China’s lucrative organ theft

On 1 March 2020, The Independent Tribunal into Forced Organ Harvesting from Prisoners of Conscience in China released its 562-page final report. The six members of the Tribunal were experts of international renown in areas of law, transplant surgery, international politics, Chinese history, and business.Sir Geoffrey Nice, Queen’s Counsel (QC) from UK, headed it. Earlier, Mr. Nice was the lead prosecutor in the trial of Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevic at the International Criminal Tribunal. The members of the Tribunal, the prosecutors and the lawyers worked pro bono without taking any payment for their effort. The Tribunal had avowed to forego any emotions on the issue. They examined 50 witnesses and their cold, legalistic conclusion was:

“a. Forced organ harvesting has happened in multiple places in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and on multiple occasions for a period of at least twenty years and continues to this day.

b. Medical testing of groups including Falun Gong and Uighurs was related in some way to the group concerned because other prisoners were not tested. The methods of testing are highly suggestive of methods used to assess organ function. The use of ultrasound examinations further suggests testing was focused on the condition of internal organs. No explanation has been given by the PRC for this testing.”

Based on witness testimonyand documentary evidence, the Tribunal concluded that thousands of people had their bodies “cut open while still alive for their kidneys, livers, hearts, lungs, cornea and skin to be removed and turned into commodities for sale.” China performs the largest number of transplant surgeries in the world. While in most of the countries the waiting period is two years or more, in China it could be as short as two weeks.As the Tribunal found, the tests have been done and databases are ready to be matched with the prospective recipient.

The evil started much before Falun Gong fell foul of the Chinese Communist Party.The 1979 document,Rules Concerning the Dissection of Corpses and the 1984 Provisions for Regulations on the Use of Dead Bodies or Organs from Condemned Criminals give graphic details including the provision that the family of the executed person has to pay for the bullet used to kill if they want the ash urn. The rules emphasised close coordination between health personnel and prison and public security officials and the need for confidentiality. The “supply chain” is facilitated by the fact that in china 46 offences attract the death penalty of which the most frequently used against dissidents are organising prostitution, seriously endangering public safety, intentional assault, production and sale of hazardous food products, and insubordination

On 18 June 1996, the US Congress Subcommittee OnInternational Operations And Human Rights was informed that documents of the Chinese Communist Party’s central Committee requireunmarked ambulances with surgeons not dressed in white medical uniforms to drive directly to execution site and extract the organs as the vehicle rushes towards transplant facility. On 27 June 2001, a member of the US Congress described before the same Subcommittee how a person was shot in the heart if corneas were needed and in the head if other organs were to be extracted. It was stated that the Chinese, as a rule,do not consent to organ donation as both the Buddhist and the Confucian beliefs dictate that the body be kept whole after death. This led to the inevitable conclusion that most of the transplanted organs came from persons who and whose families had not consented to organ removal. The worst disclosure was that the recipients of these harvested organs included a large number of Americans who,with tourist visas,enjoyed this “medical tourism” to get the transplants. This resulted in substantial foreign exchange earnings for the communist state, the GDP of which in 2000 was less than 10 per cent of what it is now.

To boost this “lucrative” business, attention shifted to Falun Gong, a group following spiritual practices, physical exercises and moral principles as part of daily life. By 1999, its followers’ number had grown to 70 million, sending jitters down the communist party ranks. On 25 April 1999, Jiang Zemin, who like Xi Jinping was Party General Secretary, Chairman of the Central Military Commission and President of the country, issued orders for defeat of Falun Gong. He described the group as a grave threat to the Party. Since then, mass arrests, torture and organ harvesting has been the fate of Falun Gong practitioners. An article in Cambridge China Quarterly in 2015 mentioned that Chinese universities are asking prospective students, as a precondition for admission, to bring a certificate from public security authorities that they have no links to Falun Gong. Many of the followers escaped to the West and some of them gave evidence before the Tribunal. US Congress has passed four resolutions calling on China to stop the persecution of Falun Gong. Yet, sufficient evidence has been included in the Tribunal’s report that organ harvesting from even living Falun Gong members is continuing, encouraged in part by the American’s and Europeans’ demand for quick and cheap availability of organs.

As the organ business boomed, China has found new sources. The crackdown on Kazakhs and Uighurs has resulted in more than a million of them being sent to detention camps euphemistically called vocational training centres. New York Post reported in June 2019 that upon entry at these centres, in addition to blood being drawn for testing, the organs are also examined giving clear indication that the detainees are considered potential “donors”. There are indications that many Tibetan prisoners have also met that fate. Total absence of due process in China means that once a recipient’s requirement is matched by the data from a detainee, the detainee can be chargedwith a capital offence,quickly convicted and executed to permit organ extraction.

Howsoever horrifying this “farming” method may seem, it is a reality and no government in the world has made it a criminal offence for its citizens to travel to China for organ transplant. A draft law titled Stop Forced Organ Harvesting Act with the objective of preventing China from extracting organs from prisoners of conscience was introduced in the US Congress on 16 December 2020. Chris Smith, member of the Congress, who co-sponsored the Bill said, “transnational human trafficking gangs, terrorist organisations, profiteers and even governments – China’s Communist regime in particular – kill innocent people and sell their organs for profit.” The proposed law seeks to empower the Secretary of State to deny passport or revoke it if already issued to an American who is, or tries to be, recipient of an organ extracted in violation of National Organ Transplantation Act. While the bill awaits approval, we can only harbour a vain hope that European Union and India will soon follow the American initiative and make it an offence to travel to China to receive a stolen organ. The persistent silence on this issue, however, shows that just below the thin gilt of democracy lies the same indifference to human rights as exists in totalitarian regimes.

Source : Daily World

The writer RN Prasher is a retired IAS officer of Haryana cadre | Personal Opinions

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