During the 2022 International Religious Freedom Summit, the Hudson Institute hosted an in-person breakout session on June 30th entitled “China’s Forced Organ Harvesting Continues,” which included Hudson Institute Senior Fellow and Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Nury Turkel, investigative journalist Ethan Gutmann, and Falun Dafa Information Center Executive Director Levi Browde. On the same day, the Institute also aired a virtual event which included DAFOH Mental Health Advisor and Board Member Jessica D. Russo, Psy.D. Both events were moderated by Nina Shea, Senior Fellow and Director of the institute’s Center for Religious Freedom who called the Chinese Communist Party’s forced organ harvesting crimes the “monetization of persecution.”
Dr. Russo told the story of the first public report of forced organ harvesting in China when a nurse came forward in March of 2006 disclosing that her husband, a transplant surgeon in China, had extracted corneas from 2000 living Falun Gong practitioners who were killed during the procedure. A clinical psychologist, Dr. Russo explained that the surgeon himself was exhibiting PTSD and extreme remorse for his actions.
At the time, Falun Gong practitioners were being imprisoned in massive numbers. Mr. Browde explained that at the start of the persecution of Falun Gong, then head of the Chinese Communist Party Jiang Zemin had given an order to destroy them financially, destroy their reputation and destroy them physically. Mr. Browde summed up forced organ harvesting as a “billion-dollar industry” to implement Zemin’s order for physical destruction while making a huge profit in the process and he pointed out that the exponential rise in transplant numbers at the start of the 21st century correlate exactly to the rise in the numbers of Falun Gong practitioners incarcerated in China’s prisons and labor camps.
The panel discussed how forced organ harvesting continues to this day, in large part because of support and cooperation from the Western transplant community, including significant involvement with U.S. institutions and companies. Previously, the Hudson Institute had decried that “the U.S. government takes Beijing’s denials of such reports at face value, while the American transplant sector collaborates freely with China in trainings, educational exchanges, research, publications, conferences, and other partnerships.”
In addressing Beijing’s denials, Mr. Gutmann explained that shortly after China had declared that it would cease using prisoners’ organs for transplant in 2015, he and colleagues released their research in 2016 showing that China’s transplant volume far exceeded the 10,000 per year it was reporting. They found that the number was between 60,000-100,000 transplants per year, putting it at around twice the volume of transplants done in the U.S., making China’s industry the largest in the world. He noted that in one hospital alone, 8,000 transplants were done each year and that there were transplant hospitals in every province. “This is what they build on Falun Gong organs,” said Mr. Gutmann.
In response to the 2016 research exposing China’s volume of transplants, China’s transplant industry released new statistics on voluntary organ donation. Mr. Gutmann stated that those statistics were completely fabricated and cited research done by Matthew Robertson and Jacob Lavee that showed how the donation statistics were all based on a single equation that produces a parabolic curve. Guttman said the chances of this happening naturally are a million to one and “you would only do this if you were trying to cover up something. Presumably you wouldn’t do this with a successful voluntary donation program.”
Ms. Shea marveled that though the Western transplant community spends extensive time, money, and research on solving the organ shortage problem, “they never seem to ask the Chinese how they do it. How do these hospitals have an unlimited supply, or such an enormous yield from their donor registry?”
There is a tremendous conflict of interest between U.S. medical institutions and China’s transplant industry. Mr. Browde explained that while some transplant doctors are horrified by the reports of forced organ harvesting they do not want to believe it due to the big stain it creates on their field. He asserted that others are driven by the monetary conflict of interest and fear losing the financial benefit of partnerships with Chinese institutions or the income from Chinese exchange students.
Mr. Turkel asserted that forced organ harvesting continues because there have been no consequences and no one has been held accountable for the known crimes. A complete ban on all contact with the Chinese transplant industry is what Gutmann described as “the only answer” and “where we want to be at this point.”
A Falun Gong practitioner was in the audience whose father had been imprisoned in China for his beliefs. She had shared in a video aired during the International Religious Freedom Summit, that though her father was a healthy man he was pronounced dead shortly after being imprisoned. When she viewed his body, she found that his torso had been cut open from top to bottom and sown shut, evidence of forced organ harvesting. She addressed those gathered at the breakout session stating, “many Falun Gong practitioners have been killed for their organs like my father. Forced organ harvesting is still happening in China. Please help stop it.”