Newsletter Q2/15 — May 13, 2015

In This Issue

Diplomat Joëlle Hivonnet, speaks with advocates and investigators at the European Parliament convention on April 21 in Brussels, Belgium.


The Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs, the first ever international treaty to combat this crime, was signed by 14 European countries at an international convention hosted by the Council of Europe and the Spanish government in Santiago de Compostela, Spain in March.

The new treaty calls for increasing government and public awareness and stringent law enforcement for all of those involved and provides measures to ensure transparency of national transplantation systems and equitable access to transplants. Of note was a directive for punishment for medical doctors who close their eyes to suspicious transplants.

Coming at a time when China has made broad unsubstantiated media announcements to end an abhorrent dependence on forcefully taking organs for transplantation from prisoners many different countries remain on high alert and are acting in response. As countries are drafting separate laws and legislation to fight against forced organ harvesting, and the persecution of victim groups in China in particular, the treaty aims to lay the foundation for future legislation that could be adopted globally, according to convention reports.

The new treaty demands sweeping reforms with a detailed examination of China’s practices and promises for reform and offers directives for what member states can do to tackle stopping it.

When Huang Jiefu, former vice minister of health and current director of the Organ Transplantation Committee in China announced in December 2014, an end to the policy of harvesting organs from executed prisoners by January 1, 2015, there was widespread acclaim for this intention. Many media outlets greeted the declaration with optimism, saying it represented an important step to correct a policy that had become a global scandal.

Unfortunately, that acclaim was premature. There is little reason to be confident that China has actually ended its policy of forcibly harvesting organs from prisoners, or that it would agree to transparent monitoring and verification by global health groups.

Huang’s own pronouncements have been enough to raise suspicion. In an interview with the Phoenix Satellite Television on January 11, 2015, for example, Huang was asked if there will be organ donation from death row prisoners after 2015, voluntary or involuntary. He replied:


“We certainly do not want to use the words like organ donations from death row inmates anymore. In the developmental process of organ transplantation, all countries in the world began with death row inmates’ donations.”


While his first statement on terminology is merely a rhetorical dodge, the second statement is a blatant falsehood. Transplantation medicine outside of China did not begin with harvesting organs from executed prisoners. Medical doctors traveling to China for conferences or trainings should be made aware that they were wrongfully depicted in such a way before the Chinese society and that this is most likely part of the information control to trivialize the Chinese malpractice by pulling international ethical standards down to a low level and depicting China’s practice as equal to nations with ethical organ procurement.


DAFOH Exclusive Interview:

German analyst, Arne Schwarz, has explored unethical organ harvesting practices. As co-author of the book, State Organs: Transplant Abuse in China, Schwarz has been widely recognized and awarded for revealing Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche’s involvement in unethical clinical trials in China. His work is noted throughout the medical literature concerning the implications of western pharmaceutical companies in illegal and unethical transplant practices.
DAFOH: On April 21, 2015, at a workshop about organ harvesting in China held by the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, a letter from the Ambassador of China to the European Union was presented. What does the letter state?
ARNE SCHWARZ: Basically, the Ambassador’s letter claims that China has ceased using organs from executed prisoners for transplantation since January 1, 2015, and that the organ harvesting from live Falun Gong practitioners is a fabrication. But, the Ambassador did not substantiate his claims. Questions about this letter could not be asked at the time because Chinese representatives did not show up at the workshop.
DAFOH: The Ambassador’s letter is only a statement of the position of the embassy, and not a binding law. Does the letter refer to a law? What would make you believe that it is now “Against the law” in China to use organs from prisoners?
ARNE SCHWARZ: The letter did not refer to a law making organ harvesting from prisoners illegal, but simply claimed it would not happen any longer. It would be “Against the law of China” only if the National People’s Congress or the State Council officially banned the transplantation of organs from all kinds of prisoners and people in custody, promulgating a law making this illegal.
DAFOH: Former president of The Transplantation Society, Dr. Francis L. Delmonico stated, “It will now be against the law for someone to have an organ used from an executed prisoner.” Is the euphoria over “It is now against the law” premature?
ARNE SCHWARZ: So far, no “Law of China” against organ harvesting from prisoners exists. When I asked Dr. Delmonico by email which law he was referring to, he could not tell me. So, his statement misled the participants at the workshop and the public. Any euphoria over this is definitely premature as long as there is no law making organ harvesting from prisoners illegal, and organ donation and transplantation is not transparent and open to scrutiny.

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Italian Senator Maurizio Romani
(photo credit: Agenparl)

On March 4, 2015, the Italian Senate unanimously passed a bill that punishes any person who illegally sells organs from living people with severe sanctions and stiff prison terms.

While the main exporters of illegal organ sales are considered to be India and Pakistan, China stands out for brutality and orchestrating a unique and sophisticated organization of high profit murderous forced organ harvesting with military involvement.

“We in Italy can’t stop these violations,” said Italian Senator Maurizio Romani. “But, we have the duty to make every effort in order not to be accomplices to this.”

According to the new bill, every person who trades, sells or manages illegally trafficked organs from living persons would serve a prison term of 3 to 12 years and pay a hefty fine from 50.000 to 300.000 euros. The bill punishes whoever publicity encourages or advertises the selling of organs, or presents propaganda and announcements to encourage transplant tourism to China. Doctors who promote or assist patients to travel to illegally obtain an organ would face lifetime disbarment for violating medical ethics.

The Czech Medical Chamber (CMC) published an article in its peer reviewed journal, Tempus Medicorum (April 2015, p.20-21), by EU Policy Advisor Lukás Pfauser, informing the medical community about bioethical violations concerning China’s unethical practice of forced organ harvesting. Based in Prague, the CMC is a non-political autonomous organization responsible for the interests, professionalism, ethics and honor of the Czech medical profession. The law prescribes obligatory membership in the Chamber for all 42,000 physicians practicing in the Czech Republic.

The Chinese government, writes Pfause, began using executed prisoners in 1984, but is now committing an even greater offense – killing prisoners of conscience to procure organs on demand for transplantation.

Mr. Pfause’s article highlights evidence involving the practice of forced organ harvesting in China and reviews expert reports from DAFOH director Dr. Torsten Trey and Israeli transplant surgeon Dr. Jacob Lavee. The article describes the ethical standards against taking prisoner’s organs from the guiding bodies in organ procurement: the Nuremberg Code, the Declaration of Helsinki, WHO, WMA and the Declaration of Istanbul Custodian Group.

Special Report: 

Doctors and Nurses respond to The Lancet: Doubts remain over China’s announcement to end organ harvesting from prisoners

As of January 2015, China has banned the harvesting of transplant organs from executed prisoners, promising that voluntary donation will be the only source of organs. But, the international medical community fears that prisoners’ organs may be unethically reclassified as “donations” in a change of nomenclature instead. And, a good faith gesture of transparency has not been forthcoming. Despite this, many medical professionals accept China’s promise of medical reform at face value.

China is under increasing pressure to end the unethical practice of harvesting prisoners’ organs. The persistent efforts and reports of thousands of persecution survivors, and their families, who defected from prisons in China, investigators, doctors, nurses and other advocates to clarify the reality of the problem has inspired a response and promise of reform in China. This response is rare behind the iron curtain and the unrelenting foreign campaign demanding legitimacy, truthfulness, and unbiased investigation of China’s organ procurement systems continues unabated.

In a series of letters to the medical journal, The Lancet, several groups of doctors, nurses and medical professionals from the United States, Canada, Germany, the UK and Australia, including DAFOH director Dr, Torsten Trey, wrote responses to the journal’s coverage of the announced reforms in China in transplant medicine: “Weaning China off organs from executed prisoners.”

Media news sources The Yibada and The Peninsula of Qatar wrote articles in response to the Lancet letters, quoting the authors and expressing doubt over China’s intentions for real change in organ procurement.


Weaning China off organs from executed prisoners – The Lancet


Series:  Organ transplantation in China: concerns remain

Authors; Guo-You Zhang, Tian Liao, Xiao-Bing Fu, Qing-Feng Li

Authors: Liz Kerr RN, Deborah Collins-Perrica APRN

Authors: Torsten Trey, Adnan Sharif, Maria Fiatarone Singh, Zain Khalpey, Arthur L Caplan

Authors: Huige Liemail, Michael E Shapiro, Charl Els, Kirk C Allison

Author: Jacob Lavee, Vivekanand Jha

Author: Hong Zhang

This April, the feature documentary Human Harvest: Inside China’s Illegal Organ Trade aired on Australia’s SBS Dateline, a well-respected primetime news program. The film, directed and produced by Leon Lee and released in late 2014, is a powerful examination of the organ harvesting industry in China and has won awards of distinction, including the prestigious Peabody Award, Top Prize in the Viewster Film Festival, the Michael Sullivan DATELINE award for journalism in a documentary and several others.

The film highlights some of the incredible work done by Nobel Peace Prize nominee investigators David Matas and David Kilgour, Ethan Guttman, Torsten Trey, DAFOH and the many people involved in trying to end illegal organ transplantation practices in China.

Judges for the Peabody Awards commented on the film: “With powerful testimonials about the intricacies of the trade and the human cost, including interviews with Chinese doctors who confide they’ve been coerced into removing organs from live political prisoners, this is a harrowing exposé of a fiendish system of forced organ donor transplants.”

News in Review

Governments and Parliamentarians

At an international conference in Spain, 14 countries signed a treaty demanding passage of laws preventing and criminalizing collusion.


E.U. and U.S. urge Kosovo to create court to hear allegations of organ harvesting

Europe and the United States have requested that an ad hoc tribunal be created by Kosovo to address allegations noted in a 2011 report by the Council of Europe dealing with Albanian guerrillas engaged in forced organ harvesting with Serbian prisoners.

European Parliament forum on the use of executed prisoners for transplant organs

A forum hosted by the Public Health Committee and Human Rights Subcommittee expressed concern about transplant tourism among European citizens. Although MEPs noted that illicit organ trade is not unique to China, they pointed out that China is the only nation whose government is coordinating a nationwide program of organ procurement from living prisoners of conscience.

Medical Professionals and Associations

DAFOH advisor and founding director of the Heart Transplantation Unit at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Aviv University, Israel, Dr. Jacob Lavee describes his personal awakening to the urgent organ harvesting crisis in China and outlines the evidence of human rights atrocities, global collusion, and the position of medical leaders.

Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting Actions

The international community should not find relief from the crisis in transplant medicine in China’s recent promise to end the harvesting of organs from executed prisoners, said a DAFOH press release April 7th. DAFOH urges the global medical community to be vigilant and not accept China’s claims at face value, pointing out several key factors.

Investigators and Media


Hong Kong News reports on organ harvesting in ChinaFormer vice minister of health, Huang Jiefu’s claims that banning organ harvesting from prisoners will inspire public organ donation and help solve China’s dire organ shortage as the international medical community, human rights advocates, and lawmakers call for inspection of China’s procurement systems.


Transplants: spare the bullet

Chinese officials promise to end organ harvesting from prisoners but, persuading the public to donate remains a problem and securing any guarantee remains elusive.


Doubts still exist over China’s prisoner organ harvesting ban

The Peninsula reported that Chinese authorities have demanded all Chinese hospitals stop using organs harvested from executed prisoners. Yet, experts are skeptical that the practice will continue unabated and prisoner’s organs will be miscategorized as “donations.”


Live organ procurement in China

In this Hong Kong TV interview, former Chinese military surgeon, Dr. Jiang Yanyong, reveals that Chinese military hospitals participated in organ harvesting from living prisoners. Dr. Yanyong exposed China’s SARS coverup in 2003.


Hospital intern forced to participate in live organ harvesting in China

A former Chinese hospital intern, now living in Canada, shares the gruesome details of being forced to participate in the extraction of organs from a living person.


Ethan Gutmann: Recent media coverage of China’s organ harvesting

In this interview the award winning journalist, author and former foreign policy analyst encourages people to read the recent news on forced organ harvesting and develop their own activism.

Whistle blower calls for exposure of organ harvesting mass murder

Chinese Communist Party top adviser and standing committee member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, Ge Jianxiong, describes the opacity of politics and propaganda as international pressure continues to build for a full accounting of organ harvesting in China.


China passes law easing regulation of organ donations

Guangzhou City to encourage people beyond the family to give permission for organ harvesting. Critics say the law will “open the bloody floodgates of the black market organ trade and further government-managed organ harvesting.”


The major national news service gives a call to action for a petition against forced organ harvesting in China with the persecuted Falun Gong prisoners of conscience as the primary victims.


Former prison guard reveals details of the organ harvesting industry in China

The Epoch Times reports on the global reaction to the internet exposé about the extraction of prisoner organs witnessed by a former prison guard. In troubling detail, it sketches out the chain of profit, corruption, and violence that drives the organ harvesting industry in Chinese prisons.

Islamic State financing terrorism through harvesting organs

A top diplomat has disclosed that massive graves containing bodies with surgical incisions have been found.


The Tagesanzeiger, one of the two most prominent newspapers in Switzerland (500,000 readers), prominently covered on the front page a new, yet ethically questionable, project between Novartis Pharmaceutical and 11 Chinese transplant specialty centers.

Dear Colleagues and Friends,


As DAFOH approaches the third year of publishing this newsletter it has become a benchmark source of information on unethical, forced organ harvesting. This achievement is possible in large part due to a committed team of editors and writers who make this newsletter happen every quarter. It is also testimony to the fact that significant change can occur when people are committed to working together for a higher cause. May our team’s success encourage and inspire the medical community to unite their efforts in bringing an end to unethical, forced organ harvesting where ever it occurs, without turning a blind eye to certain countries.


The news of the past year that dominated the medical headlines-China’s announcement to end the organ procurement from executed prisoners by January 1, 2015-also carries the greatest amount of deception and danger to life. While many doctors may have the perception that this announcement equates to a legally binding step, no legal text has yet been found that writes this announcement into law. On the contrary, the 1984 provision that allows the organ procurement from prisoners after execution is still in place in China today.


There is a common understanding among the community of lawyers that China does not have a rule of law. Tax laws can be implemented within a week, penalties on companies can be levied at anytime. The Chinese constitution grants freedom of speech and belief to its citizens, yet the reality is a travesty to human life. China has implemented transplant related laws, but only to prove their ineffectiveness, implementing new laws soon after. While the law now prohibits providing transplants to foreign medical tourists, doctors from around the world report that their patients still come back from China with newly transplanted organs.


While it has been announced that the organ harvesting from executed prisoners was to end by January 1, 2015, a flexible exception has been given for death row prisoners who “wish” to donate their organs. A glaring omission is most concerning: the announcement only addresses death row prisoners, but not prisoners of conscience who can be killed for their organs without breaching the new announcement.


While many medical organizations are flocking to China to celebrate this new change at a conference later this year, the duty to due diligence in upholding long held ethical standards is sacrificed with fatal consequences. After three decades of unethical transplant practices, reminiscent of the Nazi atrocities of 75 years ago, a simple announcement and a few showcase examples are accepted without scrutiny, without demanding transparency or withstanding the rigors of long held medical standards.


Grasping at the straw that China offers to the medical community might be a desperate attempt to ignore a practice that has stained the medical profession to an intolerable degree. But, it is also a concerning step towards a decline of our ethical standards. If we applaud China’s announcement, without scrutiny, would we also applaud cases of malpractice? Even worse, one might regret the premature applause if a trade off were to occur: organ sourcing from prisoners of conscience. As long as there is no verifiable end of organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience, and they remain subject to persecution, the medical community should be on guard and insist on a complete end to the practices. Our duty to due diligence requires scrutiny, inspections and verification.




Torsten Trey, MD, PhD

Executive Director, DAFOH

Videos, Books, Web, Reports



The Slaughter: Mass Killing, Organ Harvesting, and China’s Secret Solution to Its Dissident Problem

Multilingual News Briefs



Petition till FN:s Kommissionär för mänskliga rättigheter



KANLI KAMPANYA Çin’deki Falun Gong Uygulayıcılarından, Organ Toplanmasına Yönelik Suçlamalara İliskin Gözden Gecirilmis Rapor 

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Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting (DAFOH) aims to provide the medical community and society with objective findings of unethical and illegal organ harvesting. Organ harvesting, the removal of organs from a donor, without free and voluntary consent, is considered a crime against humanity, as well as a threat to the integrity of medical science in general. This edition of our newsletter offers up-to-date information on international efforts to stop unethical organ harvesting.