Ottawa Citizen, Canada - What we know about organ harvesting in China
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
David Matas and David Kilgour
The argument by Glen McGregor in Saturday's Citizen ("Inside China's 'crematorium'") is that the government of China must not be found guilty by world opinion to be pillaging organs from Falun Gong practitioners on the basis of circumstantial evidence, no matter how overwhelming. He wants to see a smoking scalpel, a confessing surgeon or a surviving organ "donor."
Unfortunately, none of this kind of evidence is available. The medical professionals involved are complicit in murder and are not going to talk about it. There are no surviving organ donors from the Falun Gong community across China.
The world is not a criminal courtroom, but our report, "Bloody Harvest," (which we prepared on a volunteer basis) concludes, based on evidence which is independently verifiable and available on our website (www.organharvestinvestigation.net), that the party-state in China and its agencies have over six years put to death a large but unknown number of Falun Gong prisoners of conscience and sold their vital organs for high prices, sometimes to "organ tourists" from abroad.
Consider some of the avenues of proof and disproof available:
China's government is a systematic and extensively documented human rights violator; the government has reduced financing to the health system substantially since 1980; organ transplants are a major source of new funds.
The government has given the military the green light to raise money privately. The military is heavily involved in organ transplants.
Corruption across China is a major problem, with the latest Transparency International ranking (2007) placing China behind 71 other countries in its corruption perception index. There is huge money to be made from transplants and the lack of effective controls over corruption.
There is no self-governing disciplinary body for Chinese transplant ethics. Between 1999 and 2005, for example, China's minister of health (Zhang Wenkang) was president of the Chinese Medical Association (the sponsor of Mr. McGregor's trip to China). There has been no independence for the CMA from the party-state since Mao Zedong took power in 1949.
The government has long taken the organs of criminals sentenced to death without their consent. The Falun Gong constitutes an additional prison population which the authorities vilify and dehumanize even more than executed prisoners sentenced to death for criminal offences.
There is no organized system of organ donations in China. There is a strong cultural aversion to organ donation, which explains why there is such a shortage of organs for transplantation among the largest national population on earth.
Hospital websites post self-incriminating information, boasting a matter of days and weeks for waiting times for all organs for large payments, ranging from $30,000 U.S. for corneas to $180,000 for liver-kidney combinations. In other countries, waits are months and years.
Organ recipients we interviewed told us about the secrecy with which transplant surgery is undertaken and the heavy involvement of the military.
The practice of selling organs in China was legal until July 1, 2006. The new law banning the selling of organs appears to be unenforced.
The Communist Party of China sees Falun Gong as an ideological threat to its existence. Objectively, Falun Gong is a set of exercises with a spiritual component. Persecution of the Falun Gong since mid-1999 is a party-state decided and decreed policy.
Falun Gong practitioners are victims of systematic torture and ill treatment in forced labour camps. Falun Gong practitioners have been arrested in huge numbers. They are often detained without trial or charge until they renounce their beliefs. There are thousands of named, identified Falun Gong practitioners who died as a result of torture.
Many practitioners, in attempts to protect their families and communities, have not identified themselves once arrested. These unidentified individuals are a particularly vulnerable population.
Falun Gong practitioners in custody are regularly blood tested and physically examined. Because they are also systematically tortured, this cannot be motivated by concerns over their health.
Traditional sources of transplants -- executed prisoners, donors and the brain dead -- come nowhere near to explaining the total number of transplants across China. The only other identified source which can explain the skyrocketing transplant numbers is Falun Gong practitioners.
In a few cases, between death and cremation, family members of Falun Gong practitioners were able to see the mutilated corpses of their loved ones. Organs had been removed.
We had callers phoning hospitals across China posing as family members of persons who needed organ transplants. In a variety of locations, those who were called asserted that Falun Gong practitioners (reputedly healthy because of their exercise regime) were the source of the organs. We have recordings and telephone bills for these calls.
We interviewed the ex-wife of a surgeon, who said her husband personally removed the corneas from approximately 2,000 anaesthetized Falun Gong prisoners in Sujiatun hospital in Shenyang City during the two-year period before October, 2003. Her testimony was credible to us.
There have been two investigations independent from our own which have addressed the same question we have addressed, that is, whether there is organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners in China. One is by Dr. Kirk Allison of the University of Minnesota, another by a European Parliament vice-president, Edward McMillan-Scott. Both came to the same conclusion that we did.
It is easy to take each element in isolation, and say that this element or that does not prove the claim. It is their combination which led us to the chilling conclusion to which we came.
Our report has 25 recommendations for precautions which should be introduced to prevent the pillaging of organs from Falun Gong practitioners. Organ seizures from Falun Gong practitioners across China are happening. And they must stop.
David Kilgour represented southeast Edmonton in Parliament for 27 years and was Secretary of State (Asia-Pacific), 2002-2003. David Matas is a Winnipeg-based international human rights lawyer.