National Press Club

Investigative journalist, human rights lawyers detail forced organ harvesting in China

June 22, 2016 | By Jesse Rifkin | jesserifkin01@gmail.com

David Kilgour, former Canadian Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific (left) and investigative journalist Ethan Gutmann released the finds of their study of forced organ harvesting in China at a National Press Club Newsmaker news conference on June 22..

David Kilgour, former Canadian Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific (left) and investigative journalist Ethan Gutmann released the finds of their study of forced organ harvesting in China at a National Press Club Newsmaker news conference on June 22..

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

Forced organ harvesting in China from members of persecuted ethnic and religious groups is a much more horrific and widespread problem than was previously believed, three co-authors of a new investigative report said at a National Press Club event on June 22.

The stories being suppressed by the Chinese government could at times be stomach-churning.

“We talked to one resident of Taiwan who went twice to China for a kidney. Turns out in fact that eight vials of kidneys were brought to him until finally the eighth kidney worked,” said David Kilgour, former Canadian Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific. “He’s back, at least the last time we saw him, in Taiwan doing fine. But eight human beings were killed so he could get his kidney.”

The authors will testify before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on June 23.

Organs involuntarily taken from members of persecuted ethnic and religious groups in China number about 60,000 to 100,000 annually, according to the report.

“That’s well over one million by now,” said human rights lawyer David Matas. “The CCP [Chinese Communist Party] says the total number of legal transplants is about 10,000 per year. But we can easily surpass the official Chinese figure just by looking at the two or three biggest hospitals.”

Matas estimated that the total revenue as a result may be $8 billion to $12 billion.

The sordid history of the practice may meet the legal international threshold for genocide, said investigative journalist Ethan Gutmann.

“In 1994, the first live organ harvest of death row prisoners was performed in the execution grounds of northwest China," he said, tracing a brief history. "In 1997, following the Ghulja Massacre, the first political prisoners -- Uyghurs [a Turkish ethnic group] activists -- a handful were harvested on behalf of the high-ranking Chinese Communist Party Congress. In 1999, Chinese state security launches its largest action of scale since the Cultural Revolution, for the eradication of Falun Gong,” practitioners of a spiritual philosophy most Chinese leaders consider dangerous.

“In 2000, hospitals across China are ramping up their facilities for what would become an unprecedented explosion in China’s transplant activity," Guttmann continued. "By the end of that year, well over one million Falun Gong practitioners are incarcerated in labor camps, detention centers, psychiatric facilities, and black jails. By 2001, Chinese military hospitals are unambiguously targeting select Falun Gong prisoners for harvesting. By 2003, the first Tibetans are being targeted as well. By the end of 2005, China’s transplant apparatus had increased so dramatically that a tissue-matched organ could be located within two weeks for any foreign organ tourist with cash.”

Several proposed solutions were suggested by the authors.

One was to prosecute culpable high-ranking Chinese officials in the International Criminal Court. Another was for influential outside groups such as the Transplantation Society to stop turning a blind eye towards the mounting allegations or praising unsubstantiated reforms.

A third was for other nations to ban the practice of “transplant tourism,” with policies from Israel and Taiwan singled out as ideal examples. In Taiwan, anyone found to have traveled to China to get an organ illegally can face a five-year prison sentence and a $29,000 fine.

The authors’ 817-page report was published on their website on June 22.