Chinese state-run media have been making the most out an international organ transplant conference held in Hong Kong from Aug. 18-23, saying that the event vindicates China’s controversial organ transplant industry.
As an example, state-run Global Times said the conference had shown that the “Chinese organ transplant world has been truly accepted by The Transplantation Society,” reported The New York Times.
Pro-Beijing media in Hong Kong had produced similar reports, said NYT.
Such claims have been disputed by Dr. Philip O’Connell, head of The Transplantation Society (TTS), the NGO that organized the Hong Kong meeting.
Dr. O’Connell told the press on Aug. 19 that he instead told Chinese medical professionals attending the conference that China’s decades-long practice of using the organs of executed prisoners has horrified the international community, stated NYT.
The Australian doctor went on to say that “no one could interpret” what he said to the Chinese representatives as meaning that their system was “truly accepted by The Transplantation Society.”
“So they may say that, but that’s not what the truth is,” Dr. O’Connell added.
But the fact that the Chinese state has used the conference for its own propaganda purposes is no surprise to critics of the Hong Kong event, which, according to the TTS, was a backup location after a military coup in Thailand ruled that South-East Asian nation out as a first preference.
A day before the conference began, an article published in the American Journal of Transplantation criticized the TTS’s decision to hold the conference on Chinese soil.
“Hosting the Transplantation Society 2016 biennial congress in Hong Kong has provided an opportunity to showcase clinical science abstracts from China on an international stage, and gives further legitimacy to China to continue with its current practice,” said the article’s co-writter Professor Jacob Lavee, a heart surgeon from the Sheba Medical Center in Israel, and four other medical professionals who are part of the medical advocacy group Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting.
“The acceptance of such individuals [Chinese transplant professionals] as professional peers is decidedly not a message the international transplantation community should be conveying,” said the article.
“Given the allegations of crimes against humanity in China in the form of the killing of executed prisoners and prisoners of conscience, mainly of Falun Gong practitioners, in a state-led, systematic process, demands for transparency are indispensable,” stated the article in its conclusion.
“As the global transplant community converges on Hong Kong for the congress of the Transplantation Society, it is both timely and imperative to remind the transplantation community of the plight of victims of forced organ procurement that, on the basis of current evidence, continues to this day in China.”
Chinese officials claim to have shifted away from relying on executed prisoners as an organ source in 2015, and that they had moved to a voluntary organ donation system.
The article in the medical journal pointed out this is implausible for many reasons, citing the system does not have mechanisms in place to provide adequate organs, while adding that a potential donor pool would be limited because organ donation is culturally unacceptable to most Chinese.
There are no ethical checks in place in China’s current system and that a “great deal of secrecy still surrounds transplantation activity in China,” added the article.
It also highlighted international concerns about China’s transplant industry that included laws being passed by countries such as Taiwan, which banned its citizens from traveling to China for organs.
The article further noted international concerns manifested in resolutions made by the U.S. Congress and the European Parliament that urged the Chinese government to stop harvesting the organs of prisoners of conscience, and end the persecution against Falun Gong.
Official Chinese figures of conducting 10,000 transplants per year in China don’t reflect the amount of activity observed in the industry itself on the ground, said the article.
A recently published report, Bloody Harvest/The Slaughter: An Update, says that China conducts 60,000 to 100,000 organ transplants a year, with the organ source believed to be from mostly from unwilling prisoners of conscience who are killed on demand.
Watch this NTD TV report from 2013 about how Professor Lavee took part in the enactment of a law that prohibits Israeli citizens from acquiring organs in China for transplant surgery: