The Party and the Profession: Organ Transplant Abuse in China

By David Matas

— Revised remarks presented July 11, 2017 to the International Academy of Law and Mental Health, Prague, the Czech Republic; updated August 15, 2017 —


The Chinese Communist Party for years has been killing en masse prisoners of conscience for their organs. The evidence in support of this crime is detailed, consistent, verifiable, corroborated and unrefuted. Most of the information on which the conclusions are based comes directly from official Chinese sources.

The overwhelming majority of the victims have been practitioners of the spiritually based set of exercises Falun Gong. But there have also been many Tibetan, Uighur and House Christian victims.

The Party

When China was closed off from the rest of the world, the Party just ignored criticisms of its massive human rights violations. Now that China is engaged with the rest of the world, ignoring criticism is not so easy. Not addressing criticism is possible and, indeed commonplace, in intergovernmental or bilateral fora. Chinese delegates sent abroad to these fora are died in the wool Party members who are oblivious to foreign critics.

However, today Chinese Government exit permits are not limited to those whom the Party considers ideologically sound. Part of Chinese engagement with the rest of the world is allowing large numbers of its citizens to go abroad.

Those who have manifested what the Party considers ideological impurity will be denied exit. But the onus has reversed. Before, a person had to prove his or her worth to the Party to be allowed exit. Now a person has to manifest the harm he or she has caused or may cause the Party to be denied exit.

Exit permits today are not just granted to tourists. Permits are granted to students, business people, professionals who are going to conferences and so on.

The Party sees this outflow as beneficial — expanding trade, gaining status, acquiring knowledge of foreign technology and so on. Chinese president and Party secretary Deng Xiaoping said “It doesn’t matter whether the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice.”[1] That motto was used, in many ways, to flip the Chinese Communist system on its head. The Party has become as aggressively internationalist as it was before hermetic. What matters to the Party is not the means, but the ends, the benefits produced.

Internationalism has had for China many benefits. But for the Party there are also costs. Chinese national exposure to the world abroad has meant exposure to criticism of the Party for its human rights violations.

Criticism of the Party could no longer just be ignored as it often was in the old days when the Party knew that those it let out would defend the Party no matter what, in part because they were complicit in the very abuses which were being condemned. Criticism of the Party today has to be answered in some way or other.

The Party could not answer the evidence of mass killings of political prisoners for their organs directly, since that evidence was irrefutable. Nor could they afford to ignore the issue entirely, the favoured approach to irrefutable evidence of mass human rights violations in the old hermetic days. So, the Party engaged in a variety of evasive techniques.

The techniques used have been:

1) Pretence

Party and state officials pretend that researchers have written something different from what was actually written and disagree with the pretend statements, attributed falsely to the researchers. A common false attribution is the claim that researchers relied on rumour.

Yet, none of the research is based on rumour. Party and state officials even go so far as to make up false quotes, producing statements in quotation marks to show the research is based on rumour and then claiming that these quotes came from researchers, even though they do not.

2) Denial

Party/state officials deny direct quotes and data coming from them, even when the quotes are taped and videoed. The quotes and data are all archived, for independent researchers to see. The Party/state even denies quotes and data from its own officials while the quotes and data remain on official websites.

3) Attacks on motives

The Party/state attacks the motives of researchers, claiming they are anti-China. Yet, a person truly anti-China would be indifferent to the mass killing of innocents in China. What the Party/state means by being anti-China is being against the Chinese Communist Party. The Party identifies itself with China. But China and Communism are different.

4) Claims of manipulation

The Party/state claims that researchers are being manipulated. The claim is that the victim population are not really victims but rather manipulators, spurring the researchers into false research to realize the political agendas of the supposedly manipulating populations. To be specific, the Party/state claims that the researchers are being manipulated by Falun Gong/ Tibetans/ Uighurs/ House Christians in order to further the political agendas of these populations.

This charge ignores the genesis of the research. Neither the data nor the funding nor the direction for the research came from these populations. The victim populations understandably are interested in the results the researchers produced. But the data and the results came from the work of the researchers and not from the victim populations.

Indeed, the direction of flow is the reverse. Researchers are not repeating what victim communities have told them. Victim communities are repeating what they have learned from researchers. Victims, who are dispersed and unorganized, know what happened to them personally. But for what is happening contextually and generally, they have had to rely on the work of researchers.

5) False attribution

Going even further, the Party/state just ignores the researchers altogether and attacks the victim populations directly pretending that they are the source of the research. This false attribution is then accompanied by a continuation and amplification of the demonization of the victim population, the sort of attack which led to its victimization in the first place.

The Party attribution of the research to Falun Gong required two steps. Falun Gong, as noted, is a set of exercises with a spiritual foundation, the Chinese equivalent of yoga. Attributing research to exercises is gibberish. So, Party propaganda had to and did take a first step before attribution, characterizing all those who may happen to do the exercises as a political movement opposed to the Party and, beyond that, an “evil cult”.

6) Nonsense statistics

The Party/state sometimes pulls rabbit out of the hat statistics to attempt to claim that the work of researchers must be wrong. For instance, they claim that the volume of anti-rejection drugs used in China shows that transplant volumes must be a lot less than the researchers show they are. Yet, the statistics the Party produce about volume of anti-rejection drugs are just assertions without any basis for verification.

7) Theresienstadt displays

The Party/state engages in pre-arranged displays to attempt to show visitors that nothing untoward is happening in their hospitals. The efforts are reminiscent of the Nazi effort to present the Theresienstadt concentration camp in Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia to the International Committee of the Red Cross. Unannounced inspection visits and access to the files are forbidden.

8) Political leverage

For multilateral institutions and bilaterally, China uses political muscle. China shuts down all political discourse or any attempt at investigation. Any governmental or inter-governmental investigation of transplant abuse in China means confronting China directly, something most governments and inter-governmental institutions are reluctant to do. Indeed, the weight of China with some governments and in some inter-governmental institutions is such that China has an actual or effective veto, preventing action contrary to the wishes of the Party.

9) False sourcing

The Party acknowledges that it has a problem, vast organ transplantation numbers which requires at least some explanation of sourcing. The Party has flip flopped through the years on the explanation.

The initial explanation was donations, even though China did not then have an organ donation system. The Party then abandoned the donation explanation and switched to prisoners sentenced to death as the explanation for sourcing, but without releasing death penalty statistics. Yet, Chinese law require execution within seven days of sentence; there is an over 60% hepatitis B contamination of the criminal prison population, making many organs unuseable and there is no organ distribution system for the organs of prisoners.

The Party then abandoned the death penalty prisoner explanation and switched back to the donation explanation, pretending that a fledging donation system which produces tiny numbers is producing much more. Most recently, the Party has just given up, stating that the figures their own hospitals produce about volume of transplants can not be real.

10) Willful blindness

Organ transplants involve two medical teams, the procuring team and the transplantation team. The transplantation team pretends not to know what the procuring team is doing.

This pretence of ignorance can not excuse the killing system, but it is used to exonerate the transplantation team. This excuse is useful to the Party/state, because it allows the Party/state to advocate for global interaction with the professionals in transplantation teams.

11) Praise

The Party/state falsely attributes praise emanating from authority figures in the field of transplantation. Anodyne professional statements are distorted. Global professional actions which did not have that intent are distorted into endorsements and acceptances of Chinese transplant practices.

12) Acceptance

There are some real global professional endorsements and acceptances of what is happening in China. The global transplantation profession, to be sure, does not endorse the killing in China of prisoners of conscience for their organs. Yet, some foreign transplant professionals keep quiet about the abuse and take Party/state professions of reform at face value. The Party/state then hides behind what they claim to be international acceptability to deny the data implicating them in the mass murder of innocents.

I have written elsewhere at length about the first ten techniques.[2] In what follows, I want to address specifically the last two.

The profession

Transplant health professionals today and mental health professionals yesterday faced similar dilemmas but have reacted quite differently. In the days of the Soviet Union, mental health professionals globally faced the abuse of psychiatry in the Soviet Union and acted strongly against it.

Today, transplant professionals globally face the abuse of transplant surgery in the Communist China. However the global professional response has been nowhere near as strong. The reason for that differential response I have explored at previous presentations to this Academy.

The struggle against transplant abuse in China faces a paradox. Those outside of China who know most about the situation and are best equipped to do so something about it are the least likely to be effective in stopping the abuse. Those outside China who are the most likely to be effective in stopping the abuse know little or nothing about the situation and are among the least equipped to counter it.

Those outside of China who know most about the situation and are best able to do something about it are the transplant abuse researchers, the China human rights experts, and foreign affairs China hands. Yet, the Party finds it as easy to ignore civil society abroad as it does at home. Foreign affairs China professionals operate behind closed doors and engage with thick skinned Party stalwarts who are indifferent to even the most blistering and well founded criticism.

Those outside China who are the most likely to be effective are foreign transplant professionals, because they can exercise peer pressure. But, by and large, they know little or nothing about the situation and are among the least able to take meaningful action.

Human rights belong to all humanity. Their rights should be asserted by everyone. Nonetheless, there remains such a thing as human rights expertise – knowledge of the international human rights instruments, familiarity with discourse and patterns of behaviour of human rights violators, the lessons of history and so on. This is an expertise transplant professionals typically do not have.

Chinese Communist Party discourse about organ transplant abuse is similar to discourse about a long list of other well documented violations — Mao’s forced starvation, the cultural revolution, the Tiananmen square massacre, forced abortion and sterilization, torture, forced labour camps, sex trafficking, censorship and prison conditions and so on. Transplant professionals typically are not familiar with the history of Party human rights violations and the propagandistic discourse the Party has used to exonerate itself.

The global transplantation profession can be broken down into three groups — the aware, the naive and the foolish. The aware have bothered to take the trouble to read the research and realize that what is going on in China with transplantations is mass killing of innocents and cover up. They react accordingly, distancing themselves from the Chinese transplant profession and encouraging others to do likewise.

The naive do not consider the research and claim that doing so falls outside their area of responsibility. They hear the research conclusions on the one hand and Chinese Communist Party propaganda on the other and draw no conclusions one way or the other. They encourage change in China and welcome claims from China of change.

The foolish buy Chinese propaganda hook line and sinker. They parrot the Party line that the research demonstrating mass killing of innocents for transplantation is based on rumour, though it is not. They echo the Party line that the research is unverifiable, though it is both verifiable and verified. They repeat the Party claim that abuses are in the past, when they are not. They make the outlandish claim that disinterested researchers are political and that Chinese Communist Party officials are academics. They accept Theresienstadt facades as reality. They endorse what they are misled into thinking is happening in China wholeheartedly.

The Interaction

A specific cost to the Party of Chinese internationalism is global push back. The more Chinese who go abroad, the more Chinese engaged in human rights abuses there are who go abroad. Indeed, perpetrators are more likely to go abroad than victims, since many of the perpetrators are the Party’s own, and many of the victims are hostile to the Party.

All too many non-Chinese are prepared to turn a blind eye to Chinese human rights violations. But there are sufficient numbers of others who care and are prepared to act to cause the Party a problem. Perpetrators may be allowed exit from China, but denied entry to foreign countries. The Party may allow and even encourage those complicit in abuses to teach, study or go to conferences abroad, but foreigners will deny them the opportunities they seek.

The mass killing of prisoners of conscience for their organs is part of the new China. It developed through the introduction of modern technology and catered to an international transplant tourist market. But it had an unintended side effect, the global ostracism of the Chinese transplant profession.

In the old days, that sort of ostracism would not have mattered. But in the new, internationally focused China it does.

The Transplantation Society, a global association of transplant professionals, refused to allow 35 Chinese participants for ethical reasons to attend the World Transplant Congress in San Francisco in July 2014.[3] For the 2014 Hangzhou, China, transplant conference, many invited overseas transplant experts failed to attend. A year before, in October 2013, the China Transplant Congress, also held in Hangzhou, had a raft of foreign expert attendees.

Ostracized professionals do not have the deep Party connections that make it easy for them to shrug off this foreign behaviour. What matters to them more is their careers. So, the Party had to react.

The strategy of choice to counter the specific problem of global transplantation peer ostracism was to target the global transplantation profession. Bring them on board or, at least, hoodwink their own professionals into thinking that outside professionals are on board and the specific problem which was disgruntling their own transplantation profession would be solved.

Hong Kong, August 2016

The Transplantation Society had planned its 2016 conference for Bangkok, but decided to relocate to Hong Kong because of the Thai coup. Dr. Jay Lavee, president of the Israel Transplantation Society, a heart transplant surgeon, and a former member of Ethics Committee boycotted the conference. He wrote that to providing China a global platform, while ignoring reports of organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience, “is a moral stain on TTS ethical code”.[4]

This relocation became an opportunity for the Chinese Communist Party. The Party/state newspaper Global Times reported:

“Scholars say this special Chinese organ transplant meeting shows that the Chinese organ transplant world has been truly accepted by the Transplantation Society”.[5]

Philip O’Connell, the then President of the Transplantation Society rejected this boast, but in a peculiar way. He said

“It is important that you understand that the global community is appalled by the practices that the Chinese have adhered to in the past … As a result of these practices, the Chinese transplant centers have allowed a trenchant political opposition to their government to prosper ….”

What is this political opposition to which he is referring? The New York Times wrote that

“he may have been referring to Falun Gong, a spiritual movement that is outlawed in China and that accuses the Chinese authorities of extracting organs from its members.”

What O’Connell is saying, as interpreted by the New York Times, takes a bit of unpacking. He endorsed, albeit elliptically, four elements of Chinese Communist Party propaganda.

One is that Falun Gong is a political movement opposed to the Chinese Communist Party. The second is that conclusion of the killing of prisoners of conscience for their organs comes from this political movement. The third is that sourcing of organs for transplant in the past have virtually all come from prisoners sentenced to death and then executed. The fourth is that those abuses are all past history.

O’Connell, after having entered into this imaginary framework, then proceeded to give the Chinese Communist Party political advice. He suggested that China should not have been sourcing organs from prisoners sentenced to death and then executed because this sourcing has provided an opportunity for the Falun Gong political opposition to fabricate charges of political prisoner transplant abuse victims.

Prisoners sentenced to death and then executed should not, of course, be organ harvested. However, even if one puts aside the sequence of factually incorrect assumptions on which O’Connell’s suggestion is based, for O’Connell to suggest that sourcing organs from prisoners sentenced to death has weakened the hold of the Chinese Communist Party over China is foolish.

Suppose that Falun Gong actually were a political movement. Why should O’Connell be giving the Chinese Communist Party advice about how to prevent a political opposition to prosper? It is unlikely he would be giving that advice to the governing party in his own country. Why should he give such advice to a ruling party in another country, and a repressive one, no less?

The implication of the advice he gives is chilling. His line of reasoning leads to the conclusion that those who want to oppose the Chinese Communist Party, who want the political opposition to prosper, should welcome the sourcing of organs from prisoners sentenced to death. That sort of conclusion makes no sense and was unlikely what he intended.

I do not pretend to know anything much about transplantation technology. I would not dream of walking into an operating room and attempting a transplant, even if I were allowed to do so. I am confident that, if I tried, I would make a total mess of the operation and put the life of the patient at risk. O’Connell makes a similar mess when talking about human rights violations in China, as much of a mess as I would in a transplant operating room.

The ultimate conclusion of O’Connell about the Party, that the global community was appalled by past Chinese practices, was unfriendly. Yet, in arriving at that conclusion, he swallowed and regurgitated Party propaganda.

O’Connell approached the issue of organ transplant abuse in the way the Party would expect any good apparatchik to do, from a base of Party propaganda and the perspective of what is good for the Party. The scolding O’Connell gave the Party must have led Party officials to rub their hands with glee.

The Vatican, February 2017

The Vatican hosted a Summit on Organ Trafficking and Transplant Tourism in February 2017.[6] The invitation to the summit of Chinese Communist Party/state health officials became a flash point of controversy.

The Party newspaper Global Times reported:

“Senior Chinese health officials are preparing to attend a high-level summit at the Vatican on organ trafficking Tuesday, an invitation which recognizes China’s recent achievements in the field.”[7]

Israeli transplant surgeon Dr. Jay Lavee opposed the invitation. About Huang Jiefu, the chief Party/state health official invited, Lavee said:

“Given his personal record and the fact that he still does not admit the use of organs of prisoners of conscience, he should not have been invited,”[8]

Dr. Francis Delmonico, a former head of The Transplantation Society, who planned the summit, defended the invitation to Chinese officials. He said that the summit was “an opportunity for them to proclaim a new day and be accountable” that the practice has stopped.[9]

Chinese Party officials are quite happy to proclaim a new day, every day. As for being accountable, there is nothing in place. There are no accountability mechanisms. Nor did Delmonico propose any. As for accountability done through independent investigation, Delmonico just is not interested.

At a Congressional hearing on Chinese organ transplant abuse held in Washington DC in

June 2016, Delmonico was asked:

“How do you independently verify that even though he [Huang Jiefu] may be very sincere that anything he says, zero foreign customers for organ trafficking in 2016, how do you independently verify that when there has been such a backdrop of terrible duplicity, lies, and deception on the part of the government?”

The answer Delmonico gave was this:

“I am not here to verify. That is not my job.”[10]

So, Delmonico wants accountability, but will not himself verify. Delmonico sees verification or accountability as the job of someone else. But who would that someone else be?

The separation between hosting Chinese health officials, on the one hand, and verification/ accountability, on the other, means that there is no linkage between the two. Delmonico was prepared to host Chinese health officials no matter what they did or would do, as long as they said the right thing, proclaimed a new day. Determining whether that verbiage meant anything he left for someone else.

Verification, for Delmonico, would not be that hard. He would not have to do the research himself. All he would have to do is read it and assess it. But that, so he says, is not his job.

Lavee said that Delmonico “is simply willing right now to close one of his eyes and be blind to what continues to go on while celebrating the fact that there has been some reform in China.” For the Chinese Communist Party, that is all just fine.

Kunming, Yunnan, China, August 2017

Chinese Communist Party/state health officials hosted a transplant conference at Kunming, Yunnan, China, in August 2017 in which many international transplant figures issued supportive statements for the Chinese transplantation program. While the international media ignored the conference, other than for a passing reference in an Associated Press story,[11] the Communist Party press gave it a great deal of attention.

The Global Times, in advance of the meeting, wrote:

“In an unprecedented move, four top international health organizations expressed their appreciation for China’s efforts in organ donation and transplantation reform, and also their expectations for more engagement from the country to global governance in the sector.

The acknowledgment was expressed in a letter sent to Huang Jiefu, a former Chinese vice‑minister of health and current head of the National Human Organ Donation and Transplant Committee, ahead of the upcoming national conference on organ transplantation the following week.

The letter that was disclosed to media on Wednesday said that China’s reform of its organ donation and transplantation program is ‘ethically proper,’ which experts and officials hailed as a powerful response to the criticism and skepticism the country has faced for years. …

The letter also shows China’s model of building an open, transparent and fair organ donation and distribution system is acknowledged by international society, Huang added.

‘The acknowledgment from the four organizations is historic, as this is the first time they jointly expressed a crystal clear and positive appreciation of China’s progress on organ transplant reform,’ Wang Haibo, head of the China Organ Transplant Response System, told the Global Times.

The letter was signed by heads and senior officials from the World Health Organization (WHO), the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences (PAS), The Transplantation Society (TTS) and the Declaration of Istanbul Custodian Group (DICG), four of the most influential societies in promoting global ethical practices in organ transplantation.”

The article adds:

“‘The acceptance from international organ transplant bodies is due to China’s efforts to introduce its progress and reform to the world, including to those who hold a skeptical or even hostile attitude toward China’s organ transplantation systems,’ Huang said.”

‘We need to keep our friends close, and our enemies closer,’ he said.” [12]

Like most Communist Party propaganda, the story is inaccurate. Indeed a reader can get a better picture of reality by assuming the exact opposite.

Despite the statement that the letter from the four organizations was released to the media, it is not publicly available and we do not know what it says. In light of the Party penchant for fabricating quotes, we do not know even if the claimed quotes from the letter are accurate.

As well, the statement of an effort to engage “those who hold a skeptical or even hostile attitude toward China’s organ transplantation systems” is a fabrication. None of the sceptics were invited to the Kunming meeting.

The reference to critics as “enemies” is a fair portrayal of the way the Party views them. To say that the Party has done something wrong, even if accurate, does not make you just an enemy of what was done wrong; it makes you an enemy of the Party.

China Central Television or CCTV showed a video of Jose R. Nunez, from the World Health Organization, who attended the Kunming meeting, saying:

“Well, I think that China, especially since January 2015 when they decided not to use organs from prisoners any more, that’s a great reform. It’s a hard reform to do. But they are doing it and they’re moving in the proper direction right now, and what they are achieving now is just amazing!”

Nunez, as one can see, equates what the Chinese Communist Party says with reality. The Party announces reform. Nunez asserts that the reform is happening.

CCTV also broadcast a video clip of Nancy Ascher, current president, Transplantation Society:

“We were at a recent meeting at the Vatican, where every single country talked about their people who went outside their own countries to get transplants at other places. And what was clear from that meeting was that people who are looking for illegal transplants are not coming to China.”[13]

It seemed not to occur to Ascher that people who are coming to China and the doctors in the countries from which they came might not want to talk about it openly. Yet, there is plenty of evidence to this effect, transplant tourism into China blanketed by a conspiracy of silence.[14]

CGTN, the China Global Television Network, in a report of the Kunming meeting quoted Jose Nunez from the World Health Organization as saying:

“I think the reform in China is great, especially since January 2015 when they decided not to use organs from prisoners anymore. They are moving towards a proper direction now,”

The gist is the same as that of the CCTV clip, that what the Chinese Communist Party says in its propaganda is reality.

CGTN quotes Nancy Ascher from The Transplantation Society as saying:

“What I’ve seen in this visit is the Chinese people are embracing the notion of organ transplantation and I have no doubt that you will be able to achieve a very large number of voluntary donors. I think as Chinese transplant professionals become involved, and they will also reach out and be able to teach the rest of the world because Chinese experiences will soon be greater than the rest of the world.”[15]

The notion that Chinese within China are free to embrace or not to embrace Chinese Communist Party propaganda as they see fit is something only someone unfamiliar with China could say. Not only does Ascher give the Party the benefit of the doubt. Her faith in the Party is doubt free, a faith in which she has “no doubt”.

Delmonico, in his testimony to Congress in June 2016, noted that Haibo Wang, the deputy health official to Huang Jiefu, had been put under house arrest for his efforts at transplant reform. At the San Francisco World Transplant Congress in 2014, which I attended, I went to hear him speak, but he did not show up, because he had just been arrested at that time.

Even if the global transplant leadership does not have the time to read research into transplant abuse in China, or the grace to invite researchers to the events the leadership helps organize, they should at least listen to what they themselves are saying. People in China, especially state officials, who deviate from the Party line get arrested. That is pervasive across all areas of policy, and not just something which happens in the transplantation field. They get released only if they undertake, after release, to conform to the Party line. There is no other basis for release, except for extreme illness. For foreign transplant leaders to then take at face value what a released official says, without investigation or verification, means that they too are adopting the Party line.

Outside of China, organ sources are either dead, at least brain dead, both before and after the sourcing or alive both before and after. China is the only country where sources are killed by organ extraction, where sources are alive before and dead afterwards.

This practice, as well as being murderous, presents unusual transplantation problems, because the practice increases the amount and type of pharmaceuticals required to be injected into the source. That increase can potentially cause problems for the patient who receives the organ. Substantial Chinese transplant research has gone into addressing this problem, trying various combinations of drugs which can create the desired impact on the source without harming the organ being transplanted.[16]

Chinese transplant professionals may well someday be teaching foreigners about the killing of political prisoners for their organs. But we outside China should do what we can to prevent that.

Just prior to the Kunming conference, the Xinhua news agency reported:

“Recent correspondence with the World Health Organization (WHO), the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Transplantation Society (TTS) and the Declaration of Istanbul Group both surprised Huang when his dedication to organ transplants was recognized by world professionals.

‘You are widely acknowledged as an academic leader who has revitalized liver transplantation in China and led the transplant reform by Chinese transplants professionals, with organ transplant regulations in China consistent with WHO (international) principles of practice and shared by the global community,’ said an email.”[17]

There is an equation here of Chinese law and policy with practice, showing a lack of awareness that the law in China can not be enforced against the Party, since the Party controls all aspects of the enforcement of the legal system. The four organizations are pleased that the Party said what they wanted to hear.

Generally, repressive regimes, when faced with criticism of their human rights records, produce one of two responses. Either they say “go away, this is our business, your own country has many human rights violations which should concern you”. Or, they say, “you are right, come help us, we need your expertise”, but nothing changes. In both cases, the result, in terms of respect for human rights is the same. The only difference is that in the second case the beguiled are disgraced. Lack of expertise in human rights includes ignorance of this pattern, an ignorance the four organizations manifest.

Governments often face the question whether to engage or boycott. Relations between governments cover a wide range of matters. Deciding whether to engage or boycott involves trade-off. Is it worth the cost of cutting off relations in areas where engagement is beneficial in order to express strongly enough the repugnance for the behaviour which prompted the call for a boycott?

The transplantation profession does not have to consider any such trade-offs. Relations between the foreign and Chinese transplantation professions concern transplantation only. The question whether the value of engaging in one area is worth the loss suffered by not boycotting for repugnant behaviour in another area does not arise. Transplant professionals who preach engagement rather than boycott as a way of effecting change in China are oblivious to this difference.

In the Xinhua quote, the four agencies refer to a Communist Party propagandist as an academic, giving him and the Party a false aura of expertise and authority. The problem here is not just a propagandist is recast as an academic. As noted earlier, The Transplantation Society recasts independent researchers as politically motivated. This is the sort of inversion of reality which would make the Chinese Communist Party proud.

The Transplantation Society immediate past president O’Connell said at the Kunming conference

“Now no one up here has any evidence that supports the Falun Gong claims. If we had, we wouldn’t be up here.”[18]

The statement of O’Connell that “no one up here”, that is to say Kunming, had any evidence of the killing of prisoners of conscience for their organs is likely true, since anyone who had that evidence or even was aware of that evidence was not invited. He confirms the New York Times analysis of remarks he made at the time of the Hong Kong conference, first that he endorses the Chinese Communist Party propaganda about Falun Gong that a set of exercises is an organization. Second, he attributes research coming from disinterested researchers who do not practice the exercises to this imaginary organization.


The Chinese Communist Party has no credible factual answers to the work of independent researchers who have demonstrated the mass killings of innocents for transplantation. Indeed, given the massive scale of the transplantation business in China, it is impossible to deny this research in any credible manner. Party propaganda, denying official data, pretending what is there is not there, can persuade only the gullible or the wilfully blind.

A main line of defence has become the statements of these gullible or wilfully blind, what Communists refer to as useful idiots. The Party publicizes and exaggerates the endorsements of the naive and the foolish.

One can only hope that a willingness to confront the truth about China will prevail generally in the transplantation profession before many other innocents are killed for their organs.

The global psychiatric profession, at the time of Soviet abuse of psychiatry, was part of the solution to that abuse. The global transplantation profession, with a few notable exceptions, when it comes to transplantation abuse in China, has, regrettably, become part of the problem.



David Matas is an international human rights lawyer based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada


    [1] Quoted in Hung Li China’s Political Situation and the Power Struggle in Peking (1977), page 107

    [2] See Bloody Harvest: The Killing of Falun Gong for their Organs with David Kilgour, Seraphim Editions 2009; State Organs: Transplant Abuse in China co edited with Torsten Trey, Seraphim Editions, 2012; An Update to Bloody Harvest and the Slaughter, 2016 with David Kilgour and Ethan Gutmann at

    [3] . See Matthew Robertson, “From Attack to Defense, China Changes Narrative on Organ Harvesting” Epoch Times, November 24, 2014,

    [4] Matthew Robertson “A Transplant Conference Plays Host to China, and Its Surgeons Accused of Killing”, Epoch Times, August 2, 2016‑a‑transplant‑conference‑plays‑host‑to‑china‑and‑its‑surgeons‑accused‑of‑killing/

    [5] Didi Kirsten Tatlow “Chinese Claim That World Accepts Its Organ Transplant System Is Rebutted” New York Times, August 19, 2016‑hong‑kong‑organ‑transplants.html


    [7] China to attend high‑level Vatican summit against organ trafficking, 2017/2/6,

    [8] Josephine McKenna “Vatican defends including China at organ‑trafficking summit” National Catholic Reporter February 8, 2017‑defends‑including‑china‑organ‑trafficking‑summit

    [9] Ryan Connelly Holmes and Dan Sagalyn “One doctor’s war against global organ trafficking” PBS Newshour, May 29, 2017‑doctors‑war‑global‑organ‑trafficking/


    [11] Christopher Bodeen, “AP Interview: China to lead in organ transplants by 2020”, July 26, 2017

    [12] Li Ruohan “Organizations praise China’s progress in organ donation” 2017/7/26

    [13] “Organ transplant experts assess China achievements over past decade” August 4, 2017

    [14] An Update to Bloody Harvest and the Slaughter, 2016 with David Kilgour and Ethan Gutmann at

    [15] Fan Yixin “China’s organ transplantation reform hailed by international community”, 2017‑08‑06,

    [16] An Update to Bloody Harvest and the Slaughter, 2016 with David Kilgour and Ethan Gutmann at

    [17] “Organ transplant reform in China: a journey of hardship and progress” August 5, 2017‑08/05/content_41354780.htm

    [18] Li Ruohan “China to be self‑sufficient in organ transplants by 2030” Global Times 2017/8/6