The deafening and pervasive silence that has surrounded the transplant abuse situation of persecuted men and women is changing. We now know that overwhelming numbers of prisoners of conscience in detention camps in China are of global concern.
Although China is not alone, it is by far the worst offender and the only country with state-sanctioned forced organ harvesting from detained prisoners of conscience in the world. Publicly vilified, unlawfully detained, battered, tortured, emotionally and psychologically abused, and physically and sexually assaulted, the prisoners of conscience have become an easily accessible living organ bank. The transplant abuse has been unwittingly condoned by desperate patients, and their physicians in western countries, seeking transplantation in China, often unaware of the true source of the organs they have received.
This tragedy has attracted the world’s attention and moved the hearts of millions of people, as evidenced by the 1.5 million people who signed the DAFOH Petition to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2013. Hundreds of resolutions and petitions have reflected this concern. Citizens in the free world are asking their representatives to take political action and demand protective legislation.
Long overdue, protective resolutions aimed to stop forced organ harvesting and collusion have been passed in the U.S. on the state level. A new federal proposal, House Resolution 281 aimed to enact protective regulations, is currently pending after unanimous approval in the Foreign Affairs Committee with 215 representatives co-sponsoring. The congressional website predicts a 92% chance of being agreed to in the House.
For decades silence has served as a camouflage. Yet, awareness of forced organ harvesting is spreading rapidly and this very silence will no longer shield culprits from known complicity with this violence, nor from the failure to overcome it and face the persecutors with resolve. Such resolve can be seen in the efforts of individuals and groups all over the world. Every year new resolutions have been written and supported by lawmakers.
DAFOH has explored dozens of resolutions and proclamations drafted in mayors’ offices, town meetings, church halls, state capitols, congressional suites and parliaments since the first reports of forced organ harvesting in China in 2006.
In 2012 and 2013 major resolutions were passed in Taiwan, are pending in France and celebrated as far-reaching action by the European Parliament. From 2006 to the present, a foundation has been laid in small towns and cities all over the world, with rallies and forums, petitions and protests to increase awareness.
Resolutions and Proclamations
In the United States numerous resolutions and proclamations have been announced in settings from rallies and country fairs to the halls of Congress. Many states in the Midwest American farm belt have endorsed resolutions and efforts against forced organ harvesting.
In 2014, the latest proposal on the subject to be passed in the United States, Pennsylvania House Resolution 1052, started with a conversation at a community gala, and resulted in the unanimous adoption of a state resolution within a matter of weeks. The conversation with a state representative at a local event to introduce a resolution encouraging the medical community in Pennsylvania to help raise awareness of unethical organ transplant practices in China was the initiating factor for the resolution. The PA House Resolution 1052 passed in a landslide vote of 198 to 0 five days after its introduction.
Minnesota State Representative Phyllis Kahn (DFL, District 60B) recently called upon her state to investigate all foreign sourced organs used in transplantation in Minnesota and 34 members from both parties of the House, along with two state senators, stood with her. Kahn also worries that harvested organs could find their way into the state to be used for medical research at the University of Minnesota or any other publicly-funded medical research institution. “We are only asking for investigation and assurance that there is no use of improperly procured and donated organs,” said Kahn. “We are greatly troubled by the possibility that any of these organs might be used by hospitals or healthcare providers in the state of Minnesota,” she said.
Missourians are stoic in the cause of supporting H.Res. 281. Nearly all of Missouri’s representatives have co-sponsored in Washington, including some of the state’s most conservative representatives. In July, Mayor Bill Hennessy of O’Fallon, Missouri signed a proclamation condemning the forced organ harvesting and the persecution of Falun Gong in China. The crime against humanity moved the mayor and the city council to act in their official capacity.
In 2013, the St. Louis City council passed a resolution condemning the CCP’s crime of harvesting organs. The Board of Aldermen of the City called on Washington to condemn the persecution against Falun Gong and the crime of harvesting organs from Falun Gong practitioners and other involuntary donors in China.
In Long Beach California in 2011, California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, then senior legislator on the Foreign Affairs Committee, endorsed several citywide proclamations and said “We as Americans owe it to the rest of those people who suffer. If we are grateful for our own freedom, let it be expressed in solidarity with those who suffer under tyranny.” In 2013 eight towns in the Long Beach area presented official proclamations against forced organ harvesting in China to advocates at a human rights rally.
The Colorado State Senate and House of Representatives passed joint resolution 06-027 this year. The resolution condemned the CCP’s extension of persecution to the United States and the CCP’s organ harvesting in concentration camps on the Mainland. Representative Bill Berens, a co-signer of the resolution, was reportedly harassed by the Chinese consulate for issuing a proclamation specifying the Falun Gong. He testified in the assembly that the CCP not only persecutes its own citizens but also intimidates Americans who speak for others’ freedom. Representative Josh Penry said in his speech before voting for the resolution that China was an important trade partner, but that does not mean that the CCP’s killing of its citizens can be ignored. The U.S. should stand up to state that this is unacceptable.
In 2013, the State of Maine House of Representatives and Senate adopted a joint resolution condemning the Chinese regime’s atrocity of forced organ harvesting from Falun Dafa practitioners of conscience.
The Delaware State Senate passed a resolution to condemn the CCP’s atrocities of live organ harvesting after three resolutions were passed at the local level in Wilmington and New Castle. The resolution also called on then President Bush to support independent investigations.
The City Council of Chicago, Illinois, passed Resolution R2014-627 against forced organ harvesting from prisoners in China last July. Authored by James Cappleman, Chicago’s 46th Ward Alderman, it passed unanimously in the council meeting.
In February the State of Illinois passed House Resolution 730 urging the U.S. government to investigate and help bring to an end China’s forced organ harvesting, and to prohibit entry into the county by doctors who performed transplants using organs harvested from Falun Gong practitioners.
New Jersey congressmen Chris Smith and Donald Payne have consistently spoken out and supported resolutions, proclamations and efforts in Washington.
The Albany New York legislature issued a proclamation in July of this year urging “the United States government and the U.S. President to investigate organ transplants in China and take all reasonable steps to bring an end to the revolting practice of harvesting organs from living Falun Dafa practitioners for transplants, and…request the United States government to prohibit any doctors who performed transplants using organs harvested from Falun Dafa practitioners from gaining entry into the United States.”
In 2009 the U.S. Congress passed House Resolution 605, calling to end forced organ harvesting, which quoted “Former Canadian Secretary of State, David Kilgour, and Human Rights Lawyer David Matas, published a report, titled ‘Report into Allegations of Organ Harvesting of Falun Gong Practitioners in China,’ of their investigation into the reports of organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners in China which concluded that large numbers of Falun Gong practitioners are victims of systematic organ harvesting, whilst still alive, throughout China and that the practice is still ongoing.”
This summer in Door County on the peninsula in Wisconsin, a small local paper, The Pulse, published an outspoken op-ed about H. Res. 281. In full support of the resolution the author made the following suggestion to readers, “The next step is for the resolution to be scheduled for a House Floor vote. The more co-sponsors, the more likely the resolution will pass. Please encourage your U.S. Representative to co-sponsor this resolution. The current list of co-sponsors can be found at: govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/hres281. For more information about this issue see: stoporganharvesting.org and dafoh.org (Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting).“
Overseas the swiftest and most widespread response to the initial 2006 reports of organ harvesting in China came from Taiwan. That year 16 legislative councils, in counties and municipalities across Taiwan, had passed resolutions condemning the atrocity, with more to follow in 2007. In 2012 the Congress passed a legally-binding resolution that instructed the Department of Health to place requirements on both medical institutions and physicians.
The Taiwan law mandates that when patients who received organ transplants abroad seek health insurance coverage for postoperative care, the medical institutions and physicians must register the country, hospital and surgeon identification of the organ and transplant procedure.
Israel implemented one of the strongest laws to prevent collusion with China’s organ harvesting. In 2008 the Israeli Knesset passed the first law criminalizing the sale and brokerage of organs. The law also ended funding, through the health insurance system, of transplants in China for Israel nationals, making it a crime to receive a trafficked organ from China. Both Israel and China face the situation of traditionally rooted reluctance to donate organs. Yet, unlike Israel, which has a sophisticated donation program to engage volunteers, China has “solved” the lack of organs through coercive organ harvesting, not only from executed prisoners, but also from living prisoners of conscience.
The Australian Senate unanimously passed a motion in 2013 joining with the UN and Council of Europe initiatives to oppose the practice of organ harvesting and call upon its own government to oppose organ harvesting. Australia is currently working on legislation to make organ transplant tourism illegal.
As early as 2006, the European Parliament passed a resolution stemming from reports of breaking news of organs being forcibly removed from imprisoned Falun Gong practitioners. Seven years later in 2013, with no end to the state sanctioned killing for transplant organs, the European Parliament passed another resolution focused on the issue which recounts seven items of evidence of China’s organ transplant abuses and calls “on the Government of the People’s Republic of China to end immediately the practice of harvesting organs from prisoners of conscience and members of religious and ethnic minority groups.”
Within the year the powerful European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) endorsed the EU resolution and the Council of Europe has adopted an international convention.
In 2010, French Parliamentarian Valérie Boyer, along with several other members of the National Assembly, proposed a law which sets out certificate and reporting requirements similar to Canada’s proposed law. This unprecedented law would require every French citizen and habitual resident who undergoes an organ transplant abroad to acquire a certificate stating that the organ was donated without payment. The organ recipient would be required to provide the certificate to the French Biomedical Agency before returning to France.
Efforts in Italy are exemplary of the role that expert testimony can play in motivating legislative action. International human rights lawyer David Matas, one of the first researchers to investigate the reports of China’s organ harvesting in 2006, has provided testimony to legislative bodies around the world. In December of 2013, Matas presented information to the Italian Senate Extraordinary Commission for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights. Three months later, the Italian Senate Commission passed a binding resolution to address the issue. The resolution declares that thousands of prisoners have died for their organs in China and includes the prosecution of organ traffickers, a call for further research of China’s organ harvesting and a proposal that training programs reconsider the training of Chinese doctors.
Catholics over the world took notice of Pope Francis’ involvement with planning policy against forced organ harvesting. The urgent concern over forced organ procurement of spiritual groups in China is now a central Christian issue. Pope Francis met with key members of The Transplantation Society traveling on behalf of the Declaration of Istanbul last month endorsing his support against organ harvesting and persecution of spiritual groups. Facilitating the meeting was the mayor of Rome, transplant surgeon Dr. Ignazio Marino, who trained at the Transplant Centre of the University of Cambridge and the University of Pittsburgh’s Starzl Transplantation Institute.
In July 2006, China banned the buying and selling of human organs. Yet, this ban did not affect the Chinese government policy of routinely harvesting organs from prisoners, and selling them through the financially troubled military hospital system. This policy of organ procurement has its roots in China’s 1983 “Strike Hard” campaign that announced China would begin executing common criminals. With this new supply of corpses, China then created the law “Rules Concerning the Utilization of Corpses or Organs from Corpses from Executed Criminals.” This law allowed the government to use prisoners’ organs for transplantation. Yet, guidelines from the World Medical Association (WMA), the World Health Organization (WHO) and The Transplantation Society (TTS) stated that it is unethical to procure organs from executed prisoners. In October 2012, the WMA stated that “in jurisdictions where the death penalty is practiced, executed prisoners cannot be considered as organ and/or tissue donors.”
Securing evidence has been a challenge as China is known for its lack of transparency. Most of the reliable data comes from survivor reports, first hand witness reports, victims’ family members that have sought asylum outside of China, and Chinese healthcare professionals.
The extreme persecution of ethnic and spiritual groups in China, such as Christians, Tibetans, Uighurs and the Falun Gong, the latter being by far the largest persecuted group, and the arrests of political dissidents and democracy fighters, created a huge population of prisoners of conscience in China’s prisons. This convenient, illegal bank of live organs exists in a jurisdiction without the rule of law. Reports of the abuse leaked from behind the iron curtain after 2006 when investigators and human rights watchdogs had enough compelling evidence to demand action globally.