Inattention to the killing of Falun Gong for their organs
by David Matas
The reaction to the evidence of the killing of Falun Gong for their organs has not been commensurate with the gravity of the offense, nor the quality of the evidence.
Why is this so?
Accumulation of Evidence
One reason is that going through all relevant evidence—and there is quite a lot of it, to come to an informed conclusion whether Falun Gong are or are not being killed for their organs—is a time-consuming task. Many people do not have the time.
Yet, there is no easy short cut. The people present at the scene of organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners are either perpetrators or victims. There are no bystanders.
Because the victims are murdered and cremated, there is nobody to be found, no autopsy to be conducted. With all but a few exceptions, there are no surviving victims to tell what happened to them. Perpetrators are not inclined to confess publicly, continually and in detail what amount to crimes against humanity.
The scenes of the crimes leave no traces. Once organ harvesting is completed, the operating room in which it takes place looks like any other empty operating room.
If the story of the killing of Falun Gong for their organs could be told in ten seconds, it would be an easy story to tell. The problem the issue of the killing of Falun Gong for their organs raises is not too little evidence, but rather too much. Because the story is book-length, telling it is not so easy.
The more time passes, the less information is available about transplantation in China and the more sophisticated the cover-up becomes. The experience of my research is that as soon as I cite an official Chinese source, it disappears. Advertisements on hospital web sites of short waiting times for transplants have gone, so have public boasts about the amount of money being made from transplants.
Official Chinese price-lists for transplants have vanished. Hospitals no longer tell callers that they have organs of Falun Gong within 2-3 weeks for sale.
The liver transplant registry of Hong Kong, which used to post aggregate liver transplant volumes, no longer does. Chinese transplant doctors who used to give referral letters to foreign after care doctors about the operations of their patients data about the organ sources and anti-rejection drugs no longer do so.
The Government of China claims that the prisoners from whom organs are sourced are all prisoners sentenced to death. Yet the Government refuses to release death penalty statistics.
I and others have archived all information we referenced so that independent researchers can see what we saw. However, over time there has been a progressive degradation of the available data from official Chinese sources. There appears to be a systematic cover-up of organ sourcing.
Newness of The Violation
The innovators of transplant technology, we can be confident, never imagined that what they developed would be used to murder prisoners of conscience and sell their organs for huge sums.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter in 1943, reacting to being told by Jan Karski about the Holocaust, Frankfurter said to a Polish diplomat: “I did not say that this young man was lying. I said that I was unable to believe what he told me. There is a difference.”
The killing of prisoners of conscience for their organs represents a disgusting form of evil, which, despite all the depravities humanity has seen, is new to this planet. The very horror makes observers reel back in disbelief.
Newness of Falun Gong
Repressed democracy activists, journalists, human rights defenders, Tibetan and Christian activists generate more sympathy than the Falun Gong because they are more familiar to the West. The Falun Gong are recent, started in 1992, foreign, without an obvious link to globally entrenched traditions.
To outsiders, there is the immediate albeit superficial strangeness of the name Falun Gong. The words “Falun” and “Gong” in Western languages mean nothing.
For the Communists, victimizing the Falun Gong is a crime, which is easier to get away with than victimizing other better-known groups. Falun Gong victims are often people without Western connections or Western languages. It is a lot easier for outsiders to relate to victims who have universal labels, journalists, human rights defenders, and democracy activists, than a group with a name that means nothing to most ears.
It is much easier to misrepresent the unknown than the known. When the Communists slur Tibetan Buddhists or the Christian house churches, we know that they are talking nonsense. When the Communists slur the Falun Gong, many people are not sure whether there is any basis for the charges.
Once the Chinese Communist Party/Government decided to ban Falun Gong, the propaganda campaign against the practice of Falun Gong began. This propaganda has been systematic, unrelenting, worldwide. It consists entirely of unfounded stereotypes to justify repression, which exists for entirely different reasons.
The incitement to hatred against the Falun Gong, like all incitement to bigotry, has an impact. The place with the most ferocious impact is China, where the propaganda is uncontradicted. But the incitement has an insidious effect everywhere.
The Chinese noise about the practice of Falun Gong confuses and obscures. Many of those who do not accept in its entirety Chinese propaganda against the Falun Gong, nonetheless, hold the view that there must be something improper about Falun Gong behind all these Chinese charges.
Skepticism about the Falun Gong is not based on anything real in the practice of Falun Gong but is rather the residual impact of the Chinese Government/Communist Party incitement against the practice. Plain and simple, it is prejudice.
China is a global power with economic and political outreach around the planet. China’s economic weight by far surpasses that of other major human rights violators.
Some people, for reasons of political or diplomatic or economic convenience, will swallow anything said by the Communist Party of China, true or not. For these fellow travelers, what is relevant is only that it is said by the Communist Party of China. Truth or falsehood is a matter of indifference.
For others, whatever they believe, their sense of prudence dictates silence. They do not want to undercut their own personal interests by saying anything about a matter which does not impact them personally.
For instance, the Chinese consulate in Toronto wrote city councillors in 2004, urging them to oppose a motion for the proclamation of a Falun Gong week. The letters said: “If passed, the motion will have a very negative effect on our future beneficial exchanges and cooperation.” Among the “beneficial exchanges and cooperation” Toronto City Councillor Michael Walker heard mentioned, were threatened sale of a Canadian made nuclear reactor, the CANDU, to China, the construction by the Canadian company Bombardier of a rail link to Tibet, and a two panda loan to the Metro Toronto Zoo.(1) Threats so disproportionate to the event showed the importance to the Chinese Communist regime of silencing the content.
The leverage of the power of the Government of China is particularly evident at western universities. If there is one thing you need to know to understand the Government of China, it is its treatment of the Falun Gong. China treats the Falun Gong as its number one public enemy. China, to all appearances, spends more staff time, money, and effort on the Falun Gong at its embassies and consulates around the world than on anything else. When China fills its prisons and labor camps with Falun Gong, this obsession tells us nothing about the Falun Gong. But it tells us volumes about the Government of China. A focus on Chinese preoccupation with the Falun Gong gives us clearer insights into the mentality and dynamics of the Government of China than any other focus.
Yet, in Chinese studies departments at universities around the world, almost without exception, there are no courses, no research projects, no publications, no guest lectures on the Falun Gong. China studies departments around the world are thunderingly silent about the persecution of the Falun Gong, despite the fact that this persecution tells us more about China than virtually anything else. In China studies departments, the Falun Gong is studiously ignored.
It is as if university physics departments were to ignore Einstein’s theory of relativity, as if university English literature departments were to ignore Shakespeare. When universities ignore something so central to China, so obvious, it is not out of ignorance. It is rather out of a desire not to antagonize China. China scholars feel they need cooperation of the Government of China, at the very least to get visas to enter China, to pursue their work. In order to ensure that cooperation, they stay away from a subject the Government of China would not want them to consider. Scholars have enough integrity not to take the Chinese government line on the Falun Gong. But if they say anything else, Chinese officials hit the roof. To avoid that reaction, they say nothing.
Lack of Structure
Falun Gong is not an organization; it is not even people. It is rather a set of exercises with a spiritual foundation.
The exercises can be done by anyone, anywhere, at any time, though commonly they are done once daily, often together in groups like the many other Tai Chi and Qi Gong practices in Chinese parks. Those who are interested can begin the exercises whenever they want and stop whenever they want. While practicing, they are free to practice the exercises as little or as much as they see fit.
A person need not register with anyone or join anything or pay anything to practice the exercises. All information about how to do the exercises is publicly, freely available.
Those who practice Falun Gong have no organizational leadership. Founder Li Hongzhi is not worshipped by practitioners. Nor does he receive funds from practitioners. He is a private person who meets rarely with practitioners. Most practitioners have never met him.
The lack of structure within the Falun Gong community hampers human rights reporting. There is a website, Minghui, which accumulates reports of victimization. There is also an NGO, the World Organization to Investigate Persecution against the Falun Gong, which does some research and analysis. The website and the NGO are much like the community of Falun Gong practitioners generally, that is to say there is no money, no leadership, no offices, no staff, and a heavy reliance on volunteers.
Sympathy for Communism
Chinese communists have become so capitalistic, it is surprising to see socialists rallying to the Chinese communist cause. Yet, this phenomenon still exists. The Chinese Communist Party/State has been able to win over to its side many elements of the global leftist community who harbor nostalgia for old-time Chinese communism.
This faux leftist solidarity manifests itself in part by rejecting any criticism of Communist China, including criticism of its persecution of Falun Gong. Old-time leftists rally around Communist Party fantasies that the CIA is behind Falun Gong.(2) While these sorts of suspicions are too farfetched to get much of a following, they do prevent unanimity across the political spectrum in standing up to the Chinese persecution of Falun Gong in general and the killing of Falun Gong for their organs in particular.
There is an attitude in some quarters that the killing of Falun Gong for their organs has to be established with certainty and, absent that certainty, nothing need be done. This expectation shifts the onus from where it properly lies.
The onus does not fall on researchers to show that Falun Gong practitioners are being killed for their organs. Researchers do not have to explain where China gets its organs for transplants, China does. It falls on the Government of China to explain the sourcing for their organs.
The World Health Organization, in an Assembly in May 2010, endorsed Guiding Principles on Human Cell, Tissue and Organ Transplantation. Two of these guiding principles are traceability and transparency.
At the United Nations Universal Periodic Review Working Group in February 2009, Canada, Switzerland, United Kingdom, France, Austria and Italy recommended that China publish death penalty statistics. The Government of China said no to this recommendation. The same recommendation was repeated by Belgium, France, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, UK, and Italy at the United Nations Universal Periodic Review Working Group in October 2013. This time China said, we’ll see.
The connection between death penalty statistics and organ transplant abuse was made explicit by the UN rapporteur on torture, the UN rapporteur on religious intolerance and the UN Committee on Torture. All have asked China to explain the discrepancy between its volume of transplants and its volume of organ sources.
The UN Committee against Torture in its November 2008 concluding observations of the state report of China wrote that China 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.”
Lack of Individual Cases
The conclusion that Falun Gong have been killed in large numbers for their organs relies on the confluence of a number of evidentiary trails. This evidence does not necessarily identify individual victims. One response to the evidence that Falun Gong have been killed for their organs in the tens of thousands is, “name them”.
This request to name individual cases may be made out of skepticism. Alternatively, the request to identify individual cases is made because activism around an individual case may be easier than advocacy around a general phenomenon. It is harder for the Government of China to skate round an inquiry when it is pointed, when we tell them the name of the victim, the date of the victimization and the place where it occurred.
To identify individual cases is inherently difficult for a number of reasons. One is that typically individual victimizations leave no traces behind.
In addition, the primary Falun Gong victims of organ harvesting are the non-self-identified. Falun Gong refuse to identify themselves to their jailers to protect their friends, workplaces and families who are otherwise victimized for not having turned them in. Their jailers do not know who they are and their families do not know where they are. Those who victimize Falun Gong practitioners may know nothing about the practitioners other than that they are practitioners.
In principle, the need to identify individual victims should not matter. The evidence overall of the abuse is overwhelming even without identification of the individual victims.
Nonetheless, a few individual named cases have surfaced. Seven of these are mentioned in the book Bloody Harvest. An eighth was mentioned in a speech I delivered at a forum at the William Pitt Union, University of Pittsburgh, March 28, 2013.(3)
Five of the eight cases mentioned in the book Bloody Harvest come from family members of victims. These family members of Falun Gong practitioners who died in detention reported seeing the corpses of their loved ones with surgical incisions and body parts missing. The authorities gave no coherent explanation for these mutilated corpses. There is no official explanation why the bodies were mutilated. Their mutilation is consistent with organ harvesting.
The Government of China slanders Falun Gong. Falun Gong practitioners condemn human rights violations inflicted by the Communist Party of China. To outsiders not paying much attention and unfamiliar with the Falun Gong, this dispute superficially looks like a foreign political slanging match. The tendency is not to get involved.
For media reporting a story where the dispute is relevant, there is a tendency to report what each side says, the Communist Party of China and Falun Gong practitioners, as they would do with any dispute, attempting to be neutral. The articles treat real violations inflicted by the Government of China and Chinese government propaganda about those violations on an equal footing.
The media, when referring to Falun Gong, will for instance sometimes say that followers describe Falun Gong in one way, while the Government of China considers it to be something else. The two assertions are juxtaposed without comment as if each should be treated equally seriously.
Research done on the killing of Falun Gong for their organs is treated similarly. The media, when they report the research, often juxtapose it with the most blatantly false and farfetched denials of the Communist Party/State, without any indication that the research is grounded in reality and that the foundation of the denials is easily observable fabrications.
The media will sometimes report that the research on the killing of Falun Gong for their organs is contested or controversial, without any indication that virtually the only contest or controversy comes from the Communist Party. There are, of course, some people who will repeat what the Communist party says without engaging in any serious research. The fact that all independent research has corroborated the initial research David Kilgour and I did about the killing of Falun Gong for their organs is put to one side. For some media, the differing quality of the evidence of either side has less interest than the fact of controversy.
Moreover, media, like the Communist Party, often attribute the research to a mythical Falun Gong organization or Falun Gong practitioners, with the implication that Falun Gong are an interested party. The fact that the research and evidence comes almost entirely from persons who are not Falun Gong practitioners is ignored.
Accusations of human rights violations are not always true and not always well-intentioned. Those politically opposed to any regime will easily resort to false accusations of human rights violations as a means of delegitimizing that regime.
The difference between imagined human rights violations invented for purposes of delegitimization and actual human rights violations denied by the perpetrators is reality. We can not ignore reality and just consider charges and denials of human rights violations as a bunch of words all of equal weight.
The difference between Holocaust deniers and the tragic stories of the victims of the Holocaust is the real story, what actually happened. It would be irresponsible to feign neutrality between Holocaust deniers and Holocaust victims. Anyone concerned with truth, freedom and respect for human rights would disapprove strongly of those who treated Holocaust denial as a respectable opinion deserving the same weight and consideration as the tales of horror of Holocaust victims.
But Holocaust denial, like the Holocaust itself, is not an isolated experience. It is rather the most extreme form of a whole spectrum of speech abuses. Every grave human rights violation has its deniers. Perpetrators everywhere have a whole litany of sorry excuses; but the first line of defense for them all is “it did not happen”.
The Communist Party of China has committed massive human rights violations against the Falun Gong. The Falun Gong are a group of innocents, a non-political non-violent community.
The Communist Party of China, to justify its brutal hold on power, does what communist parties have done everywhere— it admits nothing and denies everything. It manufactures phony charges, concocts facts, and imagines quotes. To put Chinese propaganda about the Falun Gong on the same level as evidence about the human rights violations perpetrated by the Communist Party of China, to create a false symmetry between them ignores reality and turns a blind eye to the monsters staring us in the face.
Indifference is a general problem when we attempt to mobilize the public to oppose human rights violations. Though indifference is general, it is not uniform. Some human rights violations spark more of a public reaction than others.
The inactivity in response to the evidence on the killing of Falun Gong for their organs is particularly acute and explained by the accumulation of all other factors. The newness and seeming strangeness of Falun Gong, the wealth and weight of Communist China, the amount of evidence one needs to sort through to come to any firm conclusion, the Communist Party cover-up, the newness of the violation, the onslaught of contrary Communist Party propaganda, the lack of structure of the Falun Gong community itself, the vestigial sympathy amongst left-wing circles for Chinese communism, the improper shifting of the onus away from the Government of China, the absence of large numbers of identified individual cases, the false symmetry in which many reports engage between victims and perpetrators, have a cumulative, demobilizing effect.
When the natural inclination is to do nothing, when everyone is busy with their own lives and needs, there are just too many excuses this violation presents for disengagement. Caring begins with knowing. In this file, too many people do not care, because too many people do not know.
Though this is a difficult story to tell, for all the reasons listed, it is a story which must be told. Only by doing that can we hope to overcome the inattention from which this violation suffers.
 Jan Wong,”Feeling the long arm of China” Globe and Mail, August 6, 2005.
 See for instance http://www.facts.org.cn/Reports/World/201407/09/t20140709_1753443.html
 “The Killing of Falun Gong for their Organs: Individual Cases” http://endorganpillaging.org/2013/03/28/the-killing-of-falun-gong/