(Minghui.org) The issue of forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience in China has drawn heightened attention in the international community recently. In July, the American Journal of Transplantation, the top journal in the field of transplantation, published an article titled “Organ Procurement From Executed Prisoners in China” pointing out that “this practice continues unabated in 2014.”

The article discussed three paradoxes of organ transplantation in China. The first concerns the mismatch between the number of organ donors and the number of organ transplants. The second asks about the existence of pools of prescreened prisoners. And the third question is why the organ waiting time in China is usually only a few weeks.

By analyzing the data on organ sources from executed prisoners and the organ trade in China, the authors answered the questions and concluded that prisoners of conscience, especially Falun Gong practitioners, are “an unrecognized and under-appreciated organ source.”

According to the article, in 2005 the then Vice Minister of Health, Huang Jiefu, admitted that more than 90% of the organs came from death-row prisoners. But as the authors pointed out, the organs from death-row prisoners would not be sufficient to support the large number of organ transplants in China, which ranks number two in the world after the U.S.

According to numbers presented by Chinese officials, “approximately 10,000 transplants are performed annually in China.” However, the Chinese rate of organ donations has been traditionally low—“between 2003 and 2009 there were only 130 freely donated organs in China among the vast population of over 1.3 billion.”

Thus, the authors pointed out, “if applied to the prisoner cohort, the average consent rate of the Chinese populace would require millions of executions each year to ensure a sufficient amount of donor organs for the 10,000 transplants performed annually.”

Furthermore, even if all the executed prisoners, ranging from 3,000 to 5,000 annually, were willing to donate organs, the authors ask: “Where is the remaining number of organs being sourced from to achieve the high volume of transplants performed annually?”

Going further, the article points out that “it also appears implausible that every prisoner deemed healthy enough to donate viable organs is coincidentally scheduled for execution on the exact day a matching recipient is available.”

According to the authors, this question is of greatest concern, because it asks “if the death sentence follows the demand for organs procured from a pool of prescreened prisoners.”

The answer offered in the article is that “specific minority groups in China are being persecuted to facilitate transplantation. The most comprehensive investigations into alleged forced organ procurement from minority groups have focused on Falun Gong practitioners, concluding that a large number of Falun Gong prisoners of conscience have been put to death on the basis of unverifiable offenses.”

Besides Falun Gong practitioners, other minority groups in China such as Uighur Muslims, Tibetans and Christians are also victims.

The analysis of the Chinese labor camp (Laogai) system in the article also addresses the question regarding the short organ waiting time in China. The system offers “a readily accessible supply of organs to meet demand.”

The authors pointed out that the Chinese authorities have made contradictory claims of transplantation reform, indicating that prisoners are still the source of organs in 2014.

According to the article, the Hangzhou Resolution announced at the 2013 China Transplant Congress claimed to phase out reliance upon executed prisoner organs by June 2014.

However, the authors point out that “recent developments have destroyed any hope for positive change, with an interview with Huang Jiefu suggesting organs procured from executed prisoners will continue to be justifiably used by being classed as 'voluntary' donations as any other citizen.”

Furthermore, the director of the China Organ Transplant Response System Research Center at the Ministry of Health, Wang Haibo, “also recently confirmed the lack of any schedule to wean off dependence from executed prisoner organs in a journalist interview.”

Based on these findings, the authors concluded that “newly announced initiatives from China (e.g. computerized organ allocation systems) are […] mechanisms to further entrench, sanction and enable more efficient allocation of unethically procured organs. As proposed, the new system simply becomes a vast, sophisticated form of “organ laundering,” using prisoners' organs to supply an ever-increasing local and international demand.”

The authors proposed recommendations for stopping forced organ procurement, and called upon the international community to “adopt a consistent approach toward the abhorrent practice of forced organ procurement and demand a complete and immediate cessation.”

The article is authored by A. Sharif from Queen Elizabeth Hospital in UK, M. Fiatarone Singh from Sydney Medical School at University of Sydney, T. Trey from Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting, Washington, DC, and J. Lavee from Sheba Medical Center and the Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University. The first, second and the fourth authors are also on the Advisory Board of Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting.