Human rights researchers have published an updated study accusing China of conducting tens of thousands of organ transplants using the bodies of political prisoners without their consent. While the practice has been known to occur in the communist nation for decades, Beijing alleges that it long stopped harvesting organs from prisoners of conscience.
Former Canadian lawmaker David Kilgour, human rights lawyer David Matas, and journalist Ethan Gutmann have released an update to their respective projects documenting the use of political prisoner bodies in hospitals to conduct organ transplants. The update to their respective works “Bloody Harvest” and “The Slaughter,” suggests that the Chinese government regularly imprisons “primarily practitioners of the spiritually-based set of exercises, Falun Gong, but also Uyghurs, Tibetans, and select House Christians,” and transfers their bodies to hospitals after executing them “in order to obtain organs for transplants.”
The study does two things: compare the number of organ transplants on the Chinese government’s national record to the sum of the records of local hospitals, and cite numerous anecdotes from those who have seen the practice first-hand or fear their relatives have been a victim of the practice. The government does not publish information on organ donor registries – which would confirm that either all transplants are done using voluntary donors or that prisoners are used in the practice – so researchers are forced to figure out the math using the numbers available of transplants already conducted:
Chinese government statistics for transplant volumes are not necessarily reliable. One effort which needed to be made and which we finally have made is to determine on our own what Chinese transplant volumes are… We did that by looking at and accumulating the data from the individual hospitals where transplants occur. Some hospitals state their transplant volumes. For those who do not, we can, from their bed counts, personnel strength, potential patient groups, rate of growth, technological development, academic publications, and media reports, come to a conclusion on their transplant volume.
CNN breaks down the suspect numbers: 5,019 organs on record as being transplanted in 2015 remain unaccounted for, and the number of transplants not documented federally is somewhere between 50,000 and 90,000. Six hundred and twelve hospitals the researchers found conducting transplants are not on the government’s record as having approval to do so.
Adherents to Falun Gong, a spiritual movement based on meditation and holistic medicine, have been decrying illegal organ harvesting for years. The Chinese government sees Falun Gong as a threat because it promotes individual meditation and its leader has developed a formidable following compared to that of the communist system.
“I remembered they performed blood tests on us Falun Gong practitioners, not just once, but regularly, and it was to prepare for a possible match,” Crystal Chen, a Falun Gong practitioner who has been arrested in China, told Voice of America.
“They performed three blood tests but gave me no results. After I was released from the camp, one of practitioners, who happened to be a doctor, told me they were doing a bone marrow test to see if my kidney was a match,” another former prisoner, Ma Chunmei, said.
Some doctors have also decried the practice. Uighur doctor Enver Tohti testified in 2014 to being forced to extract organs from recently executed prisoners with haste, before their bodies cooled. “‘Why are we operating?’ Tohti remembers asking his superior. ‘Come on. This man is dead.’” He was forced to remove the man’s liver and kidneys.
The Chinese government has adamantly denied the claims. “Such stories about forced organ harvesting in China are imaginary and baseless — they don’t have any factual foundation,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said of the new report, CNN notes.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution this month calling for the State Department to implement visa restrictions on Chinese nationals suspected of participating in the practice, a move China sternly condemned.