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 Whistleblowers Need Protection


Organ harvesting in China still considered a problem by some

By Melissa Suran, Medill Reports
August 28, 2009

Artist: Xiqiang Dong/Courtesy Truth-Compassion-Tolerance International Art Exhibition

Painting of a Falun Gong member having his organs harvested

WASHINGTON – While two members of Congress are worrying about a crisis involving China and the mistreatment of a spiritual movement, other critics go farther, alleging that the Chinese government is permitting the harvesting of human organs. .

Many followers of Falun Gong accuse the Chinese government of engaging in forced organ harvesting of their members.

According to New Jersey Reps. Robert Andrews, D-N.J., and Chris Smith R-N.J.,, Falun Gong members are being persecuted in China for activities that “reflect the exercise of internationally-recognized fundamental human rights, including freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.”

Falun Gong, also referred to as Falun Dafa, is a practice introduced in China in 1992. The movement describes itself as a traditional Chinese self-cultivation practice that encourages special exercises to help improve mental and physical health.

On July 20, 1999, the Chinese government outlawed the practice because officials feared its popularity could challenge government authority, as it was estimated that between 70 million and 100 million citizens practiced Falun Gong exercises.

Government officials issued orders to beat, torture and even execute Falun Gong followers, according to David Kilgour, a Canadian attorney who worked on an investigative case involving the organ harvesting of Falun Gong prisoners.

Kilgour said he believes the trafficking in organs in China continues. Almost 10 years ago, Kilgour said he became aware of the Falun Gong movement when he witnessed a demonstration in Ottawa. At the time, he was Canada’s secretary of state for Asia Pacific.

“To my shame now I did not take the matter seriously enough, partly because I was making visits to China and did not want to believe this crime against humanity was taking place in a country to which the government of Prime Minister Jean Chretien was giving so much attention,” he said.

Based on his 2007 findings detailing alleged incidents occurring earlier in the decade, Kilgour said he still has reason to believe that the organ harvesting continues. His report was compiled with fellow attorney David Matas.

“From all indications we have from a variety of sources within and outside China, the commerce continues,” he said. “Before the Olympic Games, the Chinese Medical Association (CMA) agreed with the World Medical Association not to allow foreigners to come to China for transplants. It is difficult to know if the agreement was complied with because foreigners with organs from China don`t normally talk about the source of them.”

The conclusion of the Matas-Kilgour report states, “based on our further research, we are reinforced in our original conclusion that the allegations are true. We believe that there has been and continues today to be large-scale organ seizures from unwilling Falun Gong practitioners.”

The report also concluded that the Chinese government since 1999 has “put to death a large but unknown number of Falun Gong prisoners of conscience. Their vital organs, including kidneys, livers, corneas and hearts, were seized involuntarily for sale at high prices, sometimes to foreigners, who normally face long waits for voluntary donations of such organs in their home countries.”

Not everyone accepts that the Chinese government is in the business of organ marketing.

Yizhou Liu, 26, who came from China to the U.S. three years ago, said the claims against the Chinese government are outrageous and that most Chinese citizens support the ban of Falun Dafa.

“They said their founder to be superior and more powerful than Buddha and God,” he said. “At the airport, they asked me to quit the Communist Party, even if I'm not a member and asked me to forge a nickname to quit.”

Although he admits China is not perfect, Liu said no government is.

“There will be scum wherever there are people,” he said. “It would not be hard to find samples of any form of corruption of mankind or crime in such a huge nation where one-fifth of the world population resides. I believe China has to keep making efforts to improve its legal system as to protect every single citizen.”

But Dr. Torsten Trey, executive director of Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting (DAFOH), a Washington-based non-profit, maintains that many Falun Gong members were executed for the intended use of their organs.

Although it is now illegal in China for “tourists” to receive organ transplants, Trey said he believes there are still many Chinese patients who are receiving the organs of Falun Gong prisoners. He offered no evidence supporting his charge, but in 2008 the United Nations asked China to investigate the claims of killing of Falun Gong practitioners for their organs.

Most Chinese citizens don’t believe in organ donations, he said, sincethey follow a tradition of keeping the body in one piece when they die. But that doesn’t mean they can’t replace sick organs.

Trey said that until about three years ago, organ harvesting, or taking organs from individuals who had not consented before death, was not known to the general public.

“They harvest the organs after the death sentence [of the prisoner is carried out],” he said.

In order to preserve the organs, Trey said the person performing the execution gives the prisoner a lethal dose of potassium. The potassium does not, however, damage the organs in the process.

To make some extra money, Trey asserted many Chinese hospitals will sell the organs for somewhere between $60,000 and $100,000.

“In 2001, there was an exponential increase of organ ‘donations,’ in China,” Trey said. “There were about 20,000 transplants and this would put China in first or second place for most organ transplants in the world.”

Trey said while it usually takes seven years to receive a transplant in the U.S., a patient can get one within three to four weeks in China.

Eileen Dealy, 42, said she might have been tempted during a serious illness last year to opt for an illegally obtained organ.

“I know I would not have had any problems receiving a kidney from another country should I have needed one,” said the Northern Ireland resident. “At that time, as I was stressed, scared, and unsure of the future, I would have accepted any kidney even if it was from another country. I at that time would not have had any moral dilemmas with such issues as consent and origins.”

However, her outlook on the issue has altered drastically.

“Time to reflect on being ill has changed my perspective and should I need a transplant tomorrow I would be more concerned about where the kidney originated from,” Dealy said. “I would only accept a kidney that had been donated with full consent and voluntarily.”

The Consulate-General of the People’s Republic of China in New York was contacted on Friday and declined to comment.

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