Recent international actions call for the end of China’s transplant crimes

On April 15, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced the release of the 2016 International Religious Freedom Report. The report measures how various countries fare on human rights in accordance with the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. The act stipulates that the US will represent and defend “liberty and [stand] with the persecuted, to use and implement appropriate tools in the United States foreign policy apparatus, including diplomatic, political, commercial, charitable, educational, and cultural channels, to promote respect for religious freedom by all governments and peoples.” The 2016 report references the Chinese government’s persecution of Falun Gong practitioners, who make up the largest persecuted group in the nation.
In response to the report and Tillerson’s comments, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying attacked the US for being unfair, “Everyone has seen that the facts prove the United States is not totally perfect,” she exclaimed, citing recent tensions after violent protests in Charlottesville, VA. The US, she added, should “respect the facts and properly manage its own affairs, and stop using the wrong means of the so-called religious freedom issue to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.”
In June, Minnesota State Senator Jim Abeler drafted an open letter to President Xi Jinpingurging him to end the persecution of Falun Gong in China. In his letter, signed by 103 Minnesota State House Members and State Senators and copied to President Donald Trump, Abeler cites recent research on China’s forced organ harvesting practices. He writes: “In spite of a large and growing body of evidence regarding forced organ harvesting in China, the Chinese transplant community continues to operate in secrecy and the sourcing of organs is not conducted in an open and transparent fashion, as required by World Health Organization standards…[G]iven the nature and scope of this crime against humanity, we feel it is important for you to openly condemn the practice. Such a significant contribution will be remembered.”

The Irish Parliament’s Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence heard testimony on China’s forced organ harvesting program on July 6, 2017.  Dr. Enver Tohti Bughda, a Uyghur physician who was a transplant surgeon in China, stated he was instructed to take the organs from a prisoner who was still alive. He said, “How do the most respected people in society turn into murderers? This is the most-asked question to me. To understand this, you have to understand Chinese society” which turns one into a “fully-programmed member of society, ready to fulfill the task ahead without asking questions.” Dr. Bughda’s full testimony can be found at

At the hearing, committee members viewed a short documentary exposing China’s forced organ harvesting by Irish filmmaker and Falun Gong practitioner Pádraig Ó Dálaigh. He interviewed renowned human rights lawyer David Matas, whose research on China’s transplant program earned him and co-researcher David Kilgour a 2010 Noble Peace Prize nomination.

Matas, who also testified at the hearing, argued that the Chinese government needs to make its transplant registries publicly available and grant independent external investigators access to hospital patient and organ donor files. In addition, he suggested that the International Committee of the Red Cross be allowed to visit Chinese prisons.

Dr. Conall O’Seaghdha, Medical Director of the National Kidney Transplant Service in Ireland, spoke about confirmed cases of Irish patients going to China to obtain organs and returning to China to receive follow up care.

UK human rights advocate Benedict Rogers, a tireless defender for many persecuted groups in Asia, was featured recently for his work on China’s forced organ harvesting practices. Rogers highlighted China’s transplantation crimes in a report published in 2016. The report was written on behalf of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, an organization that he co-founded. In discussing the challenges of researching forced organ harvesting, Rogers stated, “It’s one of the hardest human rights issues to be involved with.”

Five UK Parliament members proposed a motion on July 12th calling for an end to the persecution of Falun Gong and forced organ harvesting in China. The motion expresses “concern that without a system of transparency and traceability in place, organs from executed prisoners, including from many thousands of Falun Gong practitioners who are prisoners of conscience, may still be used in this manner.” The motion has a total of 15 signatures.

Australian lawmakers are looking into ways to address forced organ harvesting crimes. Current legislation concerning transplantation includes stipulations that ensure ethical practices are met within the country’s borders, but no legal guidelines exist to address extraterritorial crimes. Consequently, an Australian citizen who has obtained an organ overseas by illegal means cannot be charged with a crime. One option being considered by the Human Rights Sub-Committee is for Australia to join as a signatory of the 2014 European Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs.

Many countries, including Australia, have found that it can be a political hazard to challenge China on its illicit transplantation practices. When questioned about reports of forced organ harvesting, Chinese consulates have threatened other nations not to interfere or their relations with China will sour.

An Australian honorary professor from the Centre for Values Ethics & the Law in Medicine at the University of Sydney has been speaking out about organ harvesting. Paul Macneill first learned about China’s transplant crimes after watching the 2015 documentary Hard to Believe.Shocked by the scale of the abuses, he equated them to medical crimes committed by the Nazis. “I felt stunned after seeing this documentary; I felt as though I was downwind from the smoke stacks at Auschwitz. I have walked past Falun Gong practitioners quietly protesting at several international conferences that I have attended in the last 10 years. I have not stopped to talk with them, because I found the claims Hard to Believe!” The full text of his comments and list of evidence he cites can be found at

Professor Macneill is currently a committee member for The International Coalition to End Organ Pillaging in China, a multidisciplinary organization devoted to educating the public on China’s forced organ harvesting crimes.