Brutality Unmasked: The Shocking Truth About Forced Organ Harvesting in China
by Katrina Lantos Swett
In our sophisticated age, the word “evil” has become somewhat unfashionable. Because it leaves no room for excuses, justification or compromise, it is a word that understandably makes people uncomfortable. And yet, there are some atrocities that can be described in no other way. The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) practice of involuntary organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience is truly evil and it is time for physicians, political leaders and human rights activists to join together to tell the truth about this barbaric crime.
Although the CCP has gone to extraordinary lengths to try and conceal the reality of this brutal practice, the truth is slowly beginning to emerge. It is a nightmarish portrait in which human beings are treated as commodities that can be eliminated at will and their very organs exploited for the financial advantage of others.
What began in the 1980’s with the clearly unethical harvesting of organs from executed criminals, eventually devolved into a far more sinister undertaking. It is difficult to pinpoint precisely when the moral line was breached between stealing organs from dead murderers and rapists, to actually murdering political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in order to harvest and sell their organs. But the evidence is compelling that this line has in fact been crossed on a massive scale.
Thanks to the remarkable work of the NGO, Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting (DAFOH), the sordid and heartbreaking tale of greed and political repression, is beginning to emerge. Based on extensive documentation from interviews with former prisoners, staff from labor camps and even medical personnel who have been complicit in these human rights abuses, it appears that tens of thousands of innocent people may have been victims of this crime against humanity.
And who are these innocent victims? The evidence suggests that a high proportion of them are Falun Gong practitioners. This peaceful community of believers has been the target of a brutal government campaign of repression, vilification, imprisonment and torture, dating back to 1999. Like other religious communities including Tibetan Buddhists and the House church movement, the Falun Gong is perceived as an unacceptable threat to the social dominance of the CCP. Because faith-based communities are bound together by shared beliefs in laws and principles that transcend the temporal and the material, they are viewed with deep suspicion and fear by regimes such as the Communist government in China. No single religious community in China has suffered from this suspicion more than the Falun Gong. For more than 15 years, this community has responded to this brutal persecution through peaceful and non-violent resistance, coupled with a heroic and determined commitment to their beliefs and practices.
It has always been baffling to the rest of the world that the Chinese government would target this traditional, spiritual practice of the Buddha school. With their gentle, meditative exercises and a moral philosophy that emphasizes compassion, truth and tolerance, the Falun Gong are truly model citizens in every community in which they live. At one time this faith community was actually welcomed by Chinese authorities for their admirable morality and ethics. But as the Falun Gong grew in popularity, with as many as 70-100 million practitioners, the Chinese authorities grew fearful that this spiritual movement represented a threat to the Communist party’s monopoly over the hearts and minds of the Chinese people.
The Chinese government has also used the vast resources of their propaganda machinery to target Falun Gong practitioners for widespread persecution. Despite the enormous suffering they have endured, the Falun Gong have remained steadfast in their beliefs and committed to telling their stories. While dozens of China’s leading human rights lawyers and activists have been motivated to speak out on behalf of the Falun Gong, the practitioners themselves have channeled the power of the internet to create tools that have outsmarted the Chinese internet police and shared their stories with the world. The Falun Gong have played a central role in helping the Chinese people break through the Great Firewall of China that keeps its nearly billion citizens from freely accessing the internet. Some of the most sophisticated and effective firewall circumvention tools, such as Freegate and Ultrasurf, have been created by Falun Gong practitioners who believe that unfettered access to uncensored information is essential to building a democratic and decent future for the people of China.
Thanks in part to internet freedom tools such as these, information about the nightmare of criminal organ harvesting is getting out of China as well as into China, creating a growing movement to expose and eliminate this massive abuse of basic human rights.
In December of 2013, DAFOH delivered a petition with 1.5 million signatures to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, urging that an investigation be conducted into China’s “slaughter of prisoners of conscience for organ procurement”.
Thereafter, the European Parliament passed a resolution demanding an immediate end to China’s state-sanctioned organ harvesting from executed prisoners of conscience, including Falun Gong.
These are important and encouraging steps, but realistically, a challenging road lies ahead to successfully stamp out illegal organ procurement. Part of the reason for this is pure greed. In a world where there is a shortage of freely donated organs available for transplant, desperate patients are willing to pay massive sums of money to obtain a needed organ. Kidneys can sell for $60,000 and livers have been reported to command sums of nearly $100,000. Corneas, hearts and lungs are also in great demand. It is the toxic combination of political targeting, financial greed and profound corruption that has created this medical and moral nightmare. By some estimates, as many as 65,000 Falun Gong may have been victims of this perfect storm of evil.
Now, as China faces a period of political transition, there is evidence that those who have been involved in massive human rights abuses against the Falun Gong are determined to be succeeded by politicians who themselves are implicated in these crimes. Why? Because they want to ensure that they will have impunity for the wrongs they have done. These individuals would do well to remember the words of Martin Luther King, “The arc of history is long but it bends towards justice”.
Adlai Stevenson II, former Ambassador to the United Nations and Governor of Illinois, once said that “solutions begin by telling the truth”. It is time for leaders around the world to insist on truth-telling when it comes to the matter of involuntary organ harvesting. The Chinese government must not be permitted to sweep this crime under the rug and above all this practice must be stopped, once and for all. It has been observed that “In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit”. There has already been far too much profiting on the part of evil as a result of the abhorrent harvesting of organs from innocent men and women across China. Their stolen lives cry out for justice and it is a cry that must not go unheeded.