DAFOH’s International Human Rights Day Webinar: “Humankind at a Crossroads: Universal Human Rights versus Commercialized Forced Organ Harvesting from Living People”

On December 10, 2021, in commemoration of the 73rd anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations, DAFOH hosted a webinar entitled “Humankind at a Crossroads: Universal Human Rights versus Commercialized Forced Organ Harvesting from Living People.” Politicians and activists from around the world spoke out against the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) lucrative transplantation industry that has, for decades, sourced organs from living, non-consenting prisoners of conscience, primarily the Falun Gong spiritual group as well as from other ethnic and religious minorities such as Uyghur Muslims, House Christians and Tibetan Buddhists. Webinar speeches in both video and pdf format are found on DAFOH website.

Dr. Harold King, Director of DAFOH France, moderated the webinar. He pointed out that despite the fact that the Chinese Government signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on July 20, 1949, it has since perpetrated many genocidal acts against millions of its own people. The most horrific of these has been the persecution of Falun Gong and the CCP’s war against Falun Gong’s basic principles: Truth, Compassion, and Tolerance. Dr. King asked, “What words could better summarize the meaning of universal human rights than these three principles? In the end, we must ask ourselves if the Chinese Communist Party’s persecution of Falun Gong is, at its core, an attack on human rights and a persecution of goodness in humankind?”

Garnett Genuis, Member of the Canadian Parliament, spoke of his personal experience as the grandson of a Holocaust survivor from Germany during World War II as the reason he champions human rights. Last spring, he introduced into the House of Commons Bill S 204 which “seeks to fight against organ harvesting and trafficking by reducing demand, and in the process, it would save lives. If this bill is passed, it would make it a criminal offense for a person to go abroad to procure an organ taken without consent. It also creates provisions by which a person could be deemed inadmissible to Canada, if they are involved with forced organ harvesting and trafficking.” This is the third bill of this kind that the Canadian legislature has debated since 2008.

Mr. Genuis declared, “We as an international community, we have a responsibility to one another, to uphold the principles and values which we have committed to, the principles and values which unite our human family. To stand by idly when innocent people are arbitrarily detained, tortured and killed for their organs on an industrial scale, that reduces the human person as merely a means to an end and ignores their inherent worth and value. It fails to see and acknowledge the dignity and worth of the victims and their families in favor of the cruel slaughter being perpetrated by the Chinese Communist Party.”

Scott Perry, Member of the United States Congress, told webinar viewers that he has been pleased to work with DAFOH and others to advance legislation regarding the persecution of Falun Gong in China. One such bill, the Falun Gong Protection Act, was introduced to the U.S. Congress by Rep. Perry shortly after the webinar. He shared that this bill will authorize the American President to “sanction anyone who has directly or indirectly contributed to forced organ harvesting within China. It would also instruct the Secretary of State to determine whether China’s persecution of the Falun Gong constitutes an atrocity under a 2018 human rights bill. The definition of an atrocity includes both crimes against humanity as well as genocide, and encourages the State Department to formally decide the nature of the persecution of the Falun Gong, something that has been sorely missing in our China policy.” He added that, “This bill also reinforces basic principles of internationally recognized human rights, that everyone, every single person, has the right to life, liberty, and the security of person. It also states that no one shall be held in slavery or servitude.”

Rep. Perry concluded, “China’s persecution of the Falun Gong whether by forced organ harvesting, or unjust imprisonment, or forced labor is evil and perverse and the Congress must commit to ensuring that millions of Falun Gong practitioners are not denied the freedom to exercise their religious beliefs… We must challenge the evil designs of the Chinese Communist Party, which entails highlighting its wanton disregard for basic standards of human decency.”

Annick Ponthier, Member of the Belgian Parliament, also a member of the Committee of Foreign Affairs with a focus on Asia, said that the issue of forced organ harvesting has not received much attention from either Belgian politicians or the press. This, she said, was most likely due to economic and trade reasons. “In my opinion, however, forced organ harvesting should get a lot more attention from both the media and policymakers because it constitutes an unmistakable crime against humanity.”

Ms. Ponthier first heard about organ harvesting of prisoners of conscience in China after receiving a letter from the organization End Transplant Abuse in China in the spring of 2020 concerning the findings of the China Tribunal. She subsequently researched the topic on her own and began to take action within the Belgian Parliament, demanding that “the Belgian Government take a whole different approach regarding China and rethink our bilateral relations.”

She described how organ harvesting in China is driven by both commercial and ideological motives. “Beijing persecutes different groups on ideological and political grounds because their affiliation does not match the totalitarian communist state ideology that Xi Jinping wants to impose upon all citizens. The organ harvesting of Chinese minority groups also has a commercial side of course, because the organs get sold on the market. But most importantly, they are victimized because the government sees them as a threat to their ideology.”

She warned, “Chinese decision makers have a different conception of human rights than we do in the West. More so they do not care about human rights at all and have no regard for human life if those lives don’t further their internal communist agenda and their ambitions to become a global superpower. This way, a stance against China becomes a stance for human rights around the world. Because China doesn’t mean to limit itself to what happens inside its own borders, it wants to exert influence all around the world and advanced their totalitarian model.”

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, House of Lords, United Kingdom, noted that “severe human rights abuses are still happening in our world. Arguably the worst of such abuses is taking place in China today.” He quoted Article 3, Subsection 2 of the recently released Universal Declaration on Combating and Preventing Forced Organ Harvesting which states, “The killing of vulnerable prisoners for the purpose of harvesting and selling their organs for transplant is an egregious and intolerable violation of the fundamental right to life.”

He affirmed that, “Over the years, evidence of forced organ harvesting has continued to build, and whistleblowers have stepped forward. The body of evidence is becoming vast, including detailed statistical analysis of transplantations and donations, numerous recorded undercover telephone conversations, legal, and policy statements and the practice of the Government and the party, advertisements, admissions of university and military personnel, and a large number of very brave personal testimonies.”

Lord Hunt described how his “Organ Tourism and Cadavers on Display Bill, which had its Second Reading on 16th July this year, serves to prevent UK citizens from complicity in forced organ harvesting by amending the Human Tissue Act to ensure that UK citizens cannot travel to countries such as China for organ transplantation and to put a stop to the dreadful traveling circus of body exhibitions, which sources deceased bodies from China.”

After outlining the five ways his bill would act as an amendment to the existing human tissue legislation in the UK, Lord Hunt concluded his talk by quoting Article 4 of the Universal Declaration on Combating and Preventing Forced Organ Harvesting which says, “All governments shall combat and prevent forced organ harvesting by providing for the criminalization of certain acts and facilitate the criminal prosecution of forced organ harvesting both at the national and international levels.”

“We must take action internationally and in the UK in order to do all we can to prevent this abhorrent practice,” he said. “My bill takes us a step forward.”

Dr. Abraham Mathai, Founder of The Harmony Foundation, India, reminded the audience that “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family as the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.”

He stated, “Organ trafficking can be referred to as one of the most cruel and grimmest crimes in the world. As such, it demands a human rights-based approach in analysis and response to this problem by placing the victim at the center of initiatives to combat this rise. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights should also be amended and adjusted to effectively address this grave concern of organ harvesting and trafficking which is allegedly occurring in China on a very large scale,” and added, “An aggressive campaign should also be launched for China to be placed under sanctions and even ostracized from the international community until it outlaws and bans organ harvesting and trafficking within its borders and amongst its trading partners.”

Dr. Mathai said, “Falun Gong practitioners have been targeted in this heinous atrocity of organ trafficking to the blind eyes of the world for over two decades,” and rhetorically asked, “How can our world live with tolerating this organized atrocity and still state to uphold the rights and dignity of all humans and right-living and conscionable citizens of the world and as the United Nations? [where should the quotation marks be to end his quote? Here?]

He closed his speech “unequivocally urging the adoption of the new Universal Declaration on Combating and Preventing Forced Organ Harvesting initiated by DAFOH in order to fill the gaps that the 1948 document of the Universal Declaration was not able to fill in stopping forced organ harvesting in large scale from living people with a specific call for accountability on China.”

Erping Zhang, Spokesperson for the Falun Dafa Information Center, United States, spoke about the spiritual practice that is so brutally persecuted in China. “Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a traditional spiritual practice of the Buddha school. It consists of five sets of gentle meditation exercises and a moral philosophy centered on the tenets of truth, compassion, and tolerance. After its introduction to the public in 1992, government officials actually praised Falun Gong for saving a great amount of insurance costs for the government, owing to its health benefits, and for stabilizing a Chinese society seeing increasing social disparity through its moral-centered teachings.”

In July of 1999, then-CCP leader Jiang Zemin, fearing the challenge Falun Gong’s popularity and spiritual tenets might pose to the Communist Party, launched a campaign, which is ongoing today, to viciously persecute and eradicate Falun Gong.

Mr. Zhang then explained how, “In response to the persecution, Falun Gong practitioners have launched the largest peaceful resistance movement in modern Chinese history. From the basements and backrooms of homes across China, Falun Gong practitioners produce and distribute pamphlets and DVDs to expose the CCP’s lies and crimes. They also distribute free copies of internet freedom software that have helped millions in China to bypass the Great Firewall to see beyond the blinds of authoritarian censorship,” adding that, “These efforts have had a profound impact on Chinese society and encouraged over 300 million Chinese people to withdraw from the CCP or its affiliated organizations.”

He warned that, “The implication of the CCP’s human rights abuses extends beyond the borders of China. Other than the commonly-known issue of slave labor, the ethics of organ transplantation should concern the free world. Many recipients of organs forcibly harvested from Falun Gong practitioners are actually not from China, and with countries subsidizing their healthcare fees for post-transplant recovery, they might be unknowingly acting as accomplices to the CCP’s crimes against humanity.”

“In other words, China’s human rights abuses and the international community’s inaction have material consequences to the West – morally, and socially. The free world ought to pay attention to societal needs and recognize the benefits gained from a humanitarian approach,” he added.

Mr. Zhang concluded, “In every historical era, there is a defining moment that calls for basic human conscience and dignity in making this world a better place… and with the support from so many kind-hearted people like the ones on this panel, we are very hopeful that the day will soon arrive when the biggest communist tyranny ends.”

Lucica Humeniuc, President of the Romanian Independent Society of Human Rights, Romania, explained how the Universal Declaration of Human Rights “is recognized as part of universal customary international law and is the key to reforms at all levels of international, regional, and national representation, respecting the universal, inalienable and indivisible nature of the whole range of human rights (political, civil, social, economic, cultural).”

“However, recent history has shown that there have been obstacles to the full protection of human rights amidst major humanitarian crises caused by the destructive policies of totalitarian regimes, inter-ethnic conflicts, terrorism, drug trafficking, human trafficking, and forced harvesting and trafficking in human organs,” Ms. Humeniuc said.

She told the audience she was speaking out because she had experienced the suppression of the most totalitarian communist regime in Eastern Europe as Romania “had the harshest and longest lasting totalitarian apparatus that could only be overthrown by bloody popular revolt and the sacrifice of those who lost their lives.”

Ms. Humeniuc shared, “Between 2000 and 2004 and 2012 to 2015 Romanian governments reactivated the controversial bilateral relationship between Romania and China. During these periods the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in Romania intensified and they were intimidated, expelled, and removed from public places where they practiced, [they were then] investigated and fined. Most of the time, the police car in which they were taken for investigation turned into a room of mental and physical torture.”

She added, “The dark side of communism offers insights into the disaster of civilizations and the loss of the very notion of humanity. Communism suffocated the countries of Central and Eastern Europe… I want to share with everyone that everywhere and at all times, communism is, and will always be a utopian construct which turns the individual into a mere cog in the immense machinery of the single party, and totalitarianism is a regime which denies human rights and subordinates the individual to its interests.”

Regarding China, she said, “The state-organized eradication of the Falun Gong spiritual group through extrajudicial security, the 610 Office, is one of the most serious violations of the Declaration in the 21st century… over 20 years, a mechanism of human destruction has been formed that is now self-perpetuating,” and added, “Forced harvesting and illegal trafficking of human organs should be on the permanent agenda of international and regional bodies and a priority for each individual state to marginalize and sanction the Chinese state.”

Ms. Humeniuc concluded that, “It should not be forgotten that against all the eloquent data presented for 20 years, the testimonies and the existing evidence, China’s dictatorship’s best ally was and continues to be silence” and called on all the world to break this silence and “stop the brutality of the CCP” by signing the recent Universal Declaration on Combating and Preventing Forced Organ Harvesting… In the 21st century, the forced harvesting of organs from living persons is by no means just a national problem, but a problem of humanity.”