Side event March 22nd at UNHRC in Geneva: “Escalation of Human Rights Violations in the 21st Century: State-sponsored Forced Organ Harvesting of Living People”

Two virtual side events to coincide with the 49th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in March 2022 were organized by CAP Liberté de Conscience (CAP) and co-organized by Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting (DAFOH). The first, entitled, “Escalation of Human Rights Violations in the 21st century: State-sponsored Forced Organ Harvesting of Living People” was held on March 22nd with international experts from ten countries sharing concerns about forced organ harvesting and human rights violations in China.

CAP has had special consultive status to the UN since 2016 giving it the access to organize official side events to UN sessions. Its President, Thierry Valle, who co-hosted the panel of experts with DAFOH Deputy Director Dr. Harold King, explained in his opening remarks that CAP’s mission is to combat “all forms of discrimination based on religion or belief by alerting European and International bodies.” CAP has been reporting on the persecution of Falun Gong in China for over 20 years. “Freedom of belief,” Valle said, “goes hand in hand with Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Assembly and is also enshrined in the preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – the right to human dignity.”

In his opening remarks, Dr. King provided the history that the “egregious crime of forced organ harvesting from living Falun Gong practitioners has been occurring for over two decades in the People’s Republic of China,” and noted that DAFOH’s informal global petition to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights garnered over 3 million signatures by 2018. “Irrefutable evidence has been gathered and led to a unanimous judgement in 2019 by the China Tribunal.” Since that judgement, we have seen a statement co-signed by 12 UN Special Rapporteurs and experts, a World Summit and the launch of a Universal Declaration on Combating and Preventing Forced Organ Harvesting. “After hearing all these initiatives,” Dr. King said, “I think it is appropriate to say that it is time for the international community to take on these crimes against humanity and stop the state-sponsored forced organ harvesting in China before it is too late.” Towards this goal, the event sought to engage the participation of the speakers, attendees, livestream viewers, and indeed, the UN delegates themselves.

Torsten Trey, MD, PhD, Founder and Executive Director of the Washington DC based NGO DAFOH said, “It is with honor, but also with sadness, that I speak today in memory of the countless victims who were killed for their organs. While we mourn the people who are losing their lives in senseless wars we have to realize that we have failed to mourn the people who lose their lives due to forced organ harvesting in concealed hospitals and detention camps.”

He said that the speakers gathered for this event “[b]ecause we believe in the potential of humankind and in the basic rights of human beings. Human rights advocacy is to engage for those who are not in the position to advocate for themselves and for their own rights. Human rights advocacy gives a voice to those whose God-given rights have been stolen.”

While describing the media’s role in bringing attention to human rights abuses, he pointed out that, “In the field of human rights violations, cameras, media reports and human rights organizations play an important role: they can divert attention and, by staying silent and failing to report on the crimes, can disguise a human tragedy, and even make it disappear [from the public eye]. Conversely, they can bring these crimes to the main media stage. Thus, we have to remind ourselves that the God-given rights that come with our human existence must not be obscured by disinformation, cover-ups or silence.”

“Implausible and excessive transplant numbers combined with a vast expansion of the transplant infrastructure, implausible and manufactured organ donation numbers, and a plethora of eyewitness reports, both from Falun Gong practitioners and non-Falun Gong practitioners…” have proved “beyond any reasonable doubt that the main source of organs for China’s transplant market are Falun Gong practitioners.”

“China has successfully deceived the international community in making the world believe that it has an ethical transplant system. It has become the largest transplant market without having a transparent organ donation program, and without meeting the criteria of the Guiding Principles on Organ Donation and Transplantation set forth by the World Health Organization. Investigators have shown that the Chinese transplant market is heavily based on payments for organs and lacks transparency and traceability,” Dr. Trey explained.

Dr. Trey then posed the question, “Whenever a transplant tourist demands a transplant organ, the process of killing a Falun Gong practitioner for their organs is set into motion. I am asking everyone, do Falun Gong practitioners not deserve the same level of attention and support as other victims of human rights violations?”

“Falun Gong practitioners simply want to improve themselves in their spiritual life; they simply ask for the freedom and right to practice their spiritual practice. They are kindhearted and compassionate members of our societies. They are the bedrock of goodness in today’s world of arguments, wars, and lies.”

He concluded, “By persecuting Falun Gong for over two decades, the Chinese government has pursued a genocide against goodness in humankind. However, as long as we are free, we are free to make a choice and break the silence. So, what do we choose? To make a true statement: By advocating for Falun Gong you actually advocate for yourself and for your own good future.”

Declan Lyons MD, PhD, MSc, MRCP, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Trinity College, Dublin first spoke out in 1999 “against the persecution of Falun Gong shortly after the start of the CCP’s onslaught against its own defenseless citizens in 1999. I was initially appalled to learn that Falun Gong practitioners were subject to incarceration in psychiatric hospitals and forced to endure torture and physical and psychological mutilation, in an attempt to force them to renounce their beliefs in the core principles of truthfulness, compassion and forbearance.” He explained that “Forced organ harvesting is removal of a person’s organs for the purpose of transplantation while the person is still alive – murdering the victim in the process. It is a process that kills victims on demand and is extremely lucrative with a potential return on each body (with usable organs) totaling up to half a million dollars. If, as suspected, Falun Gong practitioners, who are generally in a good state of physical health, are the primary source of these organs and account for the discrepancy between any potential sources of organ donation and the actual transplants that occur, then this must represent the most deliberate eradication campaign ever undertaken against a religious group since the holocaust.”

Dr. Lyons descried the decline in medical ethics, “The principle, that medical skills should only be deployed for the improvement of life and health, is summed up in the Hippocratic injunction ‘First do no harm.’ Sadly, in The People’s Republic we have seen the pressing of some Chinese doctors to unethically deploy their skills for State-directed purposes of political and religious repression. This means however that the entire medical profession is at risk of being politically corrupted.”

He asked how it could be that “the world and some in the Chinese medical community and some in the medical profession elsewhere, choose to avert their eyes from this atrocity?” The answer, he said, lies in “a political system that has no moral compass, [that] needs to perpetrate terror and savagery on its own citizens… Aided by the perversion of science and technology, and comforted by censorship and narrowed access to free reporting, regimes are free to revel in corruption, brutality and horror.” He then queried, “If deliberate and planned medical killing remains unprohibited, then who can be trusted within the medical community to deliver care when it is subsequently needed?”

Dr. Lyons ended his impassioned speech with the call, “Let us sound the alarm for human rights once again as we see that the Chinese revolution is unfinished and that another long march is required so that China will no longer demonize, persecute or tyrannize its own citizens. Only then will it be a nation of wisdom and a worthy home to Falun Gong, one of the great spiritual movements of the 20th century.”

Member of the European Parliament for the VOX Party of Spain, Hermann Tertsch del Valle-Lersundi, Vice President of the Eurolat Delegation and a member of the Foreign Affairs and Environment Committees, stated that we must strongly denounce “the forced removal of organs for transplantation from persons deprived of their liberty, which occurs with monstrous frequency in the People’s Republic of China.” He called on “the United Nations Human Rights Committee to raise its voice against this ongoing crime which is taking place before everyone’s eyes in the People’s Republic of China and which is never denounced with the intensity, force, vehemence and indignation that this terrible permanent crime deserves.”

Bulgarian journalist and philosopher Snezhana Georgieva, editor and presenter for Bulgarian National Television and Bulgarian National Radio, said, “It is very sad when such a great civilization as China with its spirituality and culture, the successor of Laozi, Confucius, great thinkers, and spiritual leaders is an object of condemnation; because this is the country where egregious crimes against humanity are being recorded, crimes against the human body, mind, thought sovereignty, and freedom…. And it is really strange and at the same time, it is not that strange, that the object of persecution of the communist party is Falun Dafa – a spiritual practice that teaches high human values and morals, such as freedom, compassion, creation.”   She concluded, “The practice of forced organ harvesting has to end because it is a stain and shame to humanity!”

Spanish human rights lawyer Carlos Iglesias, European Director of the Human Rights Law Foundation, said, “The crime of forced organ harvesting is possibly one of the greatest crimes committed against humanity and no one who knows how the Chinese system works can ignore that any situation that occurs in hospitals, whether public or Chinese military, are absolutely controlled by the CCP.” He gave a warning to all that “we will be judged by moral, ethical criteria, by the eternal values such as Truth or Compassion which is what has kept this civilization united, and then you and I will be judged at the end of our days to determine if we did the right thing.” He urged all to act now to stop China’s crimes. “Do it! Have that courage! May you be able to say, when the time comes, I did what I had to do, to save lives and to make the world a better place.”

U.S. Congressman Steve Chabot, ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, said, “Over the past several years, especially with the release of the China tribunals final judgment, the evidence has become even more clear that the PRC is indeed engaged in this vile practice, and the scope and scale of organ harvesting in China is truly breath-taking.” He noted that, “As one of the most barbaric practices in human history, it’s past time for real accountability for those who perpetuate forced organ harvesting. Today, right now, the civilized world must demand that China end this practice, once and for all. China must be held accountable for this gross violation of human rights.”

Taiwanese international human rights lawyer Theresa Chu, Chairman of the Legal Commission of the Universal Declaration on Combating and Preventing Forced Organ Harvesting (UDCPFOH) described how the declaration is “calling on people to jointly stop the Chinese Communist Party’s atrocities of forced organ harvesting, and advocating that all nations around the world put into practice the content of this declaration and enacted criminal laws to severely punish this unprecedented evil atrocity.”

The UDCPFOH’s Legal Commission has spearheaded work on a bill to push the international community to enact criminal laws against China’s organ harvesting. The bill includes a definition of forced organ harvesting, of what conduct constitutes a live organ harvesting crime, and who will be criminally liable for participation in, collusion with, or cover-up of said crimes. The bill recommends “administrative sanctions, including denial of entry or deportation of perpetrators: doctors, nurses or any other personnel engaged in medical or medical-related activities, committing the crime of forced organ harvesting when performing their profession or duties; in addition to criminal liability, their qualifications to practice medical or medical-related professions shall be permanently disqualified.”

These laws will have extraterritorial jurisdiction and no statute of limitation. As forced organ harvesting is a crime against humanity, Chu said, “the most serious criminal punishment should be imposed under each country’s domestic criminal law.”

Chu concluded, “We urge all countries to play an active role in adopting the draft on the crime of forced organ harvesting proposed by our Law Commission for sanctioning and deterring crimes. It is also an important remedy to stop the destruction of human ethics and restore the rule of law through the domestic legislation of their countries. It is imperative. On the day when the historical tragedy of forced organ harvesting ends, may each of us be able to say that I am worthy of my conscience.”

Belgium Parliamentarian Annick Ponthier, member of the Strategic Committee on Belgian Defence and the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Belgium Federal Parliament focuses on “human rights in general and more specifically on the political situation in China.” She explained how “organ harvesting is part of a broader persecution system that the Chinese government uses to erase the religious, the cultural, and philosophical identities of these different groups” and that the Chinese leaders “do not care about human rights at all and have no regard for human life, if those lives don’t further their internal communist agenda and their ambition to become a global superpower.”

Canadian human rights attorney and activist David Matas described “eight structures of the United Nations, both those which have attempted to provide a solution to this crime against humanity and those which have avoided doing so.” The United Nations Rapporteur on Torture, Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance, Committee against Torture, and Universal Periodic Review have all called on China to explain discrepancies in its transplant numbers and organ procurement practices as well as for independent investigations into organ transplant abuse involving prisoners of conscience. Unfortunately, organ transplant abuse has not been discussed at the United Nations Human Rights Council regular sessions and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights never responded to a hand-delivered DAFOH petition with nearly 1.5 million signatures from 53 countries presented in 2013.  The petition called for China to immediate end the persecution and organ harvesting of Falun Gong and to prosecute the perpetrators.

Dutch Member of the European Parliament Peter van Dalen, Vice-Chairman of the Committee on Fisheries, a member of the Committee on Human Rights, and a member of the Delegation for relations with the countries of South Asia, said, “it is very important to raise awareness of this issue [China’s forced organ harvesting]” and that “individuals in China who commit these crimes should be targeted for sanctions.” As the European Union is currently having economic discussions with China, Mr. van Dalen urged that “this issue of illegal organ harvesting should be at the top of the agenda, I repeat, at the top of the agenda when we discuss trade relations with China.”

Human rights activist Casey Alves from the United Kingdom called on the “United Nations to implement a three-step strategy to enhance transparency, accountability, and compliance with UN treaties, and to instigate investigations into the People’s Republic of China to hold them accountable for crimes against humanity, torture, and breaches of international law.” She said action must be taken immediately by the UN to “trigger an application of the Convention Against Torture to condemn and punish China for the physical and psychological torture they carry out on innocent victims every day for following a spiritual belief.”

Chiu-Chin Tien, former member of Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan and Deputy Minister of Overseas Community Affairs Council and currently Commissioner of the Taiwan National Human Rights Commission, was shocked when told about forced organ harvesting from living Falun Gong practitioners in China. “Previously I had always thought the Nazi’s atrocities were the most heinous evil. I could not imagine any other atrocity more hideous or brutal than that. It turned out that forced organ harvesting is a systematic violation perpetrated by the state power against human rights, a crime against humanity that is baffling and beyond our imagination.”

In 2015, Ms. Tien was successful in “amend[ing] Taiwan’s Human Organ Transplantation Act to explicitly prohibit organ transplant tourism. In addition, the amended Act further provides that after returning from receiving a transplant abroad, recipients have to register compulsorily whichever country they go abroad to for organ transplantation. First, you must register the country, the hospital, and the doctor who performs transplantation of which organ. Furthermore, there are penalty clauses. There will be penalty if you do not comply with the requirement of mandatory registration. Finally, we also succeeded in getting the Ministry of Health and Welfare to agree that if an overseas transplant recipient fails to do mandatory registration, if he fails to register as the Act provides, our national health insurance shall not pay for his anti-rejection drugs. He must obtain the drug, which he has to take for the rest of his life, at his own expense.” This legislation has significantly decreased the number of Taiwanese going to China for organ transplants.

Additionally, “In the past a few years, our government has taken a step further to monitor those Chinese doctors who are found by our international organizations to be involved in forced organ harvesting in China. They would be denied entry.”

Acknowledging that profit is a motive that keeps this atrocity from coming “to an end by itself,” Tien implored all “to explicitly prohibit organ transplant tourism in your country’s human organ transplant regulations, and to consider the inclusion of a compulsory registration mechanism into your country’s legal system, such as that of Taiwan.”

In his closing remarks, CAP President Thierry Valle invited attendees to “read and sign the Universal Declaration on Combating and Preventing Forced Organ Harvesting” and expressed his hope that the event achieved the goal of starting “a constructive dialogue.” “If we want to get out of this downward spiral,” Valle said, “respect for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by all states is not an option but a duty.”