At a forum Monday evening in Vancouver, three esteemed speakers presented to an audience of about 100 why they believe there is widespread illicit organ harvesting taking place in China.
At the forum, held at the Simon Fraser University's Harbor Center Campus, Winnipeg lawyer David Matas, scholar and author Rabbi Reuven Bulka, and human rights lawyer Clive Ansley spoke about a report released in July exposing the systematic murder of Falun Gong practitioners in China, specifically for the purpose of selling their organs.
A well-known international human rights lawyer, Matas attended the forum while his colleague and co-author of the report, David Kilgour, remained in Europe promoting the report and it's recommendations to governments and related organizations, some of which are already taking action. The two have traveled to 23 countries in the last five months to raise awareness about what Matas has called "a new form of evil."
The report alleges that organs such as kidneys, livers, lungs and hearts are taken from thousands of Falun Gong practitioners and sold at high prices, mostly to foreigners. Prices range from about US$60,000 for a kidney to US$130,000 for a liver.
During their investigation, the two lawyers discovered that an organ can be procured within a matter of weeks in China whereas in all other countries finding a matching donor takes an average of 2.5 years.
"Anyone who knows anything about organ donation will know that this is an impossible promise to make unless the unthinkable is happening," said Bulka at the forum. Bulka is a member of the Canadian Council for Donation and Transplantation.
But the most shocking detail of all contained in the report is that in many cases the organs are taken while the practitioners are alive, sometimes with the use of an anesthetic, sometimes without. After the organs are extracted, the bodies are incinerated.
"If you are all humane people and this is so diabolical that it doesn't register in your mind-if you think that human beings are not capable of such bestial behavior-you are wrong. The unthinkable does not mean that it is the untruth," said Bulka.
Falun Gong is a meditation practice that was outlawed by the Chinese regime in 1999. The crackdown has resulted in an ongoing persecution of thousands of practitioners in the country's labour camps and brainwashing centers. Although it is unknown how many have been tortured to death, Human Rights Watch estimates the number to be about 10,000.
Courtenay-based Ansley, who spent eight years in China as a maritime lawyer, called the Chinese court "a theatre," and said that lawyers are not allowed to defend Falun gong practitioners. He added that the present judicial system was initially created because foreigners were not comfortable investing in a country without courts.
"One hundred percent of all cases in Chinese courts are politically driven and politically decided," said Ansley.
Matas and Kilgour discovered in their investigations that China's organ harvesting business grew dramatically soon after the start of the persecution. They believe this is largely due to the fact that deaths of Falun Gong practitioners in China's prison system don't have to be accounted for.
Members of the Washington-based NGO "Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong in China" asked both Matas and Kilgour separately for help. Matas says that he knew from experience that the likes of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch would not be able to do anything due to the impossible burden of proof they would require.
Both Matas and Kilgour have extensive backgrounds in human rights work; they knew what kind of investigation it would take to test the allegation, and they had the experience to carry it out. As they were refused visas to actually go to China, they had to conduct all their investigations from Canada and other countries.
Matas said that he and Kilgour have met with more witnesses in the course of their travels, and they are planning to make a revision of the report by adding 10 more categories of evidence to the report.
And it seems their work, which Bulka calls "a tremendous sacrifice," is beginning to pay off. To date, the European union has passed a resolution condemning illegal organ harvesting, Australia has greatly lowered the number of people traveling to China to receive transplants, and the Taiwan government is involved "at a very high level" according to Matas.
A code of ethics for dealing with China has been drawn up by the World Transplant Society, and governments are considering legislation that could make it illegal for foreigners to procure organs without receiving a valid letter of consent from the donor.
The Matas-Kilgour report can be downloaded from organharvestinvestigation.net .