For over two years, David Matas and David Kilgour have travelled the world seeking support to end forced organ harvesting from Falun Gong prisoners of conscience in China.
The international human rights lawyer and former Canadian cabinet minister toured over 40 countries after releasing their 2006 report confirming large-scale organ seizures from Falun Gong practitioners since the communist regime banned the spiritual discipline in 1999.
Since 2001, the regime has killed thousands of imprisoned practitioners and sold their organs for large profits, often to “organ tourists” from wealthy countries, said Mr. Kilgour.
In January 2007 he and Mr. Matas published Bloody Harvest, an updated report documenting new evidence.
They have won support not only from parliamentarians and government bodies but also medical communities worldwide. Earlier this month they were in Kingston urging more doctors to help.
Speaking for the second year in a row at Queen’s University’s annual Health and Human Rights Conference, they outlined some notable successes so far.
Doctors’ Support in Canada and Worldwide
The most recent support came from the American Society of Nephrology (ASN), which published an article in the September edition of its clinical journal saying that “All countries should take steps to govern organ donation and transplantation, thereby ensuring patient safety and prohibiting unethical practices.”
That was the consensus of more than 150 representatives of scientific and medical bodies from 78 countries, government officials, social scientists, and ethicists, who met in Istanbul, Turkey from April 30 to May 2 this year.
At the Istanbul Summit, participants finalized a declaration opposing organ trafficking (illicit sale of human organs), transplant commercialism (treatment of organs as commodities), and transplant tourism (when organs given to foreign patients undermine a country’s ability to provide organs for its own population).
Mr. Kilgour also referred to an August 2008 Australian news article noting “useful pressure.” The article reported that Jeremy Chapman, the Australian president of The Transplantation Society (TTS), promised that his members would ask Chinese authorities for an explanation when a non-Chinese person travelled to China to acquire an organ.
The TTS convened the Istanbul Summit along with the International Society of Nephrology.
A July 2008 commentary in The Lancet, U.K.’s medical journal, said the Istanbul Declaration “will reinforce the resolve of governments and international organizations to develop laws and guidelines to bring an end to wrongful practices.”
However, “Still, more is needed from the transplant and medical communities,” it said, including professional societies, journals, drug companies, and funding agencies.
Prior to Istanbul, Israel’s legislature approved a new organ donation law in March 2008 stipulating that brokering sales of organs in Israel or overseas is a criminal offence.
To stop Mainland Chinese and Taiwanese doctors from brokering Taiwanese patients’ organ transplants in China, in October 2007 the Taiwanese government announced it will ban Chinese doctors engaged in this brokering from visiting Taiwan.
And the U.S. National Kidney Foundation issued a statement against transplant tourism in January 2007.
Canadian doctors and parliamentarians have also spoken up.
Last December in the House of Commons, Manitoba MP Steven Fletcher tabled a petition from doctors across Canada urging the federal government to issue travel advisories warning that “organ transplants in China are sourced almost entirely from non-consenting people, whether prisoners sentenced to death or Falun Gong practitioners.”
More recently, Ontario MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj introduced Bill C-500, a ground-breaking piece of legislation that would make it illegal for Canadians to get an organ transplant abroad if the organ was bought or taken from an unwilling victim.
Part of Wrzesnewskyj’s motivation for drafting the bill came from reading the Kilgour-Matas report, which found that Canadians are among the organ tourists who travel to China for transplants.
“David Matas and I have assembled more than 50 pieces of evidence over the past two years which indicate that our conclusions about ongoing organ-pillaging across China are valid,” said Mr. Kilgour.
In their travels, the pair has continued to receive additional evidence including “new examples of Falun Gong practitioners who in Chinese detention were systematically blood tested while their co-prisoners who were not practitioners were not blood tested,” said Mr. Matas.
Falun Gong practitioner He Lizhi also spoke at the conference. He was jailed for three and a half years in China and spoke of “forced heavy slave labour, electric shocks, [and] frequent deprivation of sleep and use of the toilet” in prison.
Most practitioners withheld their identities to protect relatives and friends from persecution under the regime’s policy of “guilt by association,” Mr. He said. They “were soon sent to unknown places”—officially “relocated.”
What happened to them remained a mystery to him until news about organ harvesting broke.
“They could have been killed by organ harvesting crime—the [greatest] evil ever on this planet,” he said.
The Kilgour-Matas report cites 41,500 unexplained organ transplants from 2000 to 2005—the six-year period since the persecution of Falun Gong began—that do not come from convicted executed prisoners, the brain-dead, or family donors.
While the Chinese regime continues denial, peer review has supported the conclusions of the Kilgour-Matas report.
University of Minnesota Associate Director of the Program in Human Rights and Medicine Kirk Allison, British transplant surgeon Tom Treasure, and Yale University thesis student Hao Wang “have all independently from us and each other confirmed the conclusions of the Report and supported its accuracy,” said Mr. Matas.
In 2008, United Nations Special Rapporteurs Manfred Nowak and Asma Jahangir reiterated their previous year’s request that China fully respond to the charges of organ harvesting.
Referring to China’s “toxic consumer practices” such as melamine-contaminated milk and toys made with lead paint, Mr. Kilgour had this advice for all importers from China: “don’t trust,” but “do much more rigorous inspections of made-in-China products in future.”
“The use of poisons in export products illustrates well the values of China’s party-state. If they could do that, it is not hard to believe that they use human bodies as bio mass for organ harvesting,” said Mr. Kilgour.