For a number of reasons, plastinated human body exhibits have always been controversial, especially if they use bodies from factories in China. Now, these exhibits have become even more contentious after a prominent Canadian human rights lawyer has stated there is strong evidence that corpses and body parts of executed prisoners of conscience have been plastinated in China, sold, and then put on display.
“There is compelling evidence that practitioners of Falun Gong are killed for both plastination and organ sourcing,” testified human rights lawyer David Matas at a joint subcommittee hearing of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee in Washington, D.C. on June 23.
Invented by German anatomist Gunther Von Hagens, plastination is a process where a dead body’s fluids are replaced with preservative plastics.
“No one in the West has witnessed organ transplant abuse in China; yet a large number have seen plastinated bodies from China on display,” said Matas, a Nobel prize-nominee.
“Plastinated body parts from China have been sold to medical schools and universities throughout the Western world,” he said.
“Plastination gives an immediate, widespread, publicly visible reality to the abuse that the killing of innocents for their organs cannot,” Matas added.
A pregnant Chinese woman with an exposed womb showing her unborn child is among the plastinated bodies that have been displayed at exhibits.
In 2012, there were reportedly “several dozen manufacturers engaged human plastination,” said a Chinese news article featured in the Bloody Harvest/The Slaughter: An Update report that Matas coauthored, along with former Canadian MP David Kilgour and investigative journalist Ethan Gutmann. It was released on June 22.
Information linking the killing of innocent Falun Gong meditators and plastination takes up 6 pages of their 600-plus page report, which principally focusses on large-scale organ harvesting in China. The report’s authors say the same collection of evidence that exposes forced organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners is relevant to their claims about plastination.
“Trafficking in human cadavers has become a business. Plastinated specimens are publicly priced and traded. The government of China calls for bids on such trades,” says the report, which also offered examples of plastinated cadaver providers based in the Chinese city of Dalian in northern Liaoning Province.
Liaoning Province was or is also an epicenter for forced organ harvesting.
The report focuses in on Sui Hongjin, the deputy director of the Anatomy Department at Dalian Medical University, who co-established a body plastination and exhibition company in 2002. Before that, Sui was the manager for Von Hagens’ plastination plant in Dalian that opened in 1999.
The Guardian wrote in 2004 that executed prisoners were allegedly a source of bodies used by Von Hagens’ plastination plant. The British newspaper cited an email reportedly sent from Sui to Von Hagens where Sui wrote that he had obtained the bodies of a “young man and young woman.” They had been executed by a bullet to the head that morning and they were “fresh examples” of the “highest quality.” For a dead body to be plastinated, it needs to be worked on within two days of death.
The Bloody Harvest/The Slaughter: An Update report says that from 2004 and 2013, Sui’s plastinated body exhibitions toured more than 60 cities overseas.
“The number of visitors topped 35 million. In 2005, Bodies: The Exhibition in the U.S. had become the main source of earnings for Sui’s partner, Premier Exhibitions,” said the report.
Premier Exhibitions runs a disclaimer on its Bodies: The Exhibition website that says: “This exhibit displays human remains of Chinese citizens or residents which were originally received by the Chinese Bureau of Police. The Chinese Bureau of Police may receive bodies from Chinese prisons. Premier cannot independently verify that the human remains you are viewing are not those of persons who were incarcerated in Chinese prisons.”
The disclaimer was a part of a settlement between Premier Exhibitions and the New York State Attorney’s Office in 2008.
Premier Exhibitions is currently holding one of its plastinated human body exhibits in the United States. Sui has a similar exhibition occurring in Europe as well.
Watch this 2013 China Uncensored episode for more on the issue: