Experts Want Controversial Dead Bodies Exhibition Shut Down

A plastinated body from Gunther Von Hagens’ 'Body World' exhibit in 2008. (Image: Paul Stevenson via flickr/CC BY 2.0)
A plastinated body from Gunther Von Hagens’ 'Body World' exhibit in 2008. (Image: Paul Stevenson via flickr/CC BY 2.0)

A coalition of experts — including lawyers, academics, and medical ethicists — have called upon the Australian government to close down a Sydney exhibition displaying flayed, plastinated human corpses sourced from China that they say could be the remains of executed prisoners, including prisoners of conscience.

Members of the Australian Committee of the International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China (ETAC) sent an open letter to Australia’s Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull and other political leaders outlining their “grave concerns” over Real Bodies: The Exhibition, which opened this month.

“We request, as a matter of urgency, that you take immediate action to close it down,” read the ETAC letter, which includes among its 12 signatories Madeleine Bridgett, an international human rights barrister, clinical ethics Professor Wendy Rogers from Macquarie University and ethicist Dr. Sarah Winch from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Queensland.

The crux of the coalition’s concern is the “lack of clarity about the origins” of the exhibit’s 20 plastinated bodies and 200 body parts publically on display.

“Allegedly, the exhibits are sourced from the unclaimed corpses of people who have died in hospital, procured by the Public Security Bureau; however, it is not possible the bodies were ‘unclaimed’, as according to regulations and autopsy rules issued by China’s Ministry of Health on February 22, 1979, bodies can only be declared ‘unclaimed’ after 30 days,” stated the letter.

“Of note, the plastination process, which involves the use of silicon, epoxy, and other polymer mixtures to replace the fluid in the human body, must occur within 48 hours of death. Therefore, it is not possible to plastinate a corpse that is 30 days old,” it said. “Rather than being sourced from unclaimed bodies, as the exhibitors claim, there is credible evidence that these are the bodies of executed prisoners and prisoners of conscience from China.”

The letter pointed out that Tom Zaller, CEO of U.S.-based Imagine Exhibitions, “recently made public admissions that the bodies are ‘absolutely from China.’ He said there is ‘no documentation’ to prove their identities or show they had agreed in life to donate their corpses in death.”

The letter pointed out that through showing the bodies, the exhibition may be in breach of ethical and legal practice.

“Using human organs and tissues without consent for financial profit is the antithesis of ethical and legal practice as set out in the Declaration of Istanbul on Organ Trafficking and Transplantation and the Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs,” said the letter.

“Further, such conduct of organ trafficking and organ tourism is a serious breach of international human rights law, and Australia should have no part in it.”

The letter pointed out that many cities and countries around the world, including Hawaii, France, Seattle, and Israel, have forbidden similar exhibitions of plastinated human beings.

Speaking to news.com.au, Zaller said that claims the exhibition used bodies and body parts originating from Chinese prisoners were “unfounded” and “offensive.”

Zaller told Sydney-media Timeout that the bodies and parts shown at his exhibition were provided by the Dalian Medical University in Northeast China via an operation set up and overseen by an individual identified as Dr. Hongjin Sui.

Sui was once the manager for the Chinese plastination operations for controversial German anatomist Gunther Von Hagens.

Zaller said that the “specimens [displayed at the exhibition] were created between 2000 and 2004.”

The Guardian reported in 2004 that executed prisoners were allegedly a source of bodies used by Von Hagens’ plastination plant. The newspaper cited German magazine Der Spiegel about 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.”

Linked to the crime of organ harvesting

In mid-2016, ETAC co-founder Canadian human rights lawyer David Matas told a joint subcommittee hearing of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee in Washington, D.C. where he suspected the bodies and body parts used in these types of exhibitions came from.

“There is compelling evidence that practitioners of Falun Gong are killed for both plastination and organ sourcing,” testified Matas.

“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.

“Plastination gives an immediate, widespread, publicly visible reality to the abuse that the killing of innocents for their organs cannot,” Matas added.

Matas coauthored Bloody Harvest/The Slaughter: An Update with former Canadian MP David Kilgour and U.S. investigative journalist Ethan Gutmann. The 600-plus page report was released June 22, 2016.

Information linking the killing of innocent Falun Gong meditators and plastination takes up 6 pages of the report, which principally focuses 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.

The report focuses in on Sui Hongjin, the man who supplied the plastinated bodies and body parts for the exhibition now showing in Sydney.

See this episode of China Uncensored for more information on plastinated human corpses sourced from China:

Follow us on Twitter or subscribe to our weekly email

China’s Communists Declare Religious Freedom While Banning Online Bible Sales