Taiwan Shuts Down Organ Transplant Tourism

June 21, 2015 Updated: June 22, 2015

Taiwan’s Parliament has made amendments to its organ transplantation law that would have the effect of criminalizing the transplantation of organs from executed prisoners in China, part of a global trend to halt the trafficking of human organs in China.

In a June 12 session in Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan, a number of important amendments to the Human Organ Transplant Ordinance were read and passed as law.

Under the updated legislation, patients who travel abroad to receive an organ acquired by illegal means can be sentenced up to five years in jail and face fines from $NT300,000 (about $9,700) up to $NT15,000,000 (about $484,000).

The new amendments place some of the responsibility of regulation on doctors and hospitals. Doctors must file a report for any patient who receives a transplant overseas and carries out follow-up treatment in the country. Both doctors and hospitals are subjected to fines of up to $NT150,000 (about $4,840) if they fail to submit reports. Medical institutions and staff will incur criminal charges for filing false reports.

Lee Po-Chang, chairman of Taiwan’s Organ Registry and Sharing Center, said Taiwanese doctors can refer their patients to overseas hospitals that acquire organs via legitimate means. Doctors still need to submit a report on these cases upon their patients’ return.

Tien Chiu-chin, a lawmaker from Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party, said: “Organ shortage is a global issue, and organ transplant tourism has become an issue for both global medical ethics and international human rights. Forced organ harvesting and organ trafficking are not just violations of organ procurement laws but also crimes against humanity. That’s why we amended the laws and penalties to ban brokerage of organs, and transplant tourism.”

Taiwan’s organ transplant regulations “have reached international standards,” Tien said.

Indeed, Taiwan’s amendment complements Hong Kong’s Human Organ Transplant Ordinance, and matches the legislation that has been passed in Spain and elsewhere, said Taiwanese human rights lawyer Theresa Chu. “These regulations on organ transplantation are like a legal firewall that saves people from becoming accomplices to the Chinese Communist Party’s brutal act of organ harvesting.”

Death Row?

After years of denial, China’s former vice minister of health and present Organ Transplantation Committee chief Huang Jiefu admitted that the regime was using organs from death row prisoners in December 2005. According to state media, these organs account for two-thirds of all transplants on the mainland.

The regime pledged to eventually stop the practice, but only confirmed the move in December 2014. Huang said that only organs donated voluntarily from civilians will be used in transplants starting January this year.

Not everyone is buying the Chinese regime’s claims, however.

European officials, doctors, medical researchers, and experts said at a European Parliament workshop in Brussels on April 21 that there are “extrajudicial killings and harvestings of prisoners not sentenced to the death penalty” still taking place in China.

Acknowledging the research from independent investigators, participants at the European Parliament condemned the slaughtering of prisoners of conscience, the bulk of whom are practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline persecuted in China since 1999.

When allegations of forced organ harvesting were made in 2006 by the wife of an organ transplant surgeon, David Matas, a human rights lawyer, and David Kilgour, a former Canadian member of parliament, decided to investigate the seemingly incredible claims.

Through anonymous, investigative telephone calls to transplant hospital doctors in China, and by analyzing China’s transplantation statistics and the trade it was doing, Kilgour and Matas drew the conclusion that the Communist Party has been systematically involved in the mass removal of organs from live Falun Gong practitioners in state hospitals for sale to transplant tourists. The duo estimate about 40,000 to 60,000 Falun Gong practitioners have lost their lives in the grisly state-sponsored murder and profiteering.

In a separate study, journalist Ethan Gutmann puts the Falun Gong death count at 65,000. In his recently published book “The Slaughter,” Gutmann traces the Party’s organ transplant abuses from its earliest experiments with the Uyghurs, a Turkic minority in the western Chinese province of Xinjiang, to political dissidents and Falun Gong.

The organ harvest researchers are featured in “Human Harvest: China’s Illegal Organ Trade,” a documentary, which recently won a Peabody Award, the world’s oldest and most prestigious prize in broadcasting and electronic media.

The documentary includes several appearances by Taiwanese citizens who went to China to get organs, and shows their horror upon realizing the actual source of organs used for China’s booming transplantation industry.