As the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom has made the case over three days of meetings at the State Department for the importance of opposing religious persecution, a side event on July 26, organized by Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting (DAFOH), gave a compelling example of how crucial an international response to persecution can be.
In July 1999, the Chinese Communist Party began a campaign to eradicate Falun Gong, a spiritual practice with 70 million to 100 million adherents in China. The world’s governments and human rights and other civil society organizations did little in response, said Dr. Torsten Trey, executive director of DAFOH.
Trey says the Chinese regime, in the absence of any strong international response, began a “cold” or “slow-motion” genocide targeting Falun Gong practitioners. Forced organ harvesting has played a key role in this.
Dr. Glynn Gilcrease III, a medical oncologist at the University of Utah School of Medicine, explained that forced organ harvesting is the state-sanctioned practice of removing organs from non-consenting prisoners of conscience.
“This is only done in China,” Gilchrist said.
Trey laid out the case for why the forced organ harvesting is an act of genocide. He began by presenting the Chinese regime’s official numbers for transplantations in China, which have barely increased since 2006.
Then Trey began providing the evidence that these numbers don’t tell the real story. “They are hiding something,” Trey said.
Since 2000, the evidence shows, there has been a dramatic increase in the infrastructure used for organ transplants in China. Hospital beds have dramatically increased, as have the number of transplant teams on transplant wards. The sale of anti-rejection drugs has likewise skyrocketed.
While the official numbers for the nation have hovered around 9,000 to 10,000 transplants per year, some individual Chinese hospitals are reporting doing 1,000 transplants in one year. The Chinese regime says that there are 173 hospitals in China that do transplants; Western experts say the actual number is significantly higher.
A South Korean documentary by Chosun TV showed a staff member inside a Chinese hospital in October 2017 explaining how organ transplantation is done in China.
To receive a kidney transplant costs $150,000. However, if a patient is in a hurry, they can pay extra and get the organ sooner. The staff member said a kidney usually takes about two weeks, although in their ward, someone recently had to wait seven weeks because they needed both a kidney and a pancreas.
The average wait time for a kidney in the United States, according to the National Kidney Foundation, is three to five years, or longer in some states.
Dr. Jessica Russo, a psychologist at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, pointed out that China is hiding the truth about the forced organ harvesting because the regime is sensitive to how it is viewed by the world.
Russo recounted how the Chinese regime set out to normalize its cold genocide of Falun Gong practitioners.
She said that the regime knew its campaign to eradicate a peaceful spiritual practice would not be accepted widely around the world, and so it asked a Western PR firm what it should do. The advice? Paint Falun Gong as a cult.
This was the strategy, using interviews given to Western media that slandered Falun Gong, combined with domestic propaganda in China that Russo said was similar to that used by the Nazis against the Jews.
The demonization of Falun Gong by the Chinese regime is not accidental. Russo said that Falun Gong is based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance, which are the opposite of what the Chinese Communist Party stands for.
Gilcrease began his presentation by quoting the ethicist Arthur Caplan of the New York University School of Medicine: “It is not up for discussion whether murder for parts is taking place in China. The question is whether we will continue to put up with it.”
The right approach to dealing with the Chinese regime’s forced organ harvesting may not be obvious, though. Gilcrease said, “This crime is so new and so different that we don’t have policies to deal with it.”
Gilcrease recommended that U.S. institutions stop training Chinese doctors in transplantation and that privacy laws be reformed so that patients would be required to reveal where and from whom they received an organ transplant. Nations should look at imitating laws passed by Israel and Taiwan meant to stop organ tourism.
Earlier in the day, Vice President Mike Pence announced that religious freedom was a top U.S. priority.
Speculating on what this might mean for U.S. policy on forced organ harvesting, Trey said there first has to be an awareness expressed by the United States of China’s intent to eradicate Falun Gong. Then there must be a commitment to take action.
Russo added, “If we don’t take responsibility to end this crime, then we are complicit in it.”