The Telegraph, a national British daily newspaper, examined the harsh reality of forced organ harvesting in China in a May 27 article titled “Is British science aiding and abetting the Chinese human organ trade?”
“The forced organ harvesting market is lucrative, and some western experts now suspect they unwittingly promoted medics responsible for it,” wrote senior reporter Henry Bodkin.
He said that at the beginning of the 2000s, China jumped from a follower to a leader of transplantation technology. Citing information from Wayne Jordash QC, founder of Global Rights Compliance, the article wrote that the organ transplantation hospitals in China tripled within four years. “The volume of kidney transplants grew 510 per cent, liver transplants 1,820 per cent, heart transplants 1,100 per cent and lung transplants 2,450 per cent,” it wrote.
The problem is that all these have happened in the absence of a voluntary organ donation system. It was estimated that at least hundreds of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners have become victims of forced organ harvesting.
Annie Yang, 59, is a translator working in London. While still in China, she was detained in a labor camp outside Beijing between March 2005 and September 2006 for practicing Falun Gong. Besides up to 20 hours a day of labor, she and other detained Falun Gong practitioners were also tortured from time to time.
But every few weeks, she and other detained practitioners would be sent to a nearby police hospital. “There they underwent a comprehensive series of medical examinations: scans, blood tests, X-rays, you name it. The traumatised women were baffled,” wrote the article, “Why was a regime that so wantonly tortured them also apparently concerned for their underlying health?”
Yang did not understand that until she fled to UK later and read about reports on forced organ harvesting in China. “My whole body was trembling – I could have been one of them,” she said in an interview with The Telegraph. But she did not know how many fellow inmates are still alive, given the state-sponsored system of forced organ transplantation in China.
Yang testified two years ago in China Tribunal chaired by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, the former lead prosecutor against Slobodan Milošević. The tribunal also concluded that “Falun Gong practitioners were serving as the principal source for a system of forced organ harvesting in the People’s Republic of China.”
Another witnesses is former surgeon Enver Tohti in China. He was ordered to “cut deep and work fast” when removing the organs of political prisoners while they were still alive. Furthermore, 8 UN Special Rapporteurs also found this and other evidence “credible indicators of forced organ harvesting.”
“In plain language, victims are killed to order, their bodies sliced open for their livers, hearts, kidneys and lungs, even their corneas. The organs are then sold on a fearsomely lucrative international market,” wrote the article, “Kidneys go for anywhere between $50,000 and $120,000, and pancreases between $110,000 and $140,000.”
Consistent with these findings, “experts believe the Chinese Communist Party is also increasingly willing to allow scientific experiments on unconsenting political prisoners, in an echo of the very darkest practices of Nazi concentration camps,” explained the article.
Western countries have taken measures to curb the forced organ harvesting. A government bill was passed last month that bans British citizens from traveling overseas to purchase an organ.
Connection to Western Technologies
Forced organ harvesting is not an issue that involves merely China. “Eminent [Western] medics are starting to look back uncomfortably on decades of “constructive engagement” with the Chinese medical establishment – those all-expenses-paid trips to lecture budding surgeons, and the profitable arrangements to train batches of them in the west,” wrote the article.
Professor Russell Strong, a world-renowned Australian transplant doctor, called last October, “on all Chinese surgeons to be banned from western hospitals to prevent them using the skills they pick up there in the organ harvesting market.”
“All this implies a disturbing question. Namely, has the west aided and abetted China’s organ harvesting industry?” explained the article, “Or, in more human terms, if Yang had stuck around in Beijing to have her living heart cut out, might that surgeon have received relevant training from a British university, or even the NHS (National Health Service)?”
A Supply Chain
One known fact is that that global demand for organs vastly outstrips legitimate supply. Professor Martin Elliott from London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital said organs are often desperately sought. This led to an organ tourism market worth about $1.7 billion a year. A Japanese woman even paid $5 million for a liver, the article stated.
These transplant “agents” are available in many countries and health insurance companies in Israel even used to offer help to clients finding such agents in China. Although such incentives are understandable, “what is less clear to the casual observer is how in a couple of short decades China managed to become the organ transplant centre of the world.”
Wayne Jordash QC, founder of Global Rights Compliance, tried to find the answer. “At the beginning of the 2000s the PRC leapt from a follower to a leader of transplantation technology,” he said. “Transplant tourists and Chinese citizens were reported to have access to a matched organ within weeks or months, in comparison to other countries where patients could be on a transplant waiting list for years despite well-established donation systems.”
The next question is the source of the ample supply of these organs. The Chinese authorities said in 2009 that two-thirds of organs used for transplantations were taken from death row prisoners. “But that simply didn’t stack up. From 2000, the number of executions following a death penalty sentence declined, while the transplantation system grew exponentially,” explained the article.
That is why people turned to Falun Gong, a meditation system harshly suppressed by Chinese Communist Party (CCP). “Mass arrests followed. Since then the number of Falun Gong practitioners who have fallen victim to forced organ harvesting are, conservatively, estimated to amount to hundreds of thousands,” wrote the article, “According to Sir Geoffrey Nice’s China Tribunal, 60,000 to 100,000 transplantations took place annually between 2000 and 2014, with Falun Gong practitioners serving as the principal source.”
Several years after forced organ harvesting was exposed, China said in 2010 that organ procurement from executed prisoners would end in 2015 and be replaced with voluntary donation. “But experts don’t believe that for a minute. They point out that the number of organs used in China for transplantations greatly outstrips the number that could ever be garnered from voluntary donation,” wrote the article.
“The embarrassing thing was that although I’d spent all my life in transplantation, I was completely unaware of such activities, which is itself an issue,” remarked Elliott, “You are often invited there [China], maybe to give a lecture, maybe to do some teaching, maybe to operate, and you only see this narrow piece of what you are allowed to view.”
This occurred on a large scale. “It’s important to know many organisations, often with good intentions, make money and obtain benefit from relationships with reciprocal sources in states such as China,” Elliott said.
Dr Julian Sheather, special adviser of The British Medical Association (BMA), said, “There is absolutely no doubt that these activities are a travesty of the moral obligations in medicine.” Regarding Western technologies, advocates are expecting laws that “could act as a deterrent against even unwitting complicity in organ harvesting by western companies and institutions.”
“The legal doctrine of aiding and abetting is one such possible avenue that could be particularly dangerous for medical device manufacturers,” wrote the article, “It was used in 1946 to convict the general manager of Tesch & Stabenow, the manufacturer of Zyklon B poison gas, for complicity in the Holocaust.”
China is known for its lack of transparency in its medical system, among other state apparatuses. This makes it difficult for a western firm to be confident that a diagnostic machine or surgical device would not be put to use for organ harvesting.
“If they cannot satisfy themselves that their equipment is not being used in that way, they need to ask themselves serious questions about whether they should be in that market,” Sheather remarked.
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