A Summary of International Action Against Organ Harvesting

For over a decade, hospitals in China have worked with the prison and court systems to systematically kill tens-of-thousands of prisoners of conscience for their organs. The vast majority of these individuals are believed to be practitioners of Falun Gong. Faced with this state-sponsored murder and organ-harvesting apparatus, many of the world’s media remain silent and people are in disbelief that such a thing could happen. But the fact that it is happening can no longer be credibly disputed.

In-depth research by Canadian human rights lawyer David Matas and former parliamentarian David Kilgour, American journalist Ethan Gutmann, and others have collected undeniable evidence that this has taken place.

Many governments are paralyzed from taking action, possibly in fear of disrupting their complex relationships with China. For activists seeking to bring an end to this disaster these problems can seem daunting. However, some individual countries have taken action to prevent their own citizens from participating in this crime. Insurance companies can also refuse to assist people who travel to China for organ transplants. Among the countries that have already taken such steps are Spain, Israel, Taiwan, Italy, and some states in Australia.

In an excerpt from an article originally published in the Epoch Times, David Kilgour summarizes the International Initiatives & Legislations designed to take action to reduce the number of Falun Gong practitioners being murdered to fuel China’s organ transplant industry.

1. United Nations

Since 2006, several U.N. Special Rapporteurs have asked the Chinese government for an explanation of the serious allegation of organ pillaging from live Falun Gong practitioners. They pointed out to the government that a full explanation would disprove the allegations, but the Party-state has provided no meaningful answer, simply denying the charges.

The experts then asked for the source of organs for China’s organ transplant operations. The first allegation was sent on Aug. 11, 2006, jointly by Special Rapporteur on Torture Prof. Manfred Nowak, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion Ms. Asma Jahangir, and Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons Ms. Sigma Huda:

It is reported that employees of several transplant centres have indicated that they have used organs from live Falun Gong practitioners for transplants. After the organs were removed, the bodies were cremated, and no corpse is left to examine for identification as the source of an organ transplant. Once the organs were removed they were shipped to transplant centres to be used for transplants for both domestic and foreign patients. Officials from several detention facilities have indicated that courts have been involved in the administering the use of organs from Falun Gong detainees.

The Chinese authorities replied to the Special Rapporteurs’ allegation with a categorical denial. To that, Jahagir and Nowak followed up with a second joint letter on Jan. 25, 2007. In a later report submitted to the Human Rights Council, Tenth session, Nowak stressed that “New reports were received about harvesting of organs from death row prisoners and Falun Gong practitioners.”

Independent experts of the United Nations Committee against Torture also addressed the issue of organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners in Nov. 2008, referring to “information received that Falun Gong practitioners have been extensively subjected to torture and ill-treatment in prisons and that some of them have been used for organ transplants.”

The committee then recommended that the Chinese authorities investigate and punish those responsible for forced organ harvesting from Falun Gong: “The State party should immediately conduct or commission an independent investigation of the claims that some Falun Gong practitioners have been subjected to torture and used for organ transplants and take measures, as appropriate, to ensure that those responsible for such abuses are prosecuted and punished.”

2. European Parliament

In September 2006, the European Parliament conducted a hearing (David Matas and I testified) and adopted a resolution condemning the detention and torture of Falun Gong practitioners, and expressing concern over reports of organ harvesting. The issue was also raised by direction of the EU troika leadership through the Finnish Foreign Minister Tuomioja meeting bilaterally with China’s Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing at the EU-China summit in Helsinki.

On Dec. 1, 2009, the European Parliament Human Rights Subcommittee held hearings on organ transplant abuse in China. The European Parliament resolution of May 19, 2010 “Action plan on organ donation and transplantation (2009/2015)” states:

Notes the report of David Matas and David Kilgour about the killing of members of Falun Gong for their organs, and asks the Commission to present a report on these allegations, along with other such cases, to the European Parliament and to the Council.

Organ pillaging in China was among the main topics in a hearing at the European Parliament on Human Rights in China on Dec. 6, 2012. David Matas testified.

3. Spain

The new Criminal Code passed in November 2009 includes the illegal trafficking of human organs as a felony. The new Criminal Code establishes penalties of up to twelve years in prison for people who encourage, promote, facilitate or advertise the procurement of illegal human organs trafficking.

The Spanish version (PDF) is available on the official web site of Spanish National Transplant Organization, an institution belonging to the Spanish Ministry of Health and Consumption. See English version.

4. Taiwan

In August 2007, Hou Sheng-mao, the Director of Taiwan’s Department of Health, reported requesting Taiwanese doctors to not recommend to their patients to travel to mainland China for transplants.

In February 2013, Taipei Bar Association issused a statement to condemns organ harvesting in China.

On November 22, 2012, the Taiwanese Legislative Yuan Voted for Budget Resolution Concerning Medical Organ Transplantation, which is legally binding for the Department of Health. Chinese original text is here (PDF), on page 715 of the budget resolution document (Page-715 PDF), English translation.

5. Australia

In late 2006, the Australian Health Ministry announced the abolition of training programs for Chinese doctors in organ transplant techniques at the Prince Charles and the Princess Alexandra Hospitals, as well as banning joint research programs with China on organ transplantation. New South Wales is also considering legislation against organ trafficking.  See the Queensland government document.

On March 21, 2013, Australian Senate unanimously passes motion on organ harvesting. The motion can be found here (PDF).

6. Belgium and Canada

Two Belgian senators, Patrik Vankrunkelsven and Jeannine Leduc, introduced into the Belgian Parliament on Nov. 30, 2006 a law, which addresses organ transplant tourism. Former Canadian MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj introduced into our House of Commons extraterritorial legislation banning “transplant tourism” in 2008. Both would penalize any transplant patient who receives an organ without consent of the donor where the patient knew or ought to have known of the absence of consent.

7. France

French Parliamentarian Valérie Boyer on Oct. 19, 2010, along with several other members of the National Assembly, proposed a law which sets out certificate and reporting requirements similar to Canada’s proposed law. The proposed law requires every French citizen and habitual resident who undergoes an organ transplant abroad to acquire at the latest 30 days after the transplant a certificate stating that organ was donated without payment. The organ recipient must provide the certificate to the French Biomedical Agency before returning to France.

The proposed legislation requires every doctor to report to the Biomedical Agency the identity of every person the doctor examined who underwent a transplant. The proposed law in turn requires the Biomedical Agency to report to the Public Department any person who there are reasonable grounds to believe was involved in a financial transaction to obtain an organ.

8. Israel

Israel passed a law banning the sale and brokerage of organs. The law also ended funding, through the health insurance system, of transplants in China for Israeli nationals. Jay Lavee, in his contribution to the book “State Organs,” explains this law as a reaction to transplant abuse in China.

The original texts of Israel Transplant Law – ORGAN TRANSPLANT ACT, 2008 (PDF)

Saving Lives Locally, by Dr. Jacob Lavee

9. United States

In September 2006, the U.S. Congress held a hearing on organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners. Four witnesses testified at the hearing, including Matas and myself.

On Oct. 3, 2012, 106 Members of the U.S. Congress urged the U.S. State Department to release information on organ pillaging in China from Falun Gong practitioners and other religious and political prisoners, and requested the State Department to release any information it might have, including details that former Chongqing deputy mayor Wang Lijun is believed to have transmitted during his brief sanctuary in the U.S. Consulate in February 2012.

Wang Lijun was directly involved in organ harvesting practices. In his capacity as police chief, he founded a research centre on organ transplantation in Jinzhou City, Liaoning Province. The centre conducted several thousand organ transplant operations, with unexplained organ sources.

The State Department acknowledged in its 2011 Human Rights Report, released in May 2012, that “Overseas and domestic media and advocacy groups continued to report instances of organ harvesting, particularly from Falun Gong practitioners and Uighurs.”

Since June 2011, the online U.S. non-immigrant visa application, Form DS-160, requires the following information from applicants from every country: “Have you ever been directly involved in the coercive transplantation of human organs or bodily tissue?”

10. NGOs and Medical Organizations

Various NGOs and medical organizations have issued statements urging the investigation and measures to stop the forced organ pillaging from prisoners of conscience, particularly Falun Gong. Some examples:

In August 2006, the New York-based National Kidney Foundation issued a statement expressing deep concerns over allegations that large numbers of Falun Gong practitioners were being executed for the purposes of organ donation, as well as opposition to such a scheme and to organ transplant tourism generally.

In 2007, the Transplantation Society introduced new policy on interactions with China, against using the organs from prisoners.

The policy of the World Medical Association includes now a paragraph that organ donation from prisoners is not acceptable in countries where the death penalty is practiced. This is a newly adopted policy.

WMA Statement on Organ and Tissue Donation, adopted by the 63rd WMA General Assembly, Bangkok, Thailand, October 2012.

In jurisdictions where the death penalty is practised, executed prisoners must not be considered as organ and/or tissue donors. While there may be individual cases where prisoners are acting voluntarily and free from pressure, it is impossible to put in place adequate safeguards to protect against coercion in all cases.

UN NGO International Education Development made a statement on Organ Harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners at the United Nations during its September session 2012.

Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting (DAFOH) is a non-government organization founded by medical doctors who were alerted by the coerced organ harvesting from prisoners and prisoners of conscience in China. DAFOH seeks to promote ethical standards in medicine and to end the forced organ harvesting (FOH) practices in China. DAFOH informs medical communities as well as publics about these practices by articles and essays in medical and non-medical journals, presentations at fora and media interviews.

In 2012, DAFOH provided speakers for both U.S. Congressional hearings on the FOH topic (Sept. 12 and Dec. 18). In 2012, DAFOH initiated several petitions in Europe, Australia and U.S. (including the so-called White-House-Petition) calling for an end of the FOH in China and further investigation through the UNHRC. Within 3 months, the petitions garnered 250,000+ signatures. At a follow up visit, the UNHRC recognized the number of signatures as “impressive.”

11. Individual Initiatives

Edward McMillan-Scott, Vice-President of the European Parliament and rapporteur for the EU’s Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, traveled to China in May 2006 on a fact finding mission to investigate organ harvesting and has since repeatedly condemned the organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners in China.

In 2007, Dr. Tom Treasure, writing in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, “The Falun Gong, organ transplantation, the holocaust, and ourselves,” found the allegations credible, particularly in the context of the role doctors played in the Holocaust.

In 2007, a petition signed by 140 Canadian physicians was presented to the House of Commons urging the government to issue travel advisories warning people that organ transplants in China include the use of organs harvested from non-consenting donors such as Falun Gong practitioners.

In 2008, a special rabbinical council in Israel ruled that the Beijing regime has been responsible for the killing of Falun Gong practitioners, perhaps because of material benefits derived from organ harvesting.

In 2008, The Weekly Standard featured a cover story on organ harvesting, authored by Ethan Gutmann, adjunct fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. The article described systematic medical testing of Falun Gong practitioners.

In July 2012, Dr. Torsten Trey and David Matas published a volume on organ transplant abuse in China, including the killing of Falun Gong prisoners of conscience. The book, “State Organs,” is a collection of essays by leading medical professionals and other commentators from four continents who have researched organ harvesting in China. It consolidates evidence of these abuses, discusses their ethical implications, and provides insight on how to combat these violations. The Ebook is available from amazon:

On Dec. 2, 2012, three medical doctors, Arthur Caplan, Alejandro Centurion, and Jianchao Xu, initiated a petition calling upon the Obama administration to investigate and help stop forced organ harvesting from Falun Gong in China. The petition is posted within the “We the People” section of the White House website.

Unfortunately, these and other developments have not yet ended the trafficking in organs from involuntary “donors” across China.

12. China

The government of China now accepts that sourcing of organs from prisoners is improper. Deputy Health Minister Huang Jeifu in 2009 stated that executed prisoners “are definitely not a proper source for organ transplants.” In 2005, Huang admitted that over 95 percent of the organs transplanted in China came from executed prisoners. China had been denying using prisoners’ organs prior to this admission.

In 2006 a World Medical Association resolution demanded that China stop using prisoners as organ donors, and in 2007 the Chinese Medical Association agreed to do so.

In 2010 at a transplant conference in Madrid, Minister Huang stated that between 1997 and 2008 China had performed more than 100,000 transplantations, with over 90 percent of the organs being from executed prisoners. In no other country on earth are there more executions than in China.

“The actual number of executions is a closely guarded state secret,” says John Kamm, the head of the U.S.-based nonprofit Dui Hua Foundation. “However, in recent years to some extent the curtain has been raised somewhat by officials or scholars who have access to the real numbers and earlier this year we did get some indication as to the number of people executed in 2011–approximately 4,000, more than all other countries in the world combined.”

Human rights organizations fear the number could be even higher. Roseanne Rise, from Amnesty International says, “We’re concerned that prisoners aren’t really independent enough to give meaningful consent.” She adds, “When they’re under the control of the state and dependent on it for all of their daily needs it’s difficult to assess whether they’re really giving voluntary consent.”

In February 2012, Huang again stated that the practice of organ harvesting from prisoners continues in China today, but that the government wants to phase it out by 2015 and build up a national donation scheme. This will be very difficult to do because many Chinese are unwilling to donate their organs.

“It’s … a cultural taboo,” explains Kamm. “The Chinese traditionally believe that when they leave this world and enter the next they have to be in possession of all their organs. So the number of people who have been willing to donate organs is very small.” The state will have to inform citizens and convince them to donate their organs instead as part of a nationwide scheme. There is some hope that the younger generation will be less intent on keeping all their organs before entering the next world.

In 2009, 10 provinces introduced an organ donation program. In 2010, in order to meet the increasing demand for donor organs, China launched a trial program allowing people to voluntarily donate their organs after they die. In February 2011, it was reported that, in total, 37 people had donated 97 organs through the trial program. By March 2012, the pilot programs had persuaded just 207 people to donate their organs after death, according to the Red Cross Society of China, which operates the transplant system. The donors were mainly from the rural poor, and 90 percent of them or their families asked for financial aid in return for their organs.

Despite public pressure to donate, hundreds of organ donor coordinators employed by the new system are having little success. In Shandong Province, none of the coordinators managed a successful case in 18 months. The city of Tianjin had only a total of 19 donations since 2010. No organ donor materials were on display at the large Tianjin No. 2 Hospital.

Before the government abolishes the practice of organ harvesting from executed prisoners, tens of thousands more will be killed for their organs in the meantime. Since Matas and I began our voluntary work, the number of convicted persons sentenced to death and then executed has decreased overall quite dramatically, but the number of transplants, after a slight decline, rose to earlier levels. Since the only other substantial source of organs for transplants in China, apart from Falun Gong, is prisoners sentenced to death, a decrease of sourcing from that population means an increase in sourcing from Falun Gong.

In the past, the death penalty was administered by gunshot. Today, lethal injection is the most common practice. The latter is beneficial for such purposes as retrieving organs, as they remain intact. Most executions in China take place in mobile buses. These “execution buses” are often parked right next to hospitals.

13. Corporate Social Responsibility

Some pharmaceutical companies, such as Novartis and Pfizer, have voluntarily pulled away from pharmaceutical trials of anti-rejection drugs in China because of ethical concerns. There is, however, still need for binding national regulation in this area. Arne Schwarz in “State Organs” and David Matas in a speech in Philadelphia detailed a wide range of pharmaceutical trials of anti-rejection drugs done in China. Some were conducted in hospitals from which our telephone investigators obtained admissions that they were selling organs of Falun Gong.