Legislators and academics around the world hear updates on China’s organ harvesting crimes
Leading experts on the Chinese government’s transplantation abuses continue to travel the globe to educate legislators, academics and the human rights community on what can be done to save innocent lives and restore the integrity of transplantation medicine. On April 13, David Matas, international human rights lawyer and co-author of Bloody Harvest/The Slaughter, presented his findings at the 2018 Annual Bioethics Conference Poster Presentations at Harvard University. His poster, entitled “The Ethics of Professional Collaboration with Chinese Transplant Professionals,” highlighted various pieces of evidence documenting how the Chinese government is continuing to harvest organs from Falun Gong practitioners and other living prisoners of conscience.
The day before the Harvard conference, Mr. Matas spoke to students and faculty at Wellesley College.
On April 18, Matas spoke at a symposium on the black market organ trade hosted by the Penn Kidney Disease Screening and Awareness Program at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. The event began with Dr. Roy Bloom, transplant nephrologist and Medical Director of Penn Transplant, speaking about the kidney shortages around the global, long wait times and strategies to increase both living and deceased donor pools. Matas pointed out that, in China, the opposite is the norm, with organ sources waiting for patients as transplant surgeries, even of vital organs, can be booked within days or weeks, or even in advance.
Canada’s Foreign affairs committee members and witnesses, including Matas, shared their insights and experiences on working with Asian countries, particularly China, at a hearing in Ottawa on April 24. The issue of the Chinese government’s failure to engage in open international dialogue and provide freedom for its people continued to surface during the hearing. Pitman Potter, a professor at the University of British Columbia’s A. Allard School of Law, noted that for Canadians, the rule of law means including protection of citizens’ rights and limitations on government involvement, unlike the rule of law in China, which he argued is a “Socialist rule of law…submission to Party rule.” China’s restrictive laws, he argued, impact “China’s treaty compliance, China’s respect for its own laws, its respect for international treaties, and things like human rights, ethnic minorities, and trade.” Matas said that Canada should require that Beijing allow an independent international investigation into the nation’s transplantation practices saying, “That sort of request has been made by the United Nations Committee against Torture, the United States House of Representatives, and the European Parliament.”
Matas and David Kilgour, former MP of the Asia Pacific Region and fellow researcher, offered several suggestions at the hearing as to what Ottawa can do to help curb forced organ harvesting, including acting on statements endorsed by the Subcommittee on International Human Rights in 2013 and 2015 and applying peer pressure. “Right now, there is an active debate within the international transplant profession about whether to engage or ostracize the Chinese transplant profession in light of the Chinese official opacity about transplantation and the overwhelming evidence of continuing transplant abuse,” Matas noted. “I support ostracism, as the subcommittee did, because engagement removes the lever of peer pressure which, historically, when there has been ostracism, has had an impact. The government of Canada should be supporting the voices for ostracism as the subcommittee did.”
Also testifying at the hearing were Charles Burton, an associate professor of Political Science at Brock University, Paul Evans, interim research director of the Institute of Asian Research and a professor at the Liu Institute for Global Issues at UBC, Ngodup Tsering with the Office of Tibet in Washington, D.C., and Chen Yonglin, a former Chinese diplomat who defected to Australia in 2005.
A roundtable conference hosted by U.K. lawmakers Jim Shannon and Fiona Bruce on Parliament Hill on April 17 focused on China’s state-sanctioned organ harvesting crimes. Nine human rights activists gave speeches at the conference, including Kilgour, journalist Ethan Gutmann, the vice chairman of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission Benedict Rogers, and Uyghur doctor Enver Tohti. Kilgour implored organ transplant physicians not to be “willfully blind” on the crimes that China is committing. Ethan Gutmann stated that the British government should no longer be talking about how forced organ harvesting could be happening, but rather take action and publicly condemn it.
Rogers reviewed the efforts that his commission has made in the last two years on this issue, and called upon the parliament and the government to stand up for the Chinese people. DAFOH secretary Adnan Sharif, also present at the hearing, stated that if the Chinese government has stopped using organs obtained illegally, as it has claimed, then it should allow independent investigations.
Numerous film screenings are also serving to bring greater awareness to China’s transplantation crimes. More than 100 people attended the Harvested Alive-Ten Years of Investigations film screening at Australia’s New South Wales Parliament House on April 11. The film was produced shortly after the release of a 2016 report on forced organ harvesting by the World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong (WOIPFG). The screening was co-sponsored by The International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China (ETAC) and Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting (DAFOH).
WOIPFG’s chief investigator, Dr. Wang Zhiyuan, joined the audience via video link from New York for a Q&A discussion. While answering a question about why the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is persecuting Falun Gong, he explained that the government has three strategies for persecuting Falun Gong: ‘ruin their reputations, bankrupt them financially, and destroy them physically.’ Organ harvesting is a strategy for the CCP to eliminate Falun Gong physically.” He added that the government is making a huge profit on the many healthy organs from Falun Gong practitioners.
Australian PM David Shoebridge, who hosted the event, introduced a bill that criminalizes anyone from New South Wales who travels overseas and engages in unethical organ transplants.
Ken Stone’s documentary on forced organ harvesting in China, Hard To Believe, was viewed at the University of Minnesota on April 9. The multiple-award-winning film examines the role of China’s military transplant surgeons as murderers who are helping to fuel the nation’s lucrative transplant infrastructure. The documentary puts a face on the human rights atrocity through personal stories that include one surgeon’s confession.
The University of Minnesota, which has one of the largest Chinese student populations in North America, hosted the screening along with the local Falun Gong association. Members of this organization had expressed concern about the university’s collaboration with a liver transplant trial being conducted at Nanjing Medical University. The trial may likely involve students trained at the university collaborating on research that uses organs taken from Chinese prisoners of conscience. Stone and former Minnesota State Senator Alice Johnson spoke at the event. Johnson authored SF 2090, a resolution expressing concerns about China’s systematic forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience, primarily Falun Gong practitioners. The resolution was passed unanimously on May 20, 2016.
Hard To Believe was also screened at the National Health Ethics Week event at Canada’s University of Ottawa on April 5. Panelists Maria Cheung, an assistant professor and a research affiliate with the Centre for Human Rights Research at the University of Manitoba and Xun Li, president of the Falun Dafa Association of Canada shared their thoughts about organ transplantation abuses in China. Also speaking by video conference was Prof. Gary Goldsand, Director of the University of Alberta’s John Dossetor Health Ethics Centre who said, “We are reminded of the constant historical lesson of ‘never again’ once we recognize massive atrocities that are hard to fathom.”