|October 3, 2006|
|By Melinda Smith/Washington DC reporter, Voice of America|
These were Falun Gong protesters in Macau, China in the year 2000. News reports say the participants were later released. If true, these followers of the Chinese spiritual exercise were fortunate. Others were not.
While Falun Gong has attracted millions of followers, its supporters say thousands have been jailed and hundreds killed. How they were killed–and for what purpose—were troubling questions raised during a Congressional subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C.
The subject was a report from human rights activists who say the Chinese government is supporting the sale of organs from Falun Gong prisoners who have been executed.
David Kilgour, a former Canadian cabinet minister, was among those who testified. “The government of China and its hospitals, detention centers and other agencies in numerous parts of the country, has over the past half decade put to death a large, but unknown number of Falun gong prisoners of conscience,” he said. “Most of the victims were convicted of nothing. They were murdered by medical professions for their vital organs. These organs were, virtually, simultaneously seized for sale at high prices, often to foreigners.”
The study says 85 percent of organ transplants conducted in the hospitals in the Tianjin region were done on foreigners, and possibly wealthy foreigners. A website for the China International Organ Transplant Center lists a kidney transplant as costing $65,000 U.S., a lung transplant, $150,000 to $170,000, a heart transplant, in the range of $130,000 to $160,000 U.S.
The report indicates at least 60,000 transplants were done in China from 2000 to 2005. Of that number, 18,000 were from non-prison sources. The rest were unexplained. Meanwhile, the Chinese news media reported 1,000 executions in 2002. The human rights organization Amnesty International says the number of executions may be as high as 15,000.
The Chinese government outlawed Falun Gong in 1999. Falun Gong spokesman Erping Zhang insists the group has no political agenda and wants nothing more than to practice its beliefs peacefully. “Under these circumstances, we have been left with no choice but to speak out. Our goal has been simple and singular: to let our people, let other people hear our side of the story. And to expose those violating our rights and to, by doing so, end the genocide we face.”
The Chinese say the report is groundless and based on false allegations. After the study was released in July of 2006, China enacted legislation banning sales of human organs and requiring written permission from donors. Yet the witnesses at the Congressional hearing were skeptical that the practice has stopped, and called for continued pressure on the Chinese government to end the practice of trafficking in human organs.