Australian Petition Highlights Grim Organ Trade

Petition with over 72,000 signatures presented at Parliament
April 27, 2013 Updated: December 19, 2013

SYDNEY—A petition with over 72,000 signatures calling for new laws to stop illegal organ harvesting was presented to NSW Upper House member David Shoebridge and Greens MP for Balmain Jamie Parker at the NSW Parliament on Wednesday April 24.

Mr Shoebridge recently proposed legislation which would criminalise NSW residents receiving organs from illegal and unethical sources. He said he was overwhelmed by the support shown by the petition. “The size of this petition and the public response to this issue has been staggering,” he said.

“The number of people signing this petition is more than three times as many people as signed all the petitions presented to the NSW Upper House in 2012.”

Mr Shoebridge said that increasing evidence of forced organ harvesting and unethical trafficking around the world make it “imperative for all governments to close any avenues which may facilitate this gross violation of human rights”.

Australians who travel abroad for transplants may run the risk of receiving an organ that has been forcibly removed from unwilling donors, or unethically trafficked.

Evidence shows poor people in countries like India, Peru and the Philippines have been commercially exploited for their organs, while in China it’s reported that prisoners of conscience – most notably practitioners of the spiritual discipline Falun Gong – are detained without trial and effectively killed to order to meet increasing demand from domestic and international customers for transplants.

Former Chinese Vice Health Minister Huang Jeifu admitted in 2005 that 95 per cent of organs transplanted in China came from executed prisoners. Before that admission, the Chinese authorities denied the practise.

The Australian Senate in March unanimously passed a motion acknowledging two United Nations Special Rapporteur reports detailing the organ harvesting practise in China.

“This is a basic human rights issue and we would hope it can rise above domestic politics and see all members of the NSW Parliament support it,” Mr Shoebridge said.

Mr Shoebridge and Mr Parker received the petitions on April 24, the eve of the fourteenth anniversary of the 1999 Zhongnanhai protest in Beijing.

On April 25, 1999, around 10,000 Falun Gong practitioners gathered in a peaceful stand-in outside the State Council Office of Petitions in Beijing. The protesters asked Communist Party leaders to allow them to continue practising the immensely popular traditional meditation and spiritual practise, also known as Falun Dafa, which had gained around 100 million followers in China alone.

Two months later, however, then Party leader Jiang Zemin launched a brutal crackdown on the practise, creating a secret security agency – known as the 6-10 Office – with instructions to eradicate Falun Gong. What followed and continues today is a large-scale persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China, characterised by detention, labour camps, torture and forced organ harvesting, according to the Falun Dafa Information Centre.

A spokesperson from the Australian Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said that the Government is active in raising human rights issues with their Chinese counterparts.

The Government’s recent visit to China by a high profile delegation saw Prime Minister Julia Gillard raise the issue of religious freedom directly with the new Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

While it’s uncertain whether Falun Gong and organ harvesting were raised on this visit, the DFAT maintains that “China is well aware of our [Australian Government’s] long-held concerns about human rights, particularly regarding Tibet, the treatment of Falun Gong practitioners and organ harvesting, including from executed prisoners,” according to the spokesperson.