An open letter from Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting to the California State Senate

Correcting False Information Spread by the Chinese Consulate

September 5, 2017

Since the founding of Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting (DAFOH) over a decade ago, our member doctors in different continents around the globe have worked with a sense of urgency to end a new form of medical abuse in transplant medicine termed “forced organ harvesting.” Our current campaign focuses on China, where the systematic mass killing of non-consenting prisoners of conscience for their organs, primarily Falun Gong practitioners and a lesser number of Tibetans, Uyghurs, and House Christians, is considered by many the greatest violation of medical ethics taking place today.

We have participated in many different advocacy campaigns around the world to raise awareness of these ethical violations, including introducing or supporting legislation in various countries related to forced organ harvesting, such as the US Congressional House Resolution 343, or the European Parliament’s Written Declaration 48, both in 2016. Within five years our petition to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights garnered over 2.5 million signatures worldwide, which recognizes the significant global concern about these heinous atrocities and contributed to making it one of the largest petitions in history.

This August our delegates in California supported California State Resolution 10 (SJR-10), initiated by Senator Joel Anderson. Among other appeals in support of Falun Gong, SJR-10 specifically “urged the government of the People’s Republic of China to immediately end the practice of forced organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners and other prisoners of conscience.” SJR-10 was initially amended by the Judicial Committee, a change that we accepted with reservations, as the amendments weakened the language related to forced organ harvesting and failed to convey the gravity of these crimes or show appropriate respect and concern for the victims of this atrocity. The amended SJR-10 nonetheless passed the judicial committee unanimously. Two days later on Sept. 1, the Senate leadership abruptly voted to move SJR-10 to the Rules Committee (which we understand essentially kills this resolution). This unexpected decision came the same day the Chinese consulate sent an unsigned and threatening letter to all Senators urging them to not support SJR-10.

As an NGO that supported SJR-10, DAFOH feels it is imperative to respond to some of the content of the Consulate’s letter as it relates to forced organ harvesting, to correct false information and convey the true facts to the California legislature and people of California. The letter from the Chinese Consulate, in our opinion, is pure propaganda. It claims that organ harvesting is a “political sensationalization” and that it is “lies and groundless.” This could not be further from the truth. It is in fact the Chinese government that has lied repeatedly over the past decades to the international community on the issue of unethical organ harvesting, and has habitually attacked those who expose their human rights abuses by attempting to politicize a human rights and medical ethics issue.

For example, in one of just many examples, the New York Times reported in an article on June 29, 2001 on the testimony of Dr. Wang Guoqi, a Chinese army doctor who testified before a US Congressional Hearing that he had helped harvest organs from executed prisoners and had even removed skin from a man who was still alive. China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson at the time said that Dr. Wang’s testimony was “sensational lies” and “a vicious slander” against China. The language used in 2001 does not sound much different from the language in the letter from the San Francisco Consulate to the California Senators.

The NY times article also stated that the Chinese Ministry claimed that, “The major source of human organs comes from voluntary donations from Chinese citizens.” It took more than four years of continued international pressure for China to ultimately admit that most of the organs came from executed criminals. Subsequent official Chinese media reports acknowledged that there had in fact only been 130 organ donations in China since the time they began transplantation in the 1960’s up till 2010, making their previous false claims even more blatant.

Despite China’s slanderous denials, the evidence for forced organ harvesting is compelling and undeniable. One should understand that in a crime where victims do not survive the organ extraction, where the corpse is subsequently cremated, and where doctors committing a “murder” are not going to voluntarily identify themselves, a smoking gun should not be a requirement of the skeptics who for ulterior motives or lack of moral fortitude fail to stand up against these crimes or deny the overwhelming amount of evidence. The cumulative evidence compiled over the past 15 years, taken in its totality, itself constitutes a “smoking gun” for organizations and investigators who have critically evaluated the evidence. The evidence accumulated for forced organ harvesting is too much to reiterate in a short letter, but some main points are listed below. Attorney David Matas, one of the first independent investigators of forced organ harvesting, summed this up in a speech in Prague this July when he stated: “The evidence in support of this crime is detailed, consistent, verifiable, corroborated and unrefuted.” The vast majority of the evidence that our own organization and other investigators have relied upon comes directly from Chinese data and sources.

When evaluating the evidence, please consider the following:

  1. The United Nations has acknowledged these crimes against humanity.

A) — As early as 2003, the Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Asma Jahangir, reported awareness of the victim group, being “alarmed by deaths in custody in China. Reports describe harrowing scenes in which detainees, many of whom are followers of Falun Gong, died as a result of severe ill treatment, neglect or medical inattention [after torture]. The cruelty and brutality of these alleged acts of torture defy description.”
B) — In 2006, UN Special Rapporteur Manfred Nowak reported that 66% of allegations of torture, rape and violence in detention targeted Falun Gong, statistically the largest persecuted group in China. The second victim group were the Uyghurs at 11% and third the Tibetans at 6%. Manfred Nowak noted that in China “there are many more organ transplants than identifiable sources of organs.”
C) — In 2014 Canada’s human rights adviser to the UN, Anne-Tamara Lorre, during the Interactive Dialogue on Freedom of Religion at the UN in Geneva in 2014 made an unprecedented acknowledgement of reports of unethical organ harvesting in China which prompted responses from various countries, and staunch denials by Chinese regime authorities, who categorically rejected her comments.

  1. The United States Congress and European Parliament passed resolutions H.Res.343 and WD 48 condemning forced organ harvesting in 2016.
  2. The evidence of forced organ harvesting in China has compelled many countries, including Israel, Taiwan, Italy, and Spain, to pass legislation that criminalizes transplant tourism to China to prevent their country and citizens from being complicit in a medical crime against humanity, and some have forbid the training of Chinese transplant surgeons. Passage of such laws required doctors and legislators in each respective country to critically evaluate the evidence, and the laws would not have been implemented if the evidence were not comprehensive and credible.
  3. Kilgour and Matas publish “Bloody Harvest: Organ Harvesting of Falun Gong Practitioners in China” (2009), and conclude that thousands of Falun Gong prisoners of conscience have been killed for their organs. Investigative journalist Ethan Gutmann’s “The Slaughter: Mass Killings, Organ Harvesting, and China’s Secret Solution to Its Dissident problem” (2014), came to a similar conclusion using different methodology.
  4. In 2016 Kilgour, Gutmann, and Matas publish “Bloody Harvest/The Slaughter: An Update,” which concludes that between 60,000 and 100,000 organ transplants have been conducted in China annually over the past years. This is a drastic contrast to the often officially cited number of 10,000 transplants per year.
  5. Multiple medical journal articles on this topic have been published in the peer-reviewed literature, including in the American Journal of Transplantation, arguably the most respected journal in transplant medicine.
  6. Information gathered by the World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong (WOIPFG) from phone calls to Chinese hospitals and organ procurement organizations since 2015 reveal ongoing transplant abuses.
  7. International transplant conferences and transplant journals have boycotted data from Chinese doctors if the source of organs is felt to be unethical. The Transplantation Society, a global association of transplant professionals, refused to allow 35 Chinese participants for ethical reasons to attend the World Transplant Congress in San Francisco in July 2014.
  8. Extensive medical exams of detainees: Numerous investigators including DAFOH have documented thousands of testimonies of detained prisoners of conscience who underwent forced blood testing and medical evaluation of their vital organs. While in detention or labor camps they are also subjected to unspeakable torture, making it implausible that the widespread medical exams and blood testing is meant for the wellbeing of the victims.
  9. Award winning documentaries: “Human Harvest” is a Peabody Award-winning documentary. “Hard to Believe” is a documentary by Emmy Award Producer Ken Stone that has been shown on PBS stations nationwide.

In January 2015, Dr. Huang Jiefu claimed that China had ended the harvesting of organs from executed criminals. The announcement however did not include nor acknowledge the ending of forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience. Furthermore, provisions from 1984 that allowed the harvesting of organs from executed prisoners have not been abolished, creating a legal ambiguity in which the organ harvesting was, and continues to be, legally permitted in contrast to the non-legally binding announcements that claim that it is prohibited. DAFOH and other investigators have cautioned about taking China’s statements at face value, because the current evidence does not support their claim that these violations have ended and been replaced with only ethical donations from voluntary donors.

The Chinese consulate’s letter mentions that “worldwide experts, including those from WHO do not feel this is scientific based.” The group of “worldwide experts” in the World Health Organization study is primarily limited to pre-selected experts, whereas China-critical experts were systematically ostracized in these investigations. Using scientific standards, one would conclude that this was a biased investigation that did not undergo the standard peer review process, which in academia is required before an article or investigation is accepted as credible and scientifically based.

For one, the WHO requires transparency and traceability of all nation members performing transplants. China has never, in the past or present, allowed independent access to their transplant registries or provided official data on the number of capital executions. This information has been, and remains a state secret. Official data reported by the party-state are just statistics that are unverifiable, statistics that can be manipulated at their whim, which are contradictory and do not fit with the available evidence. If China does not have anything to hide at present, one should ask why this information is not publicly available? And why not invite critical investigators to prove them wrong? The historic example of the Red Cross mistaking gas chambers for shower facilities during prearranged visits to the Theresienstadt ghetto and Auschwitz concentration camp should not be forgotten. DAFOH and other investigators have stated clearly that only fully independent and unannounced visits are an acceptable verification process in a country like China where the official party propaganda cannot be trusted and whitewashing evidence is a simple process, which makes the prearranged visits like those that have been carried out to date by the international community meaningless. They are not a credible form of verification.

In July our medical director interviewed a Falun Gong practitioner in asylum in California, who just last year was threatened in detention by a 610 Office agent (an extrajudicial Gestapo-like agency) in China to have his organs removed and was extensively blood tested. China claimed to have stopped unethical organ harvesting practices in 2015; this case alone casts doubt on these claims and confirms the need for continued vigilance and to demand transparency from China’s transplant program.

Rather than support China’s claims, the Chinese consulate’s letter to the California Senators in itself serves as validation and evidence for the persecution against Falun Gong and for the imminent danger that this group faces in China—and in California. One of the prerequisites for this type of heinous crime is the defamation and dehumanization of the victim population. In the case of Falun Gong practitioners, the Consulate’s letter is an example of the hate propaganda and defamation that is a component of the persecution of Falun Gong in China and—as we can see—abroad. As medical doctors we are concerned about the wellbeing of any individual, and this includes both their mental and physical wellbeing. If the Chinese consulate spreads this level of hateful propaganda openly in the United States, it should not surprise that torture and killing for organs could take place in a country with no rule of law, where persecuted individuals are regarded as industrial biomass and can be financially exploited in a multibillion-dollar transplant industry. It is likewise unacceptable for the Chinese Consulate to abuse their diplomatic privilege here in the United States to engage in hateful propaganda with total disregard the rule of law and the democratic process that form the foundation of our nation. All U.S. government officials should be outraged by this behavior.

DAFOH’s experience over the past decade working with legislators in different countries has shown overwhelming support from legislators from all parties and political affiliations. The crime of forced organ harvesting transcends politics; it concerns a basic human right. Not surprisingly, all the resolutions we have supported in the United States and abroad have had full bipartisan or multiparty support. SJR-10 initially had bipartisan support, and we hope that any partisanship can be overcome because human life is more valuable. We believe all California Senators, regardless of party affiliation, would agree on this and collaborate to achieve these goals. Supporting SJR-10 that expresses uncompromising endorsement of basic rights and human dignity can only benefit California.

SJR-10’s goal is not without precedent in the United States. DAFOH has also supported state resolutions in three other U.S. States that passed resolutions similar to SJR-10, including a personal letter from the Minnesota State House and Senate to President Xi Jinping this June requesting an end to the practice of forced organ harvesting. Legislators in other states were not swayed by pressures from Chinese consulates, nor did any economic threat by China ever manifest or impact any of those states negatively. On the contrary, having a firm stance on U.S. democratic values and principles has only benefitted the respective states.

As doctors we make a vow to follow the Hippocratic oath, which teaches us to “first, do no harm.” In the face of medical abuses of this magnitude, abuses of medical ethics that constitute medical crimes against humanity, as physicians we understand that remaining silent equates to letting harm occur, and being complicit in the harm. A physician cannot stand passively without offering help when a disease is taking away human life. This is why DAFOH doctors are compelled to make the facts known and work on campaigns to help bring these crimes to an end as soon as possible.

The atrocities and human experiments committed by physicians during WWII that led to the Nuremberg trials would probably have claimed fewer lives had the United States’ involvement come sooner. As an historical example, in July 1943, on the behalf of President Roosevelt, Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter interviewed Jan Karski, a member of the Polish resistance who had been smuggled into the Warsaw ghetto and a camp near the Belzec death camp in 1942, in order to report back on what is now known as the Holocaust. Frankfurter greeted Karski’s report with skepticism, and later explained: “I did not say that he [Karski] was lying, I said that I could not believe him. There is a difference.” Forced organ harvesting is so horrific that it is in fact hard to believe. It is hard to believe that doctors, medical professionals that are entrusted to protect and save lives, could commit such unspeakable acts. Yet the evidence is plain and clear.

We trust that the California Senate will represent U.S. and Californian values, and not be intimidated by threats of repercussions for supporting exactly these human values that are so dear to us. We hope that the California Senate will cooperate together as one body and defend basic human rights, human dignity and uphold the rule of law in the United States and of the great state of California.