This article presents remarks by David Matas to a public forum at the University of South Australia, Adelaide, on June 28, 2015.
I want to focus on seven new developments: the new legislation in Italy and Taiwan, a study of proposed legislation in South Australia, an upcoming conference in China, forced blood testing of Falun Gong practitioners who are not subject to detention, a study engaged by the World Health Organization, and a recent Council of Europe Convention.
The Italian Senate on March on March 4, 2015, passed a bill, which provides that any person who trades, sells, or manages illegally trafficked organs from living persons would serve a prison term of 3 to 12 years and pay a hefty fine from 50,000 to 300,000 euros($55,039 to $330,259). The bill sets out a punishment for whoever publicly encourages or advertises the selling of organs or transplant tourism. Doctors who promote or assist patients to travel to obtain an organ illegally would face lifetime disqualification for violating medical ethics.
The bill was driven by evidence of organ transplant abuse in China. Sen. Maurizio Romani is quoted as saying, in answer to the question, “Where do China’s 10,000 transplanted organs a year come from?”: “The answer is dramatic. … Especially practitioners of the spiritual discipline Falun Gong are killed for their organs. I use the term cannibalism for this matter. … We in Italy can’t stop these violations. … But, we have the duty to make every effort in order not to be accomplices to this.”
Sen. Ivana Simeoni said: “There are documents, which dispel any doubt [about the sourcing of organs from practitioners of Falun Gong]. … Only to think about this commoditization of the human body makes me shiver.”
The bill has to be enacted by the Chamber of Deputies for it to become law. It is scheduled to go to the Chamber of Deputies this fall.
According to a report in the Taipei Times, the Taiwan legislature, the Yuan, on June 12, 2015, amended The Human Organ Transplantation Act to prohibit the use of organs from executed prisoners, as well as the sale, purchase, and brokering of organs. The law bans transplant tourism. Additionally, doctors involved in illegal organ transplants could lose their licenses.
The act further stipulates that patients who get organ transplants overseas must provide legal proof of the source of the organs in order to be eligible for state funded medical after-care in Taiwan. The act thus prohibits Taiwanese from receiving organs from unknown sources.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Yu Mei‑nu said that many Taiwanese go to China for illegal organ transplantations. She added that the Chinese regime is actively involved in the organ trade, which depends heavily on the harvesting of organs from living Falun Gong practitioners. She continued: “We hope to effectively deter organ trafficking and its sales with this amendment. … That is why the law was amended to require those who have received organ transplants abroad to provide information to domestic hospitals where they are to receive post‑transplant treatment about where the surgery was done and who the surgeons were. … The domestic hospitals then have to report the cases they deal with.”
The effect of this law, according to Theresa Chu, spokeswoman for the Falun Gong Human Rights Legal Team, is to prohibit Taiwanese from going to China for organ transplants, reported Minghui.org. Legislator Hsu Shao‑ping of the Kuomintang commented, “Those who harvest organs from living people and sell them for profit are committing a crime against humanity according to International Criminal Law.”
Tien Chiu‑chin, a Taiwanese legislative member from the Democratic Progressive Party and sponsor of the resolution said: “The act clearly forbids organ trafficking, sales, and transplant tourism—and stipulates penalties. It also bans the use of organs from death row prisoners. Taiwan’s organ transplant regulations have reached international standards.”
3. South Australia
The Parliament of South Australia established a Joint Committee on the Operation of the Transplantation and Anatomy Act 1983 to determine whether the act should be amended to address trafficking in human organs. Written submissions are to be received no later than July 17, 2015.
Member of the New South Wales Parliament David Shoebridge introduced into that Parliament proposed legislation to prohibit any person from, (a) entering into a commercial transplant arrangement, (b) removing tissue from the body of another person, whether living or deceased, without consent, (c) consenting to the use of tissue removed from the body of another person, whether living or deceased, for the purpose of its transplantation to the patient if the tissue was removed without consent, and the patient knows or is reckless as to that lack of consent.
The proposed legislation requires medical practitioners and nurses who provide services to a patient and have reasonable grounds to suspect that tissue has been transplanted to the patient to report to the appropriate authority, (a) the name of the patient, (b) when and where the medical practitioner or nurse provided services to the patient, and (c) the grounds for suspecting that tissue has been transplanted into the patient.
Any patient who consents to the transplantation to the patient of any tissue must report to the appropriate authority the date, location, and nature of the treatment in connection with which the tissue was transplanted to the patient.
The proposed legislation has extraterritorial effect. The law applies where either the person committing the prohibited act or the person from whom the tissue is removed is ordinarily resident in New South Wales, even where the act itself occurs outside New South Wales. I suggest that the South Australia Parliament should enact legislation patterned on that proposal.
4. China Conference
Ostracism has been a vehicle for change in China. The China Medical Tribune reported the refusal of 35 Chinese participants for ethical reasons to attend the World Transplant Congress in San Francisco in July 2014. It also noted that for the most recent Hangzhou, China transplant conference “many overseas transplant experts failed to attend.” A year before, in October 2013, the China Transplant Congress, also held in Hangzhou, had a raft of foreign expert attendees.
On Oct. 20, 2014, the NGO Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting (DAFOH) released a statement, which provided that, “We would consider it unethical for any foreign transplant professional to attend this transplant congress in Hangzhou given the rampant and unrepentant transplant abuse in China, unless the person is going with the express and sole purpose of speaking out against it.” This statement, along with other developments, would have been a drag on overseas transplant expert attendance.
The refusal to allow 35 Chinese participants for ethical reasons to attend the World Transplant Congress in San Francisco in July 2014 and the failure of many overseas transplant experts to attend the Hangzhou, China, transplant conference in October 2014 had a profound impact on Chinese transplant officials. Many attendees to the 2014 Hangzhou conference were likely asking where all the overseas transplant experts were. Those doctors who applied to attend and participate in the World Transplant Congress in San Francisco in July 2014 and were rejected, and their colleagues who knew they were applying to attend, also needed an explanation.
The Communist Party may have felt that it could ignore the evidence of the killing of Falun Gong for their organs. However, it could not ignore the fact that Chinese transplant doctors were denied admission to an international transplant congress or that foreign transplant doctors who had come to China before were no longer coming.
In response to this ostracism, the Communist Party/State made no substantive changes but did make a wide variety of contradictory statements about how the situation either is better now or would get better in the future. I have set out these statements, at length, in a talk I gave in April 2015, in Bern, Switzerland, to the International Society of Human Rights. The bottom line driving all the remarks was a desire to end the ostracism. The peer pressure of the international profession at the very least got the attention of Chinese authorities in the way that no other initiative had.
There is a Chinese transplant conference scheduled for Aug. 6‑8, 2015, at East Lake in Hubei Province at the International Conference Centre. The propaganda flowing out of the Party has had an effect on at least some of the international transplantation profession many of whom plan to attend this conference.
While we will not know for sure until the August conference has come and gone if the peer pressure from the global profession will collapse, those are the early signs. That collapse would be regrettable.
The criteria for reconnection between the Chinese and international transplant community should be these: (a) an admission of past wrongdoing, including full disclosure of the sourcing of organ transplants in the past; (b) a commitment to bring to justice all perpetrators of past organ transplant abuse and commencement of proceedings; (c) expulsion from the Chinese Medical Association of transplant professionals who cannot establish beyond a reasonable doubt that their sourcing of organs is proper; (d) cooperation with an international investigation into present and past sourcing of organs for transplant; (e) publication of present and past death penalty statistics; (f) public access to the past and present aggregates for the four Chinese transplant registries—lung, liver, heart, and kidney; (g) full, independently verifiable transparency of current sourcing of organs for transplant; (h) establishment of a system of traceability of sources for transplants and use of that system; and (i) cooperation with an outside, independent verification system for compliance with international standards.
5. Forced Blood Testing of Those Not Detained
Systematic blood testing and organ examination of detained Falun Gong practitioners has been commonplace since 2001 throughout China. The police, beginning in April 2014, have engaged in forced blood testing of practitioners of Falun Gong not in detention.
The practitioners have been arrested in their homes or on the street, taken to local police stations for forced blood tests and then released. There has been a concentration of these reports of forced blood testing in Guizhou and Liaoning provinces, but there have also been reports of these tests elsewhere in China.
These tests are presumptively for organ harvesting, unless the authorities provide an alternative explanation, which they haven’t done. China has been closing its re-education labor camps, which primarily housed Falun Gong. Some, but not all, of those held in labor camps have been moved to other detention facilities.
Forced blood testing of the undetained Falun Gong looks to be an adaptation to the labor camps closing. The labor camps were a vast forced organ donor bank. If authorities can have that donor bank when practitioners are living at home, then they don’t need to keep the practitioners in detention.
This evolution is typical of communism. Things change but they don’t get better. They just stay the same or get worse in a different way. Author Ethan Gutmann said about the forced blood testing of Falun Gong not in detention, “This is a truly alarming development.”