OTTAWA – Independent Canadian investigators say they are convinced that the organs of Falun Gong practitioners in China are being harvested for profit, according to a report released July 6.
“Based on what we now know, we have come to the regrettable conclusion that the allegations are true. We believe that there has been and continues today to be large scale organ seizures from unwilling Falun Gong practitioners,” concludes the much-publicized report conducted by former Canadian Secretary of State (Asia Pacific) David Kilgour and international human rights lawyer David Matas.
The 46-page document, accompanied by 14 appendices, is the culmination of their two-month investigation into allegations that Falun Gong prisoners of conscience in China are being murdered for their vital organs–including hearts, kidneys, livers and corneas–which are then sold for profit. Some of the customers are foreigners “who normally face long waits for voluntary donations of such organs in their home countries,” says the report.
“Organ harvesting of unwilling donors where it is either systematic or widespread is a crime against humanity,” state the authors.
The report makes 17 recommendations, including that China immediately put an end to the practice. Other key recommendations include mobilizing the Canadian government and other parties to conduct their own investigations, denying or revoking the passports of people traveling to China for organ transplants, barring Chinese doctors from entering other countries to seek training in organ transplantation, and urging Chinese authorities to conduct a criminal investigation for possible prosecution.
Kilgour and Matas addressed journalists at a packed press conference Thursday morning on Canada’s Parliament Hill. “When you read this report, you will be appalled,” Kilgour said.
Matas stated that the investigation was initiated after a request in early May by the Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong in China (CIPFG), a non-governmental organization based in Washington D.C., but that they worked independently of the organization or any other party.
Kilgour and Matas assessed 18 different elements of proof or disproof, all of which they say are “verifiable and in most cases incontestable.” When all the evidence is put together, the authors wrote, “they paint a damning whole picture.”
One of the elements they considered was the backdrop of the current climate in China, one marked by corruption, human rights violations and a state policy of persecution against Falun Gong that includes repression, hate incitement, and massive arrests.
The report considers the number Falun Gong practitioners who have disappeared and the inexplicability of systematic blood testing of prisoners. In some cases, there is documentation of corpses that have been returned to families with missing organs. First hand interviews were also conducted with three victims of the persecution, now living in Canada, who received forced and unexpected medical examinations while imprisoned in China.
The extraordinarily short wait times for organs in China–one to two weeks for a liver compared with 32.5 months in Canada (median wait for 2003)– and the number of transplants done compared to identifiable organ sources are further incriminating factors. Kilgour and Matas also present self-accusatory material from Chinese transplant centre websites that advertise the immediate availability of large numbers of organs from living donors.
Kilgour highlighted at the press conference that one of the most disturbing pieces of evidence was his interview with the ex-wife of a Chinese surgeon. The husband admitted he had removed corneas from approximately 2,000 Falun Gong prisoners. “No one gave their corneas without giving their life as well,” Kilgour said. Other surgeons were responsible for removing the vital organs before the bodies were cremated.
The report also contains transcripts of telephone conversations in which officials at various Chinese hospitals, detention centres, and courts admitted to using organs from Falun Gong practitioners. Callers working with the investigators had posed as Canadians and Americans inquiring about transplants.
The transcript of a conversation with a doctor at the Nanning City Minzu Hospital in Guangxi Autonomous Region on May 22, 2006 reads:
“Why is it easy for them [Guangzhou] to get [organs from Falun Gong practitioners]?
“Because they are an important institution. They contact the judicial system in the name of the whole university.”
“Then they use organs from Falun Gong practitioners?
“Correct.” … “What you used before (organs from Falun Gong practitioners), were they from detention centre(s) or prison(s)?”
“And it was from healthy Falun Gong practitioners…?”
“Correct. We would choose the good ones because we assure the quality in our operation.”
How Could It Happen?
Matas called the report’s revelations “a form of evil we have yet to see on this planet…a new form of evil,” and something very hard to believe, like the Holocaust.
However, he observed that in a Chinese context it may not be as surprising as elsewhere given that China leads the world in executions and that Chinese authorities have already admitted to removing the organs of dead prisoners.
That Falun Gong has been “extremely dehumanized, vilified, and marginalized,” for the past seven years also makes it more believable, according to Matas. They are “persecuted both in word and in deed in the most foul way possible,” he said.
Such crimes are also easily perpetrated in a situation where there’s a total repression of the media and human rights defenders are punished for “revealing state secrets.”
Matas also noted the large amount of profit to be made from the practice.
The report estimates that in the six-year period from 2000 to 2005 there have been 41,500 organ transplants that have no other explained source. “There’s no increase in the number of executions paralleling the increase in transplants. The only thing that’s changed since the transplants increased is the persecution of Falun Gong,” said Matas.
The regime in Beijing has denied the allegations and enacted a law that went into effect last July 1 prohibiting the buying or selling of human organs and requiring written consent from donors. Matas said that he is well aware that in China “laws simply do not get implemented, including the Constitutional commitment to democracy.”
He suggested to China, whether it accepts or rejects the allegations, to stop persecuting Falun Gong, allow visitors into prisons, stop torture and executions, and stop using prisoners’ organs for transplant.
To write this report, Matas and Kilgour did not go to China because their visas applications were denied. Kilgour said that when he met Mr. Sun from the Chinese embassy to discuss the terms of the trip, the official’s only interest was in refuting the allegations.
If permission is granted, Kilgour said he’d still be quite happy to make the trip to examine hospital files and records of consent, and other information. Even without permission, the pair might still do a follow-up report if new information comes to light.
Matas said that part of the reason for this investigation is “to mobilize the human rights community to get concerned about this, because this is a different form of violation.” The crime involves a dead victim who cannot be a witness and a perpetrator who is not going to confess, and moreover there’s no trace once the crime is committed, he said.
“It needs a variation in investigation technique,” and he expressed hope that the report will trigger the traditional investigation community, including the United Nations, Amnesty International, and other bodies.
The co-authors recommend that China open all detention facilities, including forced labour camps, for inspection through the International Committee for the Red Cross or other human rights or humanitarian organizations.
Kilgour hopes that Canada will push for an investigation under the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons. He feels the government should also require Canadian doctors to report any evidence that a patient has obtained an organ from a trafficked person abroad. Many Canadian Members of Parliament have expressed interest in this matter, including Conservative caucus chair Rahim Jaffer, said Kilgour.
Also on Thursday, New Democratic Party Human Rights Critic Wayne Marston issued a statement calling the report extremely disturbing and urged the Prime Minister to “increase pressure on the Chinese government to cooperate with independent investigations of these claims.”
Imposing economic sanctions on China is not included among the recommendations. Matas explained that “sanctions work only if they are comprehensive.” Travellers who choose not to go to China, for example for the Beijing Olympics in 2008, are “not going to have a big impact on the policy of China,” he said. He emphasized that “what we are calling for is for the practice [of organ harvesting] to cease.”
“What could be worse than human beings being killed for their organs so that somebody can make money?” Kilgour asked.
Kilgour urged concerned Canadians to write to their Members of Parliament, write letters to the editor, and spread widely copies of the report, available in both French and English at http://www.organharvestinvestigation.net/.