Reporting on Organ Harvesting from Living Falun Gong Practitioners
On March 9 The Epoch Times website first reported organ removal from living Falun Gong practitioners in the Sujiatun District of Shenyang City in Northeast China.
On April 12 major wire services published accounts of a press briefing held by the Chinese State Council on April 11. Officials of the Sujiatun District of Shenyang City and officials of the Liaoning Thrombus Treatment Center of Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine denied that a large number of Falun Gong practitioners had once been detained in Sujiatun and also denied the harvesting of organs from living Falun Gong practitioners there.
These officials said that The Epoch Times had fabricated rumors and slandered the local government and the hospital. They indicated that they would possibly sue The Epoch Times . Therefore, we are here today to set the facts straight.
First of all, we would like to emphasize the following: we, whether as reporters or simply as human beings, would not wish that what we reported was true. Sometimes we hoped that the live organ removal was a misunderstanding and didn't exist. Unfortunately, as we conducted more in-depth investigation, we believed even more that this has happened.
The Epoch Times is a newspaper, a newspaper with a particular strength on China-related issues. Our focus is the ongoing human rights violations in China, corruption of officials, and news about the persecution of minority groups. The above news cannot get reported in China's state-owned media. Nor is it reported in Chinese-language media outside China. Therefore the The Epoch Times has become a major news source in which Chinese people can read honest, factual reporting about China.
At the beginning of March, a Chinese journalist revealed something shocking to us: At a hospital in the Sujiatun District of Shenyang City, organ harvesting from living Falun Gong practitioners was being done on a large-scale. Shortly afterwards, another person, a person who used to work at the hospital and whose then husband had performed organ harvesting on a daily basis, verified this information. The Epoch Times published a series of reports starting on March 9.
That the news has attracted a lot of attention from many people, including Falun Gong practitioners, human rights organizations, some news organizations and some governments, is not surprising. The denial of the Chinese government is not surprising at all, either.
Our independent investigation shows that the number of organ transplants in China has increased sharply recently. There is also a huge organ trade group, which has secret activities in Hong Kong, Taiwan and outside China. I can assure everyone here: The group is also active in the United States.
Ever since this story broke, we have received many letters and phone calls from China. These individuals have verified that organ removal from living Falun Gong practitioners has taken place. We have more sources than we have reported: medical professionals, policemen, and high-ranking government officials. For reasons we all know, these people cannot speak today at this press conference. However, in the future, we will see witnesses coming forward one after another to verify this story and add to our knowledge of what has been done.
According to the latest information we have obtained, the Sujiatun hospital was not alone in harvesting organs from living Falun Gong practitioners. Similar activities commonly occur in labor camps all over China.
One example is a Falun Gong practitioner in Daqing City in northeast China. He was a software engineer in the Petroleum Discovery and Development Research Institute in Daqing city. On September 24, 2000, he was beaten to death by Feng Xi and other policemen in the Daqing Labor Camp. His organs were removed, including the heart and the brain. It is legitimate to suspect that he was killed for his organs. We have seen many similar cases.
The illegal removal of the organs of executed prisoners in China have been widely reported by international media and human rights organizations. The U.S. Congress held hearings on this subject in 1994, 1998, and 2001.
But what we have reported is different than the abuses we had already known about. In the case of the Falun Gong practitioners, harvesting the organs is the cause of death, not execution. The organ harvesting is incredibly brutal. At Sujiatun it was done with little or no anesthetic. And the scale of this goes far beyond anything previously reported. It involves a large number of people, so large that it is beyond our imagination.
People don't understand the Sujiatun incident because they don't know the background of the persecution of Falun Gong. The Chinese government has been covering up this persecution. Apart from The Epoch Times , there are very few media reports on it, and even in those few reports, we too often find the Chinese regime's propaganda about Falun Gong treated with respect. The Chinese regime has tempted Western media with the China market, and this may have led some news organizations to be careful of what they report. And Chinese officials have put pressure on governments around the world—sometimes successfully—to remain silent on the persecution of Falun Gong. Therefore, people may feel the news of organ harvesting from living Falun Gong practitioners came out of nowhere.
In fact, the Sujiatun incident is only the tip of the iceberg. We have learned this involves even larger numbers of Falun Gong practitioners and has been occurring, and has been covered up, in labor camps throughout China.
During the apparent peak of the organ harvesting between 2001 and 2003, the major camps that detained Falun Gong practitioners became overcrowded, with the number of detainees maintained at a level of 5,000-20,000 in each. Many Falun Gong practitioners were transferred to other facilities including mental institutions and hospitals. The Liaoning Thrombus Treatment Center of Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine in the Sujiatun District of Shenyang City in Liaoning Province (the Sujiatun Hospital) and its affiliated units was one such facility.
Those who were picked for organ removal usually came from rural areas in China. They didn't have a job, or high-level education, or any family background in the society. Or they couldn't contact their family members at all. After their blood type was examined, and tissue matching was performed, they were killed to meet the demand of organ transplantation in the market.
It is estimated that 100,000 Falun Gong practitioners have disappeared or are under arrest. Their family members don't know their whereabouts. The Chinese government refuses to contact the practitioners' families for them. Among the Epoch Times staff members here in the U.S., there are several people whose family members have been missing for many years.
According to the Clearwisdom web site, from July 20, 1999 to July 2001, about 7 million Falun Gong practitioners went to Beijing to appeal. In the months around July 2001, many Falun Gong practitioners gathered in Beijing urban areas. 300,000 is estimated to be the peak number of practitioners staying in Beijing; if those staying in Beijing's suburbs is considered, the number rises to around 700,000. A 1998 Shanghai TV program reported before the persecution began that 100 million Chinese were practicing Falun Gong.
The Chinese regime, in order to put pressure on practitioners, persecutes not only those who practice Falun Gong, but everyone connected to them. To avoid having their family, friends, and co-workers being persecuted because of them, detained Falun Gong practitioners refused to provide their names and locations. Witnesses say that detained practitioners are called by numbers, not names.
The Falun Gong practitioners detained in the Sujiatun area were transferred there because of the overcrowding of the labor camps. Ms. Wang Yuzhi, a survivor of the Wanjia Labor Camp in Harbin City of northeast China, can tell us more details of labor camps in China and her personal experience of almost becoming the object of organ harvesting.
The ex-wife of a surgeon said that every surgeon involved in the live organ removal scheme knew that the victims were Falun Gong practitioners. When the doctor asked if it would be murder to perform organ harvesting, since these people were alive, leaders in the Department of Health said no one would be accountable for the deaths of Falun Gong practitioners. This is helping to “cleanse” the nation. Detained Falun Gong practitioners are unidentified.
The official—although secret—policy of China's regime toward Falun Gong is to “destroy their reputation, suffocate them financially, and exterminate them physically.” This policy, combined with the secret arrests of Falun Gong practitioners who have disappeared on a large scale, has provided the necessary conditions for illegal organ traders.
In fact, the supply of organs in China has been very abundant. We can see many organ transplantation advertisements online. Many people go to get organ transplantations in China. Some organ receivers and their family members knew that the organs came from Falun Gong practitioners. Now they are not ready to speak out yet, for various reasons.
We have seen reports of investigations made by calling doctors in hospitals in Henan, Shandong, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Beijing, Tianjin, Liaoning and Hubei Provinces/Cities in China. Doctors have said openly that their organ sources were healthy bodies between 20 and 30 years old. Several hospitals didn't bother to hide the fact that the organs were from Falun Gong practitioners.
In the section “Facts about Chinese Transplantation,” the official web page of the China International Transplantation Network Assistance Center (CITNAC) at Hui-Gong Street, Shenhe District, Shenyang City states, “There are more than 35,000 kidney transplant operations that have been done in public hospitals in 29 cities, provinces and municipalities in China, and the number of kidney transplant operations is at least 5,000 every year all over the country. So many transplantation operations are owing to the support of the Chinese government. The Supreme Demotic Court, Supreme Demotic Law-officer, Police, Judiciary, Department of Health and Civil Administration have enacted a law together to make sure that organ donations are supported by the government. This is unique in the world.”
The FAQ section of the website for the China International Transplantation Network Assistance Center (CITNAC) based in Shenyang City, the same city where the Sujiatun Hospital is located, states: “It may take only one week to find out the suitable donor, the maximum time being one month because the kidney transplant needs to find a HLA tissue match…Our organs do not come from brain death victims because the state of the organ may not be good.” The median wait time for a matched kidney in the U.S. is a full two years. Since the survival time for a kidney for transplantation is only about 24 to 48 hours, medical professionals believe that the existence of a huge, readily accessible organ bank is the only explanation for the promise of such a short waiting time for a kidney transplant. Dr. Wenyi Wang, who completed two years of a pathology residency at Mount Sinai Medical Center, can provide more details.
Given this background, and the fact that labor camps in China have been harvesting human organs for over twenty years, it is not that hard to imagine that illegal groups have utilized Falun Gong practitioners as organ sources and perform live organ removals. A large live organ bank cannot be sustained if there is not a large group of Falun Gong practitioners who may be arbitrarily killed.
Surprisingly, some international media did not raise the above common sense questions at the press briefing held in Beijing to discuss these issues. They have not reported a lot of facts revealed by the Epoch Times and other institutions. The principle of balanced reporting seems not to apply when it comes to the Chinese Communist Party.
In fact, prior to yesterday's denial, the spokesperson of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Qin Gang, denied the Sujiatun incident on March 28. He denied two things: organ harvesting from living Falun Gong practitioners at Sujiatun and organ harvesting from executed prisoners in China. We have reports from Radio Free Asia and Voice of America on his denials.
It is obvious that there is organ harvesting of executed prisoners in China. The Deputy Minister of Health, Huang Jiefu acknowledged this in August of last year at an international WHO meeting. Mr. Qin Gang didn't tell us the truth on this issue. Of the two things he denied, we clearly know one of the two was a lie. Can we trust his denial of the other issue?
Officials of the Liaoning Thrombus Treatment Center of Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine stated that the hospital does not have the ability to conduct such large scale live organ removal. It is true that a hospital cannot possibly orchestrate this: transferring people from labor camps and performing live organ removals at the hospital facility. This is exactly what we want to find out: How many high level agencies are behind this organ harvesting scheme? One thing we are now sure is: some high-ranking officials in the Departments of Health and Public Security Bureau were the real bosses of this scheme. Witnesses have informed us that this was a crime sponsored by the state.
Before public denial of the Sujiatun incident, the Chinese Communist Party rushed out a regulation regarding organ transplantation, effective on July 1. Investigations show that, following our reporting on Sujiatun, the number of organ transplantations increased suddenly in many areas, including Heilongjiang, Liaoning, Jilin, Beijing, Tianjin, Henan, Hebei, Hubei, Hunan, Shanghai, Zhejiang, Yunan, Anhui, Shanxi, and Xinjiang Provinces/Cities. Many hospitals have extended hours for batches of organ transplantation operations. Hospitals told an investigator that: he should rush in for an operation; many organs will be available soon; future supplies may be difficult after this batch is used up. All pieces of information indicate that the Chinese Communist Party is trying to eliminate all evidence quickly while denying it in public. A full investigation is imminent.
At the April 11 briefing, the Chinese State Council invited media to go interview in the Sujiatun area. However, we have noticed a Radio Free Asia April 8 report about Sun Xiaodi, a person who has been appealing regarding a nuclear reactor leakage in China for several years, being arrested in the Sujiatun area. The local police told Sun that the Sujiatun area was considered a “highly sensitive area.” The authorities were alarmed when this dissident appeared in Sujiatun and arrested him again. It is reported that the Sujiatun area is on an internal “security surveillance” status. Any strangers who visit the area for more than 3 days will be followed and may be arrested.
Since news of organ harvesting at this facility was brought to light, the Falun Gong practitioners held there have been transferred, and all evidence has been removed. In addition, many plainclothes agents are posing as local residents and taxi drivers in the Sujiatun area to give false information to investigators and journalists as part of what appears to be a skillful cover up.
According to the reports of the Beijing press conference, the officials of Sujiatun stated that they were considering suing The Epoch Times . We hope that the Chinese regime will allow an impartial court to conduct a full investigation of the issue, including independent investigation on labor camps in China. The Chinese government doesn't like The Epoch Times . As of today, there are at least 5 Epoch Times reporters and many Epoch Times columnists in jail in China.
On March 27 Rudolph Vrba died in Vancouver. Vrba and Alfred Wetzler were two of the first Jews who managed to escape from the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. In April 1944, they had presented to the allies the first detailed reports of the extent of the holocaust in Europe, including details of the atrocities committed at the Auschwitz concentration camp. As first-hand witnesses, Vrba and Alfred Wetzler had written a shocking and detailed report about the crimes against humanity and the human slaughter that had been committed at Auschwitz. However, at that time in history, many people did not believe that the report was accurate. As a result, the information in the report was suppressed. Subsequent to the release of this report, during the time between May 15 and July 7, 1944, an additional 437,000 innocent Jews were sent to the Auschwitz death camp.
The Epoch Times quickly realized that this crime was more than a just a standard news story. It was a large-scale genocide being committed by the state. It was a crime against humanity. The story exposed by the Epoch Times is beyond the scope of the imagination of any decent human being. It is an evil state of affairs that deserves investigation by the global community. Such an investigation may help insure the rescue of those Falun Gong practitioners still being detained as prisoners at the organ harvesting centers and throughout China.
Looking at different reports of supporting evidence in this case is like looking at an apple from different perspectives. People see evidence differently when viewed from different angles. No one yet has the ability to see the entire picture. Witnesses have repeatedly emphasized that the currently revealed facts are just the tip of the iceberg. It is natural that some readers may find it difficult to understand because some of the details have not yet been fully investigated.
One of the witnesses at Sujiatun is the ex-wife of a surgeon at the hospital. She has been evading the authorities for several years. Only after she finally escaped to the United States was she gradually able to step forward and tell her story. For her, the painful process of telling her story is also a process of getting rid of the fear of painful retribution by authorities, a fear from which she has suffered for years. We believe more facts and information will soon emerge in support of her account of the atrocities at Sujiatun.
Because the evil act of removing healthy organs from living Falun Gong practitioners was done secretively, some reporting details may be incomplete. Faced with such atrocities, we hope that the public will understand if these first reports are unable to tell the whole story. The world should not allow these crimes to continue and grow worse while waiting for additional evidence to complete the investigation. This crime against humanity deserves immediate global attention and investigation.