BRISBANE, Australia—American author and China analyst Ethan Gutmann says China’s illegal organ transplant trade continues, despite assurances from Chinese officials that it has stopped, and Gutmann says he has the evidence to prove it.
In an update of his book “Slaughter,” which suggests the Chinese state uses illegal organ harvesting as a means of disposing of dissidents, Gutmann looks in detail at Chinese official data. He identifies that transplant numbers continue to soar, up to 100,000 a year, without officially identified sources and despite claims by Chinese authorities that the numbers are only around 10,000 transplants a year.
“I defy anyone to go through the report and come out the other end and say ‘Oh there is some sort of change in the velocity and trajectory of the Chinese transplant program,” Mr. Gutmann told NTD. “You won’t be able to do it because what you will see are construction programs, new transplant wings and absolutely unshakable confidence that organs will be sourced for China into the future.”
An award-winning human-rights investigator, Mr. Gutmann is touring Australian and New Zealand state capitals this month to coincide with the launch of a documentary on the issue titled “Hard to Believe.” He was speaking as a member of a panel during a Q&A session following the screening of the documentary at the Queensland Multicultural Centre, in Brisbane on August 11.
“In our report, at a minimum we are looking at 146 hospitals in greater detail sometimes overwhelming detail,” he said.
Mr. Gutmann said detained and imprisoned Falun Gong practitioners are the main source of organs for transplants in China but Tibetans and Uyghurs are also used.
He noted that despite the many speeches made by Chinese officials about transplant donor reform, nothing seems to have changed in regards to the practice of illegal and unethical organ harvesting in China.
“It is also true we see no effect; all this talk about reforms since 2012, all the talk about changes in this—there is no reflection on the ground,” he said.
Independent Investigation Needed
Joining him on the Queensland panel were Dr. Sarah Winch, head of the discipline for Medical Ethics, Law and Professionalism at the University of Queensland School of Medicine, and Benedict Coyne, a lawyer and president of Australian Lawyers for Human Rights.
Dr. Winch said she had no doubt that Australians were feeding the demand for organs by travelling to China for a transplant. “We believe, that Australians are already heading to China to do this and what we want to do is work with them through alternative pathways—so we are not feeding what we consider what we think are highly immoral practices,” she said.
The Q&A session brought up many angles to the organ harvesting issue, from the “profit angle” to “strong principles around people’s rights” and included suggestions for Australian’s way forward in regards to halting organ tourism to China.
Benedict Coyne said Chinese official’s weak claims were underlined by their refusal to allow an international internal investigation. “One question that discredits that false sentiment by the Chinese and it is ‘Why will you not allow independent investigations?'”
Some attendees at the Brisbane forum were hearing about the topic of organ harvesting in China for the first time. Others knew a little about it, but wanted to know more.
Elise, a nurse, said she attended because she wanted to be informed about organ harvesting, “It’s not a very pleasant issue, but then I thought that being a nurse as well that I should sort of educate myself about the issue so I can, you know, tell my family and friends a little bit more about it.”
Laura Blain, who works in hospitality and graphic design, found the topic completely shocking. “It’s a pretty crazy topic. it’s huge, it’s affecting so many people and, yes, I would urge everybody to look into it a little bit.”
Concerned about Chinese doctors’ role in the organ trade, Andrew Smith who writes for the pro life website, LifeSiteNews, said: “It really is that same basic corruption of the medical fraternity, which you allow to happen at your own great peril.” He saw a parallel to what had happened in Auschwitz when he saw how, in China, Falun Gong practitioners were targets of the organ harvesting.
In March this year, Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting (DAFOH), a leading medical advocacy group, estimated that more than 100,000 Falun Gong practitioners were subjected to forced organ harvesting over the past 16 years. They are calling upon The Transplantation Society to demand full disclosure and transparency on organ procurement violations from Chinese participants in a transplant congress being held in Hong Kong during August this year.
Speaking after the screening, commercial pilot, Christian Yates-Round, expressed frustration at the lack of action on the issue. “Does anybody care? I guess I would like it if the whole world just made a stand.” He believes there is an ethical and moral standpoint that needs consideration. “[It] doesn’t matter where or how you come up with the money for the organ, I think where the organ is sourced needs to be ethically answered for,” he said.
Brandon Selic, a community lawyer and state coordinator for the Pirate Party, was aware that illegal organ harvesting was taking place in China and said, “I am glad this documentary was made because people aren’t aware of this and people need to be made aware.”
Julia Sawyer, a tertiary teacher and yoga practitioner, said more people should know and made this suggestion: “Just tell people let people know, it’ll come up one way or another in conversations especially when it is front of mind, so don’t hold back on it,” she said.
Panelist Coyne suggested, “I think one thing people can certainly do is become aware of the issue and talk about the issue with other people, their friends, their colleagues and their communities … .”
Sheridan Harvey and NTD Television contributed to this report.