Report: China still harvests prisoners’ organs
China | Transplant trade in China allegedly targets persecuted minority groups
by Molly Hulsey
Posted 6/28/16, 02:34 pm
China promised to stop harvesting organs from prisoners in 2015, but a recent report by human rights experts claims the government still kills thousands of inmates for body parts.
The report states the transplant trade continues to target minority groups imprisoned for their beliefs: Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, and Falun Gong meditation practitioners.
“I assumed I was writing about history,” said journalist and report author Ethan Gutmann at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing last Thursday. “I was naive.”
Numerous American “transplant tourists” flock to China each year, the report’s authors claim, where they can trade a two or more years’ wait time for a new organ for under two weeks. While the Chinese government says only 10,000 transplant surgeries occur each year, the report—released by former Canadian politician David Kilgour, human rights lawyer David Matas, and Gutmann— says the true number ranges from 60,000 to 100,000 surgeries.
“We don’t have patients waiting for organs,” Matas said at the hearing. “We have organs waiting for patients.”
The study follows a House resolution passed earlier this June strengthening the ban on visas to organ traffickers and decrying the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners.
Even with sparse government statistics, China Daily announced the nation surpassed all other Asian countries for organ donation numbers. But in a culture where only intact bodies are said to reach peace after death, report authors suspect most organs still come from prisoners.
The report updates the authors’ previous works on the subject—Bloody Harvest and The Slaughter—and intersects other studies that delve into a decade of Falun Gong persecution and organ harvesting.
During the early 1990s, peaceful Falun Gong meditation practices became wildly popular with millions of Chinese practitioners. The Chinese Communist party saw this as a threat. The Chinese government outlawed the exercise, killing thousands of practitioners and subjecting others to “re-education” labor camps, torture, and, reportedly, systematic organ harvesting.
Dr. Charles Lee, the Chinese-American director of a Falun Gong research group, said the average Chinese organ donor is a healthy 20 to 40 year old, much lower than the American average. Lee’s studies cite Chinese medical articles from five years ago stating surgeons extracted beating hearts from living patients. Surgeons noted other patients were “brain dead” during the extraction operation—with no legal criteria or procedure for the term.
“These donors have been arranged to die,” Lee said. “This is mass murder.”
The Chinese government arrested and tortured Lee in the early 2000s for his beliefs and complaints against Communist propaganda.
Both studies agree the Chinese government approves of killing Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, and other “prisoners of conscience” for their organs, but were unable to provide exact numbers. Lee told me he believed Americans facilitating “transplant tourism” knew Chinese transplant centers killed prisoners on demand.
The Chinese government has railed against reports of continued prisoner organ harvesting, claiming the recent House legislation is faulty and “anti-China.”
“Stories about forced organ harvesting in China are imaginary and baseless,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying at a press conference last Thursday. “They don’t have any factual foundation.”
Some American doctors, like Dr. Francis L. Delmonico, president of The Transplantation Society, take Chinese officials’ word that the country cleaned up its act.
“The international community is trying to make change in China,” said Delmonico, elaborating that most young professionals fear the practice as a “career risk.” He is laying the groundwork for a more transparent transplantation system in China.
U.S. lawmakers at the Thursday hearing seemed skeptical of the Chinese organ trade’s transformation.
“People in the U.S. are lulled to sleep to believe there is change in China,” committee chairman Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif, said. “I don’t see them making reform. I see them making money.”
Molly is a WORLD intern.