China’s 5000-year-old civilization deserves the respect of the entire world. This talk is about governance and violence committed by its current party-state since 1949 on those deemed its opponents, which has most recently resulted in large scale pillaging of organs from Falun Gong practitioners for commercial transplantation purposes. No Falun Gong “donors” survive transplantation operations anywhere in China because both kidneys and all other vital organs are invariably seized and their bodies are then cremated.
David Matas and I located 52 kinds of direct and circumstantial proof about this commerce occurring since 2001. For the period 2000-2005 alone, we concluded that for 41,500 transplants the only plausible explanation for sourcing was Falun Gong. We arrived at this figure by deducting from the government figure of 60,000 transplantations over the six-year period, which appears accurate, the best estimate available about executed convicts (18,550) for the same years.
In the 2012 book “State Organs,” researcher/writer Ethan Gutmann’s best estimate is that about 65,000 Falun Gong were killed for their organs during the years 2000-2008, selected from about 1.2 million practitioners he considers were interned in China’s forced labor system (Laogai). A police signature is sufficient to send anyone to the camps for up to three years. As Mark Mackinnon of Canada’s Globe and Mail put it recently, “No charges, no lawyers, no appeals.” In 2007, a U.S. government report estimated that at least half of the inmates in 340 camps were Falun Gong. Leninist governance and “anything is permitted” economics created the conditions for organ trafficking to occur and persist today.
Falun Gong (or Falun Dafa) is a spiritual discipline, which seeks to improve health and ethics. It contains features of traditional systems, like Chinese Qigong, Buddhism and Daoism, combined with a set of gentle exercises. Because it grew astonishingly rapidly in popularity from its inception in 1992, former Party head Jiang Zemin saw it as a threat, labeled it a cult, and commenced persecution against its practitioners from mid-1999 on.
After 1980, the post-Mao Party began withdrawing funds from the health system across China, requiring it to make up the shortfall from service charges to mostly uninsured patients. Selling the organs of executed convicts became a source of income for surgeons, the military and other participants. After 1999, Falun Gong prisoners of conscience became a vast live organ bank for wealthy Chinese patients and “organ tourists” from abroad, the former often preferring that the “donors” were Falun Gong, being normally healthy persons.
Matas and I visited about a dozen countries to interview Falun Gong practitioners sent to China’s forced labor camps, who later managed to leave the camps and the country. Practitioners told us of working in appalling conditions in camps for up to sixteen hours daily with no pay and little food, crowded sleeping conditions and torture. They made a range of export products as subcontractors to multinational companies. This is both gross corporate irresponsibility and a violation of WTO rules; it shrieks for an effective response by all trading partners of China. Each government should ban forced labor exports by enacting legislation which places an onus on importers in each country to prove their goods are not made by slaves.
The responsible international community should nonetheless engage as constructively as feasible with the new government in Beijing, while pressing it to end organ pillaging.
Democracy with very Chinese characteristics is probably closer than many sino-cynics think. The values of democratic societies are universal, including equality for all citizens, the rule of law and independent judges, multiparty democracy, corporate social responsibility and the need for manufacturing jobs everywhere. The people of China should know that democrats everywhere stand with them, not their government, just as we did with central/east Europeans during the Cold War and with South Africans during the lead up to the release of Nelson Mandela from prison and his election as president of a democratic nation.
Initiatives to Stop Organ Pillaging
Since 2006, several U.N. Special Rapporteurs have asked China’s government for an explanation of the allegations about organ pillaging from live Falun Gong practitioners. They pointed out to the government that a full explanation would disprove the claims, but in response the government has provided no meaningful answer.
The following are two points made by the Rapporteurs, requiring answers:
- “Organ harvesting has been inflicted on a large number of unwilling Falun Gong practitioners at a wide variety of locations for the purpose of making available organs for transplant operations. The practitioners were given injections to induce heart failure, and therefore were killed in the course of the organ harvesting operations or immediately thereafter.”
- “It is reported that employees of several transplant centers have indicated that they have used organs from live Falun Gong practitioners for transplants. Officials from several detention facilities have indicated that courts have been involved in administering the use of organs from Falun Gong detainees.”
Beijing replied with a categorical denial. The rapporteurs, however, later persisted: “New reports were received about harvesting of organs from death row prisoners and Falun Gong practitioners” and “information received that Falun Gong practitioners have been extensively subjected to torture and ill-treatment in prisons and that some of them have been used for organ transplants.”
In 2008, the U.N. Committee against Torture recommended that Chinese authorities investigate and punish those responsible for forced organ pillaging from Falun Gong.
In September 2006, The European Parliament conducted a hearing and adopted a resolution condemning the detention and torture of Falun Gong practitioners, and expressing concern over reports of organ harvesting; the issue was also raised by direction of the EU troika leadership through the Finnish Foreign Minister meeting bilaterally with China’s Foreign Minister at the EU-China summit that year in Helsinki.
In December 2009, the European Parliament Human Rights Subcommittee held hearings on organ transplant abuse in China. Its resolution of May 19, 2010 “Action plan on organ donation and transplantation (20092015)” states in part:
“Notes the report of David Matas and David Kilgour about the killing of members of Falun Gong for their organs, and asks the Commission to present a report on these allegations, along with other such cases, to the European Parliament and to the Council.”
On Dec. 6, 2012 organ pillaging in China was among the main topics in a hearing in the European Parliament on Human Rights in China. David Matas testified.
In 2006, the Queensland health ministry ended training programs for Chinese doctors in organ transplant techniques at the Prince Charles and Princess Alexandra hospitals, as well as banning joint research programs with China on organ transplantation.
In New South Wales, MP David Shoebridge has proposed that it be illegal for residents to receive trafficked organs.
In 2007, Hou Sheng-mao, then Director of its Department of Health, reported requesting Taiwanese doctors not recommend to their patients to travel to China for transplants.
The Taipei bar association recently passed a resolution, condemning “organ tourism” in China.
Canada and Belgium
In 2006, two Belgian senators introduced into the Belgium Parliament a law, which addresses organ transplant tourism.
Former Canadian MP Boris Wrzesnewskyj introduced into our House of Commons extraterritorial legislation banning “transplant tourism” in 2008. Both would penalize any transplant patient who receives an organ without consent of the donor where the patient knew or ought to have known of the absence of consent.
Israel in 2008 passed, at the urging of Dr. Lavee and other transplantation specialists, a law banning the sale and brokerage of organs and ending funding through the health insurance system of transplants in China for Israeli nationals. It also offered a number of interesting initiatives to encourage nationals to donate organs, including giving priority for transplants to persons who signed donor cards. After the bill was enacted, “organ tourism” by Israelis to China ceased immediately.
Parliamentarian Valérie Boyer and other members of the National Assembly proposed a law in 2010 which sets out certificate and reporting requirements similar to Canada’s proposed law. It would require every French resident who undergoes an organ transplant abroad to acquire within 30 days a certificate stating that the organ was donated without payment. The recipient must provide the certificate to the French Biomedical Agency before returning to France.
On Oct. 3, 2012, 106 Members of Congress wrote to then Secretary of State Clinton, urging her to release information on organ pillaging in China from Falun Gong practitioners and other religious and political prisoners, and for the release of any information it might have that former Chongqing deputy mayor Wang Lijun is believed to have provided during his brief sanctuary in a U.S. consulate in February. Wang and Bo Xilai, both now in prison, were actively involved in organ pillaging.
The State Department finally acknowledged in its 2011 Human Rights Report, released in May 2012, that “Overseas and domestic media and advocacy groups continued to report instances of organ harvesting, particularly from Falun Gong practitioners and Uyghurs.”
From June 2011, the online U.S. non-immigrant visa application, Form DS-160, requires the following information from the applicant: “Have you ever been directly involved in the coercive transplantation of human organs or bodily tissue?
NGOs and Medical Organizations
Various NGOs and medical organizations have issued statements urging the investigation and measures to stop the forced organ pillaging from prisoners of conscience, particularly Falun Gong.
- In 2007, the Transplantation Society introduced new policy on interactions with China, against using the organs from prisoners.
- The policy of the World Medical Association now includes a paragraph that organ donation from prisoners is not acceptable in countries where the death penalty is practiced. This is a new policy.
- The NGO Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting (DAFOH) seeks to promote ethical standards in medicine and to end forced organ pillaging across China. In 2012, DAFOH initiated several petitions in Europe, Australia and the United States (including the so-called White-House-Petition calling for an end of organ pillaging in China and further investigation through the UNHRC. Within 3 months, the petitions garnered 250,000+ signatures.
Recent Individual Initiatives
- In July 2012, Dr. Torsten Trey and David Matas published a volume on organ transplant abuse in China, including the killing of Falun Gong prisoners of conscience. The book “State Organs” is a collection of essays by leading medical professionals and other commentators, which consolidates evidence of these abuses, discusses their ethical implications, and provides insight on how to combat these violations.
- On Dec. 2, 2012, three medical doctors, Arthur Caplan, Alejandro Centurion and Jianchao Xu, initiated a petition calling upon the Obama administration to investigate and help stop forced organ harvesting from Falun Gong in China. The petition is posted within the “We the People” section of the White House website. The petition is available at: http://wh.gov/5Jmn
Unfortunately, these and other initiatives have not yet ended the trafficking in organs from involuntary “donors” across China.
The government of China now accepts that sourcing of organs from prisoners is improper. Former Vice Health Minister Huang Jeifu in 2009 said that executed prisoners “are definitely not a proper source for organ transplants.” In 2005, he admitted that over 95 percent of the organs transplanted in China came from executed prisoners. The Party-state had denied using prisoners’ organs prior to this admission. Huang has admitted to doing 100 liver transplants yearly himself.
In 2006, a World Medical Association resolution demanded that China stop using prisoners as organ donors, and in 2007 the Chinese Medical Association agreed to do so. In 2010, at a transplant conference in Madrid, Huang stated that between 1997 and 2008 China had performed more than 100,000 transplantations, with over 90 percent of the organs being from executed prisoners.
In February of 2012, Huang again stated that the practice of organ harvesting from prisoners continues in China today, but that the government wants to phase it out by 2015 and build up a national donation scheme. This will be very difficult to achieve in part because many Chinese are unwilling to donate their organs.
Before the Party-state might abolish organ harvesting from executed prisoners, tens of thousands more will be killed for their organs. Since Matas and I began our voluntary work, the number of convicted persons sentenced to death and then executed has decreased, but the number of transplants, after a slight decline, rose to earlier levels. Since the only other substantial sources of organs for transplants in China, apart from Falun Gong, are prisoners sentenced to death, a decrease of sourcing from that population means an increase in sourcing from Falun Gong.
In the past, the death penalty was administered by gunshot, but lethal injection is now the most common practice because organs are preserved. Most executions in China take place in mobile buses, which are often parked next to hospitals.
Corporate Social Responsibility
Some pharmaceutical companies, such as Novartis and Pfizer, have voluntarily pulled away from trials of anti-rejection drugs in China because of ethical concerns. There is, however, need for binding national regulation. Arne Schwarz in “State Organs,” and David Matas in a speech, detailed a wide range of trials of anti-rejection drugs done in China. Some were conducted in hospitals from which our telephone investigators obtained admissions that they were selling organs of Falun Gong.
Matas and I would encourage Australian legislators and all parliaments to consider our recommendations, including, urging the party-state in China to:
- cease the repression of Falun Gong;
- cease organ-pillaging from all prisoners;
- remove its military from the organ transplant business;
- establish and regulate a legitimate organ donor system;
- open all detention centers, including forced labor camps, for international investigation; and
- free Gao Zhisheng and many other prisoners of conscience.
Implement the following measures until organ pillaging from prisoners ceases:
- MDs from outside China should not travel there to give training in transplant surgery;
- contributions submitted to medical journals about experience with transplants in China should be rejected; and
- pharmaceutical companies everywhere should be barred by their national governments from exporting to China any drugs used solely in transplant surgery.
Australia, Canada, and other responsible governments should enact measures to combat international organ transplant abuses: extraterritorial legislation, mandatory reporting of transplant tourism, health insurance systems not paying for transplant abroad, barring entry of those involved in trafficking organs.
Many of us in and beyond China ought now to raise our voices and seek greater impact, not only because it is necessary for tens of millions of Falun Gong practitioners and their families, who have been torn apart across the entire country, but also because it is good for both China and the international community as a whole. We all want a China that enjoys the rule of law, dignity for all and democratic governance.
The above is an adaptation of a note presented at the Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, on March 20, 2013.
David Kilgour, a lawyer by profession, served in Canada’s House of Commons for almost 27 years. In Jean Chretien’s Cabinet, he was secretary of state (Africa and Latin America) and secretary of state (Asia-Pacific). He is the author of several books and co-author with David Matas of “Bloody Harvest: The Killing of Falun Gong for Their Organs.”