International human rights law firm Global Rights Compliance has recently released a report that spotlighted that medical institutions and professionals might unknowingly join in the crime of organ trafficking and forced organ harvesting perpetrated by the Chinese government. The International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China entrusted the group to do this report.
Organ harvesting is the act of killing a person for their organs. The report, titled “Do No Harm: Mitigating Human Rights Risks When Interacting with International Medical Professionals and Institutions in Transplantation Medicine,” outlines the places that record high levels of organ trafficking and unethical organ transplantation, such as India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Lebanon and Egypt—and particularly China, where a state-sanctioned organ harvesting industry reach a market value of $1bn a year.
Wayne Jordash QC, a British lawyer with 20 years of experience in the international human rights field, presented the report in a video conference. He said the report explored the possible risks of working with Chinese medical professionals, including hospitals, universities, medical journals, and Chinese medical schools, among others, as it might constitute an act of complicity in this crime.
Jordash said the global demand for organs far exceeds the number of organs available from voluntary donors. The organ tourism industry has emerged as a consequence of this. Many patients need to wait for months or even years for organs, and even could not obtain them at all. The fact is, those who join this service could get an organ very quickly and within a very short period of time. However, they often do not know the source of their organs.
Jordash said that this unethical organ tourism accounts for 10 percent of all organ transplants worldwide. And statistics show that organ transplantation is a lucrative industry, with annual revenues ranging from 8.5 million to 1.7 billion dollars.
He also said that the World Health Organization (WHO) has made it clear that donors must donate their organs voluntarily without any undue coercion. As such, the WHO does not consider people selling their organs for money as voluntary because of a massive difference in the financial situation of an average organ donor and organ receiver. Specifically, a typical organ donor’s average age is 29 and only earns about 480 dollars a year, while a typical organ receiver’s average age is 48, and he or she would earn up to about 53,000 dollars per year. So, the financial disadvantage of the donor’s family and the dire circumstances around the donation raise serious concerns about the voluntary nature of such donations.
He said that just because a donor agrees to donate an organ does not mean it is voluntary. We also have to consider the donation’s situation, whether there was coercion at the time of donation, and whether the donor was actually willing to donate the organ.
The British lawyer Wayne Jordash QC then pointed out what he considers the most significant risk to the transplant industry: the crime of forced organ harvesting in China, wherein people are killed for their organs. Within four years since the early 2000s, China’s organ transplant technology has gone from a being follower to a leader in the industry.
Although China does not have a voluntary organ donation system, the number of hospitals in China that perform transplants has tripled. And Chinese doctors have moved from simply transplanting kidneys to transplanting hearts, lungs, and livers. Reports also sprung up indicating that patients traveling to mainland China for transplants can receive their organs within weeks or months. In contrast, such operations can take years long in countries with formal organ donation systems. Moreover, patients going to China for transplants would be informed of the exact dates they can take the operation and receive their transplant.
He said the situation in China in which organ recipients can receive organs in a very short period of time raises serious concerns about how these organs are obtained. The international community later accused China of committing forced organ harvesting with the government’s support, and that organ harvesting prisoners include people who are not on death row.
In 2009, China claimed that 2/3 of the organs used in organ transplants came from prisoners on death row. They claimed that the organs were removed with the prisoners’ consent, but the international community does not believe this. The research found that not all people whose organs were forcibly removed by the government were on death row. Although the Chinese government reduced the number of death row inmates in 2000, he said that China’s organ transplant industry still continues to expand. Most importantly, the expansion of the Chinese organ transplant industry came when the CCP launched a fierce crackdown on Falun Gong practitioners.
Falun Gong is a virtuous spiritual practice that started in Changchun. It consists of five sets of slow, easy exercises and moral teachings based on the principles of “truth, compassion, and forbearance,” which Falun Gong practitioners base on to guide their daily lives. Within 7 years, it had over 100 million practitioners in China.
In 1999, China launched a massive campaign to persecute Falun Gong. Jordash said the persecution methods include: forced kidnappings and extralegal killings, which are done without legal basis.
British lawyer Jordash noted that in 2010, the CCP announced that they would stop removing organs from death row inmates starting in 2015. The CCP also claimed that it would begin to set up a voluntary organ donation and distribution system to meet the WHO’s ethical standards. Jordash denied such claims, saying that it seems CCP has not changed its attitude then, as studies have found the number of organ transplants in China is still much higher than the number of registered organ donors.
China Tribunal, a UK-based non-governmental tribunal that investigates forced organ harvesting in China, said in its 2019 ruling that China does not show evidence that it has dismantled the infrastructure used for China’s transplantation industry. It can not explain the source of a large number of organ transplant cases over the year.
The Tribunal based its conclusion after analyzing a large number of evidence, including phone calls from investigators to doctors who performed transplants and personal testimony from survivors, among others.
The Tribunal is chaired by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, who led the prosecution of Slobodan Milošević, former President of Serbia at the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Its panel includes medical professors and human rights lawyers.
This is the first extensive independent international investigation of the organ harvesting crime committed by the CCP.
In June 2021, UN human rights experts said that they were extremely alarmed by reports of alleged ‘organ harvesting’ targeting minorities, including Falun Gong practitioners, Uyghurs, Tibetans, Muslims, and Christians, in detention in China.
The experts said that they had received credible information that these groups may be forced to undergo blood tests and organ examinations such as ultrasound and x-rays without their consent.