BOSTON—A U.S. attorney filed a criminal complaint against two Chinese doctors attending a World Transplantation Congress (WTC) conference in Boston Tuesday. The complaint accuses the two of overseeing forced organ removal from living Falun Gong prisoners of conscience in their hospitals.
Dr. Terri Marsh, the Executive Director of the Human Rights Law Foundation (HRLF), filed the complaint with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Boston on Tuesday morning. The complaint demands an urgent investigation into the two doctors' involvement in organ removal. It also seeks a warrant for their immediate arrest in order to prevent their fleeing back to China while the investigation is conducted.
"I will do anything I have to do to stop the removal of organs from Falun Gong practitioners," said Marsh. "This is a ripple in a wave of criminal lawsuits that we will file in every country against officials and surgeons in China who are involved."
The defendants, Zhonghua Klaus Chen and Tongyu Zhu, are the directors of organ transplant departments in Wuhan and Shanghai hospitals, respectively.
According to the complaint, the defendants, "knowingly and willfully participated in and/or aided and abetted the practice of illegal removal of body organs from Falun Gong practitioners and other detainees." They also "personally and financially benefited from this practice."
Marsh bases these charges on recorded phone conversations in which doctors working in both of the defendants' hospitals openly admitted that the organs they have available for transplants come from practitioners of Falun Gong. Falun Gong is a popular spiritual practice that originated in China and has been persecuted there since 1999.
In one transcript cited in the complaint, a doctor from Zhu's Shanghai hospital converses with an investigator pretending to be shopping for organs. When the caller asks if any of the organs used for transplant come from Falun Gong, the doctor replies, "all of ours are of that type."
Later in the conversation, the doctor specifically mentions kidneys, Zhu's area of expertise.
The transcripts are drawn from a recent investigative report published by David Kilgour, former Canadian Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific, and human rights lawyer David Matas earlier this month. Their independent investigation supported earlier allegations of systematic forced organ removal from Falun Gong practitioners in China. The Kilgour-Matas report estimates that the sources of over 40,000 organ transplants remain unaccounted for.
According to Marsh, because the defendants are the directors of the transplant departments from which the phone admissions were obtained, they are undoubtedly aware of the organ harvesting and bear responsibility for overseeing it. Even if one cannot prove that the doctors engaged in organ removal themselves, under the doctrine of command responsibility, they are accountable for crimes committed by their subordinates.
According to the complaint, the removal of organs harvested from prisoners of conscience in Zhu and Chen's hospitals violates the United Nations' Convention against Torture, which both China and the United States have ratified.
Marsh says that the complaint has a legal basis in U.S. law according to Title 18 section 2340. This statute grants jurisdiction to U.S. courts to prosecute perpetrators of torture present in the United States, irrespective of their nationality or that of their victim.
As for what will happen next, according to Marsh, the U.S. Attorney's office accepted the complaint and will initiate an investigation into the charges. In the meantime, Chen was served a copy of the legal complaint on Tuesday afternoon informing him of the investigation. There is some concern that he will now attempt to leave the United States as soon as possible.
"I hope the investigation will continue even if the doctors leave the jurisdiction [to return to China]," says Marsh. "And hopefully it will lead to an indictment."
Just the Beginning
Marsh says that the complaint against the two doctors is not an isolated occurrence, but a "ripple in a wave" of criminal complaints against officials and other Chinese citizens participating in the campaign against Falun Gong.
"Next week the HRLF will release a report that shows how government departments at all levels in China—central, provincial and municipal—are implicated in the persecution of Falun Gong, including the removal of organs without voluntary consent," says Marsh.
Marsh says that together with HRLF colleagues from Spain and Taiwan, she will file complaints and initiate criminal investigations of Chinese officials and surgeons across the globe.
In addition to the formal complaint, a second prelude to this campaign also occurred this week in Boston. Over 50 legal notices were served to Chinese delegates to the WTC, warning of civil and criminal liability for those participating in organ harvesting. The document was signed by Marsh and her two foreign colleagues, Theresa Chu from Taiwan and Carlos Iglesias from Spain.
"The undersigned human rights attorneys are aware of the ongoing nature of these acts," the notice concludes, "and will continue to track and observe your conduct to determine how to proceed in this matter in the interests of justice, human dignity and all moral principles of significance to the community of Man."