I would like to begin with a quote.
The allegations here are so shocking that they are almost impossible to believe. The allegations, if true, would represent a grotesque form of evil which, despite all the depravations humanity has seen, would be new to this planet. The very horror makes us reel back in disbelief. But that disbelief does not mean that the allegations are untrue.
This quote is from the conclusion of a report issued on July 6 by David Kilgour, the former Canadian Secretary of State (Asia Pacific), and David Matas, a Canadian human rights lawyer, into allegations that large-scale organ harvesting from living Falun Gong practitioners is taking place in China. The report found the allegations credible.
These allegations were first made by the paper I work for, The Epoch Times, in an article published on March 9.
That article was an interview with a Chinese journalist named "Peter" who had fled China in order to bring out news of thousands of secret operations taking place in a hospital in a town called Sujiatun. These operations were said by him to be "worse than any nightmare."
Since that first interview with Peter, The Epoch Times reporting has not only confirmed Peter's initial report but revealed that the horrors at Sujiatun were just the tip of the iceberg, part of a system that extends throughout China.
Dr. Wenyi Wang will review the evidence for this organ harvesting in detail later this evening.
I believe this evidence is, as Kilgour and Matas found, convincing to any fair-minded person who reviews it. However, the world has been a little slow to react to this news—there are only a handful of reports not from The Epoch Times that deal with these atrocities, where one might have expected this story to become front page news in every major paper in the world.
I believe that the horror expressed by Kilgour and Matas helps explain this relative silence by the world's media. This horror inspires a certain skepticism. Kilgour and Matas comment on the skepticism they themselves have encountered to their report's findings, recalling something U.S. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter said upon being told in 1943 by Jan Karski of the holocaust. Frankfurter is reported to have said: "I did not say this young man was lying. I said that I was unable to believe what he told me. There is a difference."
In the case of the organ harvesting from living Falun Gong practitioners in China, this kind of skepticism is supported by a lack of knowledge of conditions in China. A little more knowledge about the context within which these crimes have taken place makes them unfortunately much easier to believe.
Tonight I will attempt to give the story within the story of the organ harvesting, explaining the conditions in China that have made these crimes not only possible but likely. I will compare this organ harvesting to the organ harvesting from executed prisoners that has taken place in China for four decades. I will then explain how the persecution of Falun Gong provided the conditions for this new form of organ harvesting. And finally I will discuss the role of the Chinese Communist Party. I have to say that I cannot give a fully satisfactory answer to our question. Besides other difficulties, at bottom we are talking about understanding man's capacity for evil.
Let's begin by considering the pre-existing system for organ harvesting in China.
Before there was the organ harvesting from living Falun Gong practitioners, China had in place a system for harvesting organs from executed prisoners. It has used executed prisoners as the primary source for transplanted organs since organ transplantation began in China.
This pre-existing system is itself something horrible. It treats prisoners as raw material to be exploited for profit. It hopelessly confounds the roles of courts and doctors. Courts are given incentives by the transplant industry to schedule executions. Doctors become de facto members of the criminal justice system. Instead of having as their only priority healing the sick, doctors become assistants in executions.
What makes the organ harvesting from Falun Gong adherents different from this system? I see four significant distinctions.
First, the pre-existing system is part of the criminal justice system, while the organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners is not.
The Chinese legal system scarcely deserves the name. It serves the political needs of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and individual executions often occur for political rather than legal reasons. Moreover, the regime's periodic "Strike Hard" campaigns, which result in thousands of executions annually, are clearly part of the system of terror the CCP uses to rule China. This legal system offers the defendant few protections, and its sentences are often arbitrary and unfair. Death sentences in China are handed out for a long list of crimes, even including commercial offenses such as embezzlement and cigarette smuggling. Still, no matter how fallible this system, among those whom it executes are individuals who actually have committed crimes, and sometimes serious ones.
Falun Gong adherents are not selected for organ harvesting because they have committed crimes. They have not had any trials. They are consigned to labor camps or prisons on the basis of administrative detention, which security officials may impose without going to a court. They are selected for organ harvesting because of their belief, because they practice Falun Gong. And the organ harvesting is part of a systematic effort to eradicate that belief. In the words of Edward McMillan-Scott, the vice president of the European Parliament, this organ harvesting is a form of genocide.
Second, because the pre-existing system is part of the criminal justice system, it is to a limited degree public. Relatives are informed of the death of those executed, although they are usually only informed after the execution has taken place.
In the case of the Falun Gong, they are held in secret, and those selected for organ harvesting seem to be individuals whose imprisonment is not known by the outside world. Their family has no knowledge of their whereabouts, and after the organ harvesting, families are not told of their family member's death. The practitioner simply disappears.
Third, in the pre-existing system of organ harvesting, the prisoners are executed before their organs are taken, usually by a gun shot to the brain.
In the case of Falun Gong adherents, the form of execution is the organ harvesting itself. The reports we have are that, in order to save costs, the Falun Gong are only given a small amount of anesthesia. They may be presumed to die in excruciating pain.
Fourth, the scale of transplantation is now far greater than under the pre-existing system. While China annually leads the world in executions, the rate of executions has not significantly increased since the persecution of Falun Gong began in 1999. However, the rate of organ harvesting has sky rocketed. A look at the official statistics for liver transplants tells the story.
From 1991 to 1998, 78 liver transplants were done in China. The persecution of Falun Gong began in July 1999, and in that year alone the number of liver transplants totaled 118—more than the total for the previous seven years. By 2003, the number of liver transplants had grown to more than 3,000.
The pre-existing system provided the CCP a ready-made institution that could be used against Falun Gong practitioners. But why should Falun Gong be targeted? And how is it possible to do so? In order to understand the organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners, we need to consider how it is part of the persecution of Falun Gong.
Let me start that consideration by saying just a few words about what Falun Gong is. For thousands of years, the Chinese have engaged in body, mind and spiritual practices loosely known as "qigong." Falun Gong is one of these practices. The practitioners of Falun Gong follow the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance in their daily lives, and they practice five simple, meditative exercises. This practice is reported to have remarkable benefits for both physical and mental health. Practitioners of Falun Gong report rapidly overcoming all kinds of previous disease conditions, less stress, better relations with family members and co-workers, and a better sense of purpose in life.
After its introduction to the public in China in May 1992, Falun Gong quickly spread by word of mouth until, in 1999, there were an estimated 100 million Falun Gong adherents.
Jiang Zemin, the head of the CCP in 1999, felt threatened by Falun Gong's popularity—by that time there were more Falun Gong adherents in China than Communist Party members. More particularly, he feared the fact that large numbers of high-ranking Party members were practicing Falun Gong. According to the Falun Dafa Information Center, the family of several members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo—the seven most powerful men in China—practiced Falun Gong, and several members of this committee had read Falun Gong's central text, Zhuan Falun. Jiang also feared the Party would lose its hold on the minds of the Chinese people if they found spiritual independence in the peaceful practice of Falun Gong.
On July 20, 1999, Jiang Zemin began persecuting Falun Gong. Based on the Party's past experience in suppressing the Chinese people, he boasted Falun Gong would be eliminated in three months time.
I would like to make three points about this persecution: first, how this persecution has been systematic and comprehensive; second, how it has dehumanized the practitioners of Falun Gong; and, third, how the Chinese regime encourages the worst possible abuses of the Falun Gong.
An article from The Washington Post in 2001 explains how the Chinese regime had "sanctioned the systematic use of violence against the group, established a network of brainwashing classes and embarked on a painstaking effort to weed out followers neighborhood by neighborhood and workplace by workplace."
Before the persecution began, Jiang Zemin had established an extra-constitutional office called the 6-10 Office whose job is to "eradicate" Falun Gong. The 6-10 Office seeks to identify every single Falun Gong adherent in China and force each one to renounce the practice.
The Washington Post identifies a three-pronged approach adopted by the regime: violence, propaganda, and brainwashing. The violence occurs in jails, labor camps, and brainwashing centers. Falun Dafa Information Center estimates that hundreds of thousands of practitioners have been arrested.
I would like to give you a small sample of the propaganda used to attack Falun Gong. I quote from a translation provided by the BBC monitoring service of a Xinhua news article from September 2003. Xinhua is the official Chinese regime news agency and sets the tone for all media in China.
The broad masses of people have understood more and more the heretical nature of "Falun Gong" for working against science, humanity and society and the ugly features... [of Falun Gong] in doing harm to people's lives, and bringing calamity to the country and the people. The broad masses of people have consciously plunged themselves into the struggle against the "Falun Gong"... The whole country has formed a situation in which the "Falun Gong" ... is being chased by all like rats running across the street.
The image of the Chinese people chasing Falun Gong adherents as though they are rats reminds one of the Nazi propaganda used to vilify the Jews. In fact, some China watchers have noted how, since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, China's propaganda seems to be based on the Nazi's "blood and soil" propaganda from the 1930s.
Central to this propaganda is the glorification of patriotism. The attack on Falun Gong portrays it as against China and in the service of "anti-China" forces. According to the Chinese Communist Party, to be patriotic means despising Falun Gong.
Such dehumanization opens the door for abuse.
Mrs. Chen Zixiu of Weifang died from torture on February 21 2000. Thousands of Falun Gong practitioners have died from torture. According to the Falun Dafa Information Center the deaths of 2,932 can be confirmed. Last year, former Ambassador Mark Palmer estimated that the deaths due to torture were in the range of 10,000.
There is no public record of such deaths, and information is sometimes hard to come by. We know about the details of Mrs. Chen's death because of a Pulitzer Prize winning article by Ian Johnson of the Wall Street Journal. He reports a scene at the end of her life.
That night, Ms. Chen was taken back into the room. After again refusing to give up Falun Gong, she was beaten and jolted with the stun stick, according to two prisoners who heard the incident and one who caught glimpses of it through a door. Her cellmates heard her cursing the officials and saying the central government would punish them once they were exposed. But in an answer that Falun Gong adherents say they heard repeatedly in different parts of the country, the Weifang officials told Ms. Chen that they had been told by the central government that "no measures are too excessive" to wipe out Falun Gong. The beatings continued and would stop only when Ms. Chen changed her thinking, according to two prisoners who say they overheard the incident.
"No measures are too excessive." Throughout China the police have told practitioners that anything can be done to them, and if the practitioners die, the death will be counted as suicide.
The officers who oversaw Mrs. Chen's torture were promoted. The regime puts intense pressure on local officials to stop the practice of Falun Gong. No questions are asked about what means are used, and those who get results are rewarded with promotions and raises. Those who don't get results may be fined or demoted.
The systematic nature of this persecution has provided the Chinese regime with a huge imprisoned population who potentially may be the victims of organ harvesting. The regime's propaganda has attempted to make the Falun Gong a group who are excluded from society and targeted for abuse. The regime's extra-legal persecution of the group has encouraged the most extreme measures to force practitioners to renounce the practice.
Within this context, the use of organ harvesting simply takes the logic of the persecution one step further. After all, if torturing someone to death is encouraged, then why shouldn't one harvest a practitioner's organs, and make a little profit in the bargain?
Of course, the opportunity for profit has helped drive this organ harvesting. Big money is involved. A harvested kidney sells for $56,000 U.S., a harvested liver for $100,000.
From what we can tell, the money made by the hospitals in selling the organ is spread throughout the system, so that everyone involved from the harvesting of the organ to the completion of the transplantation gets a portion. Everyone gets richer.
However, noting that doctors who take part in this can make some profit does not satisfy the question I know we are all asking: how can doctors, who should pledge to use their skills only for the well-being of others, willingly take part in such crimes?
The Chinese human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who happens to be a Christian, recently did an investigative report into the persecution of Falun Gong. In the conclusion to that report he says:
Where did our system fail? It has bred so many vicious public officials who live among us, have been supported by us, who were raised by parents like ours, and have families like ours! The tragic experience of... [Falun Gong practitioners] fully illustrates that, in our society, there is a group of public officials who persistently disregard the basic moral values of human society, and have been continuously using methods that are completely distant from basic human morality and human nature. They covertly scheme their dirty deals that are causing the very destruction of our nation's human nature, basic morals, kindness and conscience.
It is the destruction in China of "human nature, basic morals, kindness and conscience" that we need to understand.
The CCP has ruled China through terror and lies. It has been responsible for killing an estimated 80 million Chinese.
One does not kill 80 million people in a fit of absent-mindedness. Murder, often mass murder, has been CCP policy since it first took power.
The CCP kills in order to instill fear and to enforce absolute belief in its doctrines. However, no matter how much it kills, the CCP has found it needs to change its doctrines in order to assure its rule. Mao's glorification of the peasantry could never produce the wealth or the arms that could defend China from conquest. Thus, the CCP over time has continually had to refute its own ideology. A Party originally founded on the need to kill capitalists now invites capitalists to join its ranks.
The result, then, of 57 years of killing is that everyone in China fears the CCP, but no one, including especially the members of the CCP, believes in communism. The terror of the CCP finally serves only the determination to tyrannize over China, to assure the CCP's rule.
But, while no one in China believes in communism anymore, the CCP has also assured that no one believes in very much else.
Like all tyrants, the CCP is extremely jealous. It has sought to assure that no belief other than the sanctioned ideology might hold pride of place in the hearts of the Chinese people. It has from the very beginning of its rule tried to destroy Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Christianity. These faiths have been allowed to continue only as shells of their former selves meant to satisfy any vestigial urges in the Chinese people toward belief, while depriving that belief of any real power.
The persecution of Falun Gong is simply part of the CCP's long-standing hostility to faith of any kind. This hostility has uprooted in the Chinese people all of the sources of traditional morality. There is in China no publicly accepted belief that can restrain and give order to the passions and provide the basis for community.
Of course, the CCP's terror has inescapably taught important moral lessons to the Chinese people—negative ones. It has taught each individual to be wary, to trust no one, to place self-preservation above all, and to be insensitive to the sufferings of others.
The one positive moral injunction the CCP has urged on its citizens in the past two decades is to get rich. However, as Adam Smith understood, the human heart hardly needs to be told to be selfish. The pursuit for wealth in China occurs in a context within which there are no restrains on the desire to acquire.
Regularly one reads in the Chinese press about the adulteration of food and medicine, sometimes with fatal results. Economic enterprises pollute the environment to a catastrophic extent. Development occurs by seizing the homes of urban dwellers and the land of farmers with little or no compensation. Lives are ruined so the developers can make a little more on their projects.
The gleaming skyscrapers of Shanghai and Beijing are often built by peasants who never get paid their wages. There are heartbreaking stories of such workers who, with the building nearing completion, are not willing to face the shame of returning to their villages penniless and throw themselves off the topmost floor.
China's mining industry has by far the worst safety record in the world, as mining companies will not spend enough money to keep miners safe.
CCP officials lead the way in this economy of corruption, and steal from everyone—last year there was a report of over 4,000 CCP officials having fled China taking tens of billions of dollars with them.
When a Chinese surgeon looks into the eyes of a living Falun Gong practitioner before slicing him open to take his kidney, this doctor is simply acting according to the same moral norms that are unfortunately all too common in today's China.
In short, the large scale organ harvesting from living Falun Gong practitioners is finally possible because of the effects on the human heart of 57 years of rule by the CCP.
Our horror at this organ harvesting ultimately does not challenge our skepticism, it challenges our complacency. It forces us to examine ourselves. We in the West have for decades now assumed that we could do good for China by trying to get rich in China as rapidly as we could. We very comfortably found no conflict between our own ease and what we said was good for the Chinese people.
But our buying cheap products from China, while pouring billions of investment into China, has not changed the CCP. In the words of Edward McMillan-Scott in a report he wrote for the European Parliament upon returning to China after ten years, "The Chinese communist regime is still a system of atrocity, despotism, and bigotry."
In the end, the organ harvesting from living Falun Gong practitioners challenges us to understand the horror of the rule of the CCP over China.
This is a speech given at a "Forum on China's Illegal Organ Harvesting" held at the Ethical Center of St. Louis on August 16. The talk was co-sponsored by the St. Louis Falun Gong Practitioner's Group of St. Louis and the Ethical Action Committee of the Ethical Society. It was supported by the Jewish Community Relations Council.