My boys like to watch crime dramas, as many of us do. Some of them are so far-fetched that I scoff along with them. However, others are too chillingly real. The idea of someone having organs cut out of them and waking up in a bath of ice has long been an urban legend. However, it is not make-believe, it is a horror that is all too real in China.
This story, which is almost too dreadful to believe, was first revealed in March 2006, when a woman stated that as many as 4,000 Falun Gong had been killed for their organs at the hospital in which she had worked. She said that her husband, a surgeon at the same hospital outside the north-eastern city of Shenyang, had disclosed to her that he had removed corneas from the living bodies of 2,000 Falun Gong adherents.
A week later, a Chinese military doctor not only corroborated the woman’s account but claimed that such atrocities were taking place in 36 different concentration camps throughout the country. He said that he had also witnessed Falun Gong being transported in massive numbers across the country in cattle trains, at night and under the cover of tight security. People may think that that is something from the history of the Second World War, but the transportation of people in cattle trains is all too real.
In 2006, two prominent Canadians – David Kilgour, a former MP, and David Matas, a human rights lawyer –published a report for the Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong in China, in which they gave credibility to claims that the Chinese authorities were harvesting organs from executed members of the group. Victims were held in concentration camps prior to dissection, after which the remains were immediately cremated, as if the authorities could get rid of the evidence of their ill deeds by cremating them so quickly.
It was in July 2006 that Kilgour and Matas published their 140-page report. It drew “the regrettable conclusion that these allegations are true”. The investigation uncovered the on-demand nature of organ transplants in China; there is an abundance of organs despite the lack of a functional donation system.
Ten years later, on June 22 2016, they published an update to their report. It shows the continued expansion of transplantation capacity – organ harvesting first came to light in 2006 – the driving factors behind the industry’s growth, and the role of the ruling party, government agencies and individual officials in implementing and perpetuating the systematic killing of prisoners of conscience for their organs. We are talking about those of the Falun Gong belief, those of Christian beliefs, who have been persecuted, people serving time in jail and those from other ethnic groups.
The harvesting is done on an industrial scale, as some of the figures illustrate very well. Although Chinese officials typically say that China transplants about 10,000 organs a year, the update to the report shows that figure is surpassed by just a few hospitals alone. We can say, based on government-imposed minimum capacity requirements for transplant centres, that the total system-wide capacity since 2000 would have easily reached more than one million transplants. Given that the vast majority of those hospitals far exceed the minimum requirements, the number of transplants performed in China is staggering.
Former Falun Gong prisoners report being subjected to targeted medical examinations and blood tests in custody that appear designed to assess the health and compatibility for potential transplant of their organs, Anastasia Lin claimed. The Chinese-born winner of Miss World Canada who was banned from China because of her human rights work, told the human rights commission: “Concern stems in part from the significant discrepancy between the number of organ transplants performed and the known sources of organs: even when we include death row inmates, the number of transplants performed in China is far too high. The short wait times achieved by transplant hospitals suggest that people are killed on demand for their organs.”
That is the horror of what is taking place in China.
Organ tourism to China takes place. People in western countries find out about an organ that may be available in China at short notice. Given how quickly these things happen, there has to be an organised, established method of harvesting the organs so that those who come from the west can come across and get the transplant that they need so much.
Those going to China cannot close their eyes or ears to what is happening and to the question of whom the organ is coming from. The recipient cannot say: “I don’t know, but I need the organ transplant.” I am not taking away from the fact that they need the organ transplant, but there must be rules in place and China must be part of that.
In 2014, the Chinese medical establishment pledged that it would stop all organ harvesting from prisoners, yet the velocity of China’s organ harvesting industry does not suggest a retraction. Indeed it suggests the opposite; it suggests further acceleration of the practice. According to Ethan Gutmann, in a testimony to the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China just over a year ago, the practice began in 1994 when “the first live organ harvests of death-row prisoners were performed on the execution grounds of Xinjiang”. In 1997, Uyghur political prisoners were the target for organs to be forcefully donated to high-ranking Chinese Communist party officials. This disgusting and disgraceful forced organ transplantation goes to the very highest level of Chinese government and those involved need to be accountable for their actions.
By 2001, Chinese military hospitals were unambiguously targeting select Falun Gong prisoners for harvesting, and by 2003 the first Tibetans were being targeted as well.
There is systematic forced organ transplantation taking place of Falun Gong followers, of Christians and other ethnic groups and of those who are in prison, sometimes for minor charges. Then China goes to Tibet, where it has some control, and it targets people there as well; its horrific targeting for forced organ transplantation goes far beyond China.
Gutmann’s testimony continues: “By the end of 2005, China’s transplant apparatus had increased so dramatically that a tissue-matched organ could be located within two weeks for any foreign organ tourist with cash.”
We have a duty to do all that is in our power to apply diplomatically any pressure that we can to say the practice must stop. For moral decency and human rights, it cannot continue in any way, shape or form. We have the information, evidence and knowledge– we have two inquiries from Canada and the United States–and they all indicate that rightness dictates we do something with that information. The forced organ transplantation on an industrial scale is unabated and uncontrolled, and we must take a stand today.
Jim Shannon is shadow DUP spokesperson for health, transport and equality. This article is an edited extract from a Westminster Hall debate.