Unsolved: Organ Harvesting in China

August 5, 2009 Updated: September 8, 2009

The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, Dr. Manfred Nowak (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images)
The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, Dr. Manfred Nowak (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images)
No straight answers have been produced by the Chinese regime over the allegations of state-sanctioned organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners, says Manfred Nowak, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture.

“The Chinese government has yet to come clean and be transparent,” said Nowak in an interview with The Epoch Times. “It remains to be seen how it could be possible that organ transplant surgeries in Chinese hospitals have risen massively since 1999, while there are never that many voluntary donors available.”

The Chinese Communist Party has denied the allegations for three years despite several compelling investigative reports and several probes by the United Nations. Falun Gong is a spiritual practice based on truth, compassion, tolerance, and includes five sets of meditative exercises. In July 1999, the communist regime in China began persecuting people who practice it.

Investigative Reports

International human rights lawyer David Matas, and former crown prosecutor and member of parliament, David Kilgour, published their first report in July 2006, following up with a second in January 2007.

Their report, “Bloody Harvest: Revised Report Into Allegations of Organ Harvesting of Falun Gong Practitioners in China,” concludes: "We believe that there has been and continues today to be large-scale organ seizures from unwilling Falun Gong practitioners … The very horror made us reel back in disbelief.”

Major findings include 41,500 organs in transplants unaccounted for between 2001 and 2005. Transplants increased in parallel with the persecution of Falun Gong. In 2001 the amount of liver transplants in China numbered seven. By 2005 it had reached 2,168 for one hospital. The Chinese military is heavily involved in the transplant system in China, and the regime has admitted that the vast majority of organs for transplant come from executed prisoners.

“The explanation that most of these organs come from death row inmates is inconclusive,” said Nowak. “If so, the number of executed felons must then be much higher as so far assumed. I have asked the Chinese government to provide clarity and asked for precise data.”

The accusations remain, said Nowak. “They were denied, but the Chinese government has not invalidated them, but on the other hand they haven´t been proven either. This makes for a difficult dilemma—one that only be resolved if China is willing to cooperate. And that is what is lacking.”

Map of China showing regions where staff admitted during phone calls that organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners was taking place.  (Bloody Harvest report, Kilgour-Matas)
Map of China showing regions where staff admitted during phone calls that organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners was taking place. (Bloody Harvest report, Kilgour-Matas)

United Nations Requests Ignored

Nowak has submitted two reports to the U.N. Human Rights Council formally requesting the Chinese regime respond to the allegations. The report states, in part, that, “The [Falun Gong] practitioners were given injections to induce heart failure, and therefore were killed in the course of the organ harvesting operations or immediately thereafter.”

“Nothing seems to have changed for the better,” said Nowak. “We lack exact statistics. I cannot say if the situation has changed since I left China. But I have no reason to assume anything has turned for the better, because I have not had any such hints. The majority of the inmates in these [forced labor] camps were Falun Gong members. And that is so frightening, because none of these people were ever given the benefit of a trial. They were never charged.”

“Bloody Harvest” outlines extraordinarily short wait times for organs in China—one to two weeks for a liver compared with 32.5 months in Canada (median wait for 2003) as a further incriminating factor. Kilgour and Matas also present self-accusatory material from Chinese transplant centre Web sites that advertise the immediate availability of large numbers of organs from living donors. Organ price lists were available on Chinese hospital Web sites.

The Kilgour-Matas report includes evidence from a hospital Web site (now removed), that claims, from “January 2005 to now, we have done 647 liver transplants—12 of them done this week. The average waiting time is two weeks."

A chart also removed about the same time indicates that in 1998 the hospital completed only nine liver transplants—by 2005 it had completed fully 2248.

No Trials, Forced Labor Camps

In a 2005 trip to China that took Nowak 10 years of requests to the regime, he discovered that two-thirds of the torture cases reported in labor camps were Falun Gong practitioners.

Falun Gong practitioners are put into forced labor camps, said Nowak. “In the same way the officials deal with prostitutes or with those that exhibit 'other socially damaging behavior.' One can say that a relatively big part of the inmates in these camps are Falun Gong persons. It definitely is one of the largest groups.”

Nowak said the number of practitioners in China is huge. “In spite of the persecution [it] has not diminished, but increased,” he said.

“Genocide has a specific background—ethnic, racist, or religious discrimination; in this case it could be religious discrimination. “[What the regime is doing] amounts to a systematic repression of a specific group of people for religious/political reasons, although the Chinese leadership has always denied this to be a religious movement.”

Florian Godovits contributed to this article.

In a phone conversation with a Chinese doctor, an investigator posed as an interested transplant patient. After the doctor revealed that the organs come from prisons, the investigator asked:

M: "…and it was from healthy Falun Gong practitioners…?"

Lu: "Correct. We would choose the good ones because we assure the quality in our operation."

M: "That means you choose the organs yourself."

Lu: "Correct…"

M: "What if the chosen one doesn't want to have blood drawn?"

Lu: "He will for sure let us do it."

M: "How?"

Lu: "They will for sure find a way. What do you worry about? These kinds of things should not be of any concern to you. They have their procedures."

M: "Does the person know that his organ will be removed?"

Lu: "No, he doesn't."



The transcript of a conversation with a doctor at the Nanning City Minzu Hospital in Guangxi Autonomous Region on May 22, 2006 reads:

"Why is it easy for them [Guangzhou] to get [organs from Falun Gong practitioners]?

"Because they are an important institution. They contact the judicial system in the name of the whole university."

"Then they use organs from Falun Gong practitioners?

"Correct." …

"What you used before (organs from Falun Gong practitioners), were they from detention centre(s) or prison(s)?"

"From prisons."

"And it was from healthy Falun Gong practitioners…?"

"Correct. We would choose the good ones because we assure the quality in our operation."


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