China has consistently denied that it harvested organs from Falun Gong practitioners and other groups. About 4,316 people have been confirmed dead (as of Aug 11, 2019) due to this state-sanctioned organ extraction. However, the real number of victims is believed to be far higher, according to independent researchers. The independent China Tribunal that was set up to determine the Chinese Communist Party’s role in organ harvesting has concluded that the state does commit the heinous act on illegally detained prisoners. In addition to Falun Gong practitioners, Uyghurs and Tibetans have also been forced to part with their vital organs, killing them in the process.
Organ harvesting in China
In issuing their judgment, the Tribunal concluded that: “Forced organ harvesting has been committed for years throughout China on a significant scale and that Falun Gong practitioners have been one – and probably the main – source of organ supply. The concerted persecution and medical testing of the Uyghurs is more recent and it may be that evidence of forced organ harvesting of this group may emerge in due course. The Tribunal has had no evidence that the significant infrastructure associated with China’s transplantation industry has been dismantled.”
The Tribunal was the world’s first independent analysis of China’s forced organ transplant system. It consisted of seven members and was chaired by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, who had previously led the prosecution of former Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milošević on charges of war crimes at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The panel took into account the testimonies of over 50 witnesses given during two separate hearings to decide that crimes against humanity are being conducted by the Chinese state beyond a reasonable doubt.
According to Nice, the Tribunal noticed that the wait times of organ transplants in China were extremely short. In fact, it was so short as to be impossible under regular voluntary organ donation systems. A study of the infrastructure of 146 Chinese hospitals showed that about 60,000 to 90,000 organ transplants were conducted every year, which is far higher than the official Chinese figures of 10,000 to 20,000. People who survived the prison camps also testified that several medical tests were conducted during their incarceration. According to the Tribunal, these tests were consistent with those usually conducted in organ donation.
A former surgeon, Enver Tohti, testified that he was made to remove two kidneys and liver from a death-row prisoner. The victim was first shot, but was still alive, and he resisted the doctor’s attempt to operate. Tohti admitted that his actions have haunted him ever since. The Tribunal tried to contact representatives of the Chinese communist government to discuss the issue, but did not receive any response. Following the judgment of the Tribunal, several human rights organizations have asked the international community to take urgent action against the Chinese communist government.
“It is no longer a question of whether organ harvesting in China is happening, that dialogue is well and truly over. We need an urgent response to save these people’s lives… To that end, we must hold China to account for its crimes against humanity, immediately stop all transplant related collaboration with China, and prevent our own citizens from participating in transplant tourism to China,” Susie Hughes, executive director of The International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China (ETAC), said in a statement (The Epoch Times).
In March, the U.S. State Department released its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, pointing to China as the biggest culprit in the world. The report makes a clear mention of the organ harvesting practice in China. Back in 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives passed Resolution 343, which demanded that the U.S. government bar visas to Chinese nationals engaged in such acts. However, no follow up has been done on the issue until now.
“The investigation has not yet been done. But when the Department of State itself says that there is a serious issue here, it is hard for them then to say they will not investigate. This year’s Department of State report may be a prelude to an investigation. At the very least, it adds leverage to the Congressional request for an investigation,” David Matas, an international human rights lawyer, said to The Epoch Times.
The practice of organ harvesting that China began with Falun Gong practitioners has now spread to religious minorities like Muslims, Christians, and Buddhists. If America and the international community does not take a strong stand on the issue, it will be giving a silent sanction to such gruesome criminal actions.