation to speak out.”
Dr. Centurion said that “Americans are kind hearted people that support human rights around the world. They are horrified about this and express interest in supporting this issue. When they learn about these crimes they’re shocked and want to learn more, and express their wish to do something about it.”
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