PARLIAMENT HILL, Ottawa—Mounting evidence that China’s communist regime is killing prisoners of conscience to sell their organs needs to be investigated, Canadian members of Parliament said Tuesday.
Shocking allegations that the Chinese regime killed over 40,000 Falun Gong adherents between 2000 and 2005 in order to harvest their organs for profit first emerged in 2006 when two Canadian investigators, human rights lawyers David Matas and former MP David Kilgour, published a report on the issue.
The pair updated MPs on some developments since that first report at a parliamentary international human rights subcommittee Tuesday.
Matas said hard evidence is difficult to come by but facts supporting the case have continued to mount in the years since they first published their report.
Meanwhile, the regime has made no credible effort to disprove the allegations, though it could do so by providing detailed information about criminal executions and the source and number of organ transplants.
The Xinjiang Procedure
Investigative reporter Ethan Gutmann, who was not present, uncovered that organ harvesting from political prisoners actually began in Xinjiang a decade earlier where Uyghur political prisoners were executed and harvested.
Gutmann spoke with guard Nijat Abdureyimu, who was involved in executions, and surgeon Enver Tohti, who harvested organs from a living prisoner.
He also spoke with those who purchased organs that were taken from Uyghur political prisoners, and another doctor who worked on matching blood types from political prisoners in Xinjiang who were slated for execution.
That doctor told Gutmann he had stopped hearing about organ harvesting from Uyghur political prisoners in 1999. Coincidentally, that was the year Falun Gong was outlawed and prisons swelled with Falun Gong appellants.
Gutmann’s investigation revealed a pattern: blood types are matched, prisoners are executed, and organs are quickly harvested for immediate transplantation.
Gutmann called it the Xinjiang procedure.
“Yet the Xinjiang procedure spread. By the end of 1999, the Uyghur crackdown would be eclipsed by Chinese security’s largest-scale action since Mao: the elimination of Falun Gong,” he wrote in the Weekly Standard in 2011.
Gutmann estimates that three million Falun Gong adherents have passed through the Chinese corrections system.
Human Rights Watch and the U.S. State Department have both cited sources that suggest Falun Gong adherents have comprised half the population of Chinese labour camps. The exact population of those camps is unknown but most estimates range upwards from 200,000.
Those camps are “vast live organ donor banks,” Matas told the subcommittee.
Short Wait Time for Organs
Falun Gong prisoners of conscience who are subject to routine torture at the hands of guards—or by other prisoners encouraged by guards—are also uniquely subject to blood and organ testing, Matas testified.
While the Chinese regime has stopped denying death row prisoners are the main source of organs, it still denies Falun Gong adherents and political prisoners are executed for their organs.
The regime has never bothered to explain how the number of transplants vastly exceeds the number of criminal executions. Nor has it managed to explain how hospitals can offer transplants in as little as a week.
“A short waiting time for a deceased donor transplant means the presence of a large bank of living organ sources ready to be killed on order to assure such short waiting times,” said Matas.
That short wait time was once a point of pride for Chinese hospitals. Before Matas and Kilgour published their report, Chinese hospitals routinely boasted of short wait times on their websites.
The Organ Transplant Center of the Armed Police General Hospital in Beijing noted the profitability of the system.
“Our Organ Transplant Centre is our main department for making money,” its website proclaimed in 2006.”
In their 2006 investigation, Matas and Kilgour found 14 hospitals that admitted to sourcing organs from live donors. In phone calls posing as possible patients or other interested parties, investigators found several doctors or other individuals who admitted Falun Gong adherents were the source of transplants.
One doctor, Lu Guoping at the Nanning City Minzu Hospital, later said in a documentary on Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV that Matas and Kilgour fabricated the call. The documentary did not mention that Matas and Kilgour had an audio recording of the call. Matas said the documentary only confirmed Lu’s identity.
Chen Rongshan, former director of Urology of the 205 People’s Liberation Army Hospital in Jinzhou, admitted in a phone call in 2012 that Falun Gong adherents were sourced for organs, but said it had been approved by the court.
The caller, a researcher with the World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong (WOIPFG), posed as a member of a “cross-department special investigative team” for the Wang Lijun matter.
Deadly Injection Method
Wang Lijun made international headlines last year for when he fled from his post as the head of public security in Chongqing and attempted to defect at a U.S. consulate in Chengdu. Wang and his former boss, Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai, were among the most vehement persecutors of Falun Gong in China. They are currently both in prison on unrelated charges.
Wang took an award for his research on organ harvesting in 2006. He had conducted research on a lingering injection execution method which would allow organ removal for transplants before the person died from the injection.
“In his acceptance speech, he talked about ‘thousands’ of on-site organ transplant cases from injected prisoners in which he and his staff participated,” said Matas.
“He said, ‘To see someone being killed and to see this person’s organs being transplanted to several other person’s bodies is profoundly stirring,’ a remark that would have been worthy of Josef Mengele.”
One of the first sources Kilgour and Matas came across was the ex-wife of a surgeon from Shenyang City in Liaoning Province. She told the investigators her doctor husband had told her he removed corneas from around 2,000 Falun Gong prisoners over two years before refusing to continue.
“The surgeon made it clear to his wife that none of them survived the experience because other surgeons removed other vital organs and all their bodies were burned,” Matas told the committee.
In a parallel confession, Dr. Wang Guoqi told the U.S. Congress in 2001 he had taken skin and corneas from 100 executed criminal prisoners, one of them still alive.
“The only substantial difference in the two stories was a difference in the type of prisoner,” noted Matas.
Matas said that organ transplant surgery “is conducted in almost total secrecy.”
Families of transplant recipients told Matas and Kilgour they were denied information about the donor, doctors, or support staff. International investigators are also denied entry into China’s labour camps.
“They won’t allow the Red Cross into these camps, or anybody from outside. There is no reporting, there are no NGOs. They don’t tell you where the camps are, they don’t tell you what the populations are,” said Matas.
“The way we find out about labour camps is we talk to people who have been in them and then get out of the camps and out of China.”
Thousands of disappeared Falun Gong adherents are unaccounted for in China, including Michelle Zhang’s sister. Zhang, who now lives in Toronto, said her sister, Yunhe, disappeared within the prison system after her 2002 arrest. Prison officials now deny ever having detained Yunhe.
Liberal MP Irwin Cotler said the amount of evidence that organ harvesting is taking place in China demands that Chinese authorities acknowledge and disprove the allegations.
“The burden of proof at this point must be on the Chinese authorities,” he said.
Conservative MP Scott Reid, who chairs the committee, worried that the profitability of organ harvesting could make it harder to extinguish.
“Taking productive citizens and persecuting them is economically inefficient, but when you can make it self-financing … there is no limit to what it can do,” he said
Reid said later that he was worried that without an alternative organ system, and with strong internal demand, that desperate Chinese families would push for organ transplants, regardless of the source. Executed prisoners currently account for nearly all of China’s organs for transplant.
Each MP on the committee spoke of their concern about organ harvesting in China.
Liberal MP Judy Sgro said she hoped the hearing would make people more aware of the problem.
“People can get away with things when people don’t know. But when enough people hear about these kinds of things, they will be as appalled as I am if this is allowed to continue.”