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 Whistleblowers Need Protection



By Hon. David Kilgour, J.D.
Human Rights Prize 2009 Ceremony
Swiss Section, International Society of Human Rights
15 January, 2010

Thank you to the Swiss section of the International Society of Human Rights for this great honour to David Matas and myself. It might well help the cause of many concerned persons around the world in bringing pressure to end the inhuman commerce in organs from non-consenting citizens in China. Also to Swiss Transplant for co-hosting yesterday`s seminar on organ transplants. There is a real need for more consenting organ donors in Switzerland and around the world; please sign a pledge form today at this event.

Gao Zhisheng

One of the most courageous critics of the ongoing persecution of Falun Gong practitioners across China is the Nobel Peace prize-nominated Gao Zhisheng, who conducts himself in the tradition of Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi. He is also the lawyer who in 2006 invited David Matas and me to come to China to investigate whether allegations of organ pillaging from Falun Gong were true. Permit me therefore to provide you parts of an English translation of a most worrying news item, which was carried a few days ago on the BBC`s Chinese language world service:

    "Chinese police say Gao Zhisheng `disappeared`. Gao lost contact with his family and the outside world when he was taken away in February, 2009. Gao Zhiyi, his brother, said police who arrested his brother have told him that Gao disappeared last September. This is the first time Chinese authorities have mentioned his whereabouts. Gao Zhiyi said in a telephone interview with Associated Press on Jan 14 that he recently went to Beijing to look for the police who arrested his brother. Police told him that his brother `lost his way and wandered off` on September 25, 2009. The BBC Chinese service cannot reach Gao Zhiyi by phone. Gao Zhisheng is a lawyer and human rights activist. At the end of 2006, he was sentenced by Chinese authorities for `inciting subversion of state power` to three years in prison and one year’s deprivation of political rights, suspended for a five-year probationary reprieve."

This "news' is deeply disturbing, but it might be a way to try and get people to stop inquiring about Gao with the suggestion it is futile. The USSR did that about Raoul Wallenberg for some years while we now realize he was probably still alive in prison. I might add that Gao`s family was so poor that they lived in a cave in rural China and he could not attend university. He nonetheless managed to pass the bar exams and in 2001 was named one of the country’s top ten lawyers by China's ministry of Justice. Party agents released their full wrath, however, when he opted to defend Falun Gong practitioners. It began with removing his permit to practise law, an attempt on his life, having police harass his wife and teenage daughter and son and denying the family any income. It intensified when Gao responded in the nonviolent tradition of Gandhi by launching nationwide hunger strikes calling for equal dignity for all Chinese nationals. In his most recent article, Gao wrote about several weeks of excruciating torture in prison. The rest of the family has fled China and are now refugees in the United States. His wife and children are increasingly worried about him.

Organ Pillaging

David Matas and I came to the dismaying conclusion that Falun Gong practitioners across China have been and are being killed without any form of trial for their organs on a large scale. We wrote as volunteers an independent report, first released in July 2006, that came to this conclusion, which came out in July 2006. There was an updated version in 2007. A book was published late last year titled Bloody Harvest, which was launched at a meeting of the all-party Canadian Parliamentary Friends of Falun Gong.

Falun Gong is a traditional Chinese spiritual discipline with principles for living, meditation and exercises, which was introduced across China in 1992. Outside China, it is now practised in about 114 countries. Initially, the party-state of China encouraged the practice initially as beneficial for public health. By 1999, it had grown so popular that the communist party became afraid that its own supremacy might be threatened. The numbers practising across China had grown from virtually none in 1992, according to a government estimate, to 70-100 million persons. The practice was accordingly banned and practitioners have been demonized in party media with virtually all manner of untruth continuously since 1999.

Practitioners were asked to recant. Those who refused and continued the practice and those who protested the banning were arrested. If they recanted after arrest, they were released. If they did not, they were tortured. If they recanted after torture, they were then released. If they did not recant after torture, many disappeared into the detention and forced labour system.

Our conclusion is that many of the disappeared were killed for their organs, which were sold to transplant tourists. It would take too much time to set out all the reasons we came to that conclusion. We invite you to read our report, which is available in German and French on the Internet (accessible at or our book. Briefly, two of the dozens of evidential trails we followed which led to our conclusion are these:

1) Only Falun Gong practitioners in work camps and prisons are systematically blood tested and physically examined. This testing cannot be motivated by concerns over the health of practitioners because they are also systematically tortured. Testing is necessary for organ transplants because of the need for blood type compatibility between the organ source and the recipient.

2) Traditional sources of transplants--prisoners sentenced to death and then executed, voluntary donors, the brain dead/cardiac alive--come nowhere near to explaining the total number of transplants done in China since 1999. There is no organized system of organ donations. There is a cultural aversion to organ donation. There is no national organ matching or distribution system.The only significant source in China of organs for transplants before the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners began in 1999 was prisoners sentenced to death and then executed. The volume of organ transplants in China went up dramatically shortly after the banning of Falun Gong, yet the numbers of persons sentenced to death and then executed did not increase.

We estimate that about 41,500 organs transplanted over the period of persecution up to 2005 came from Falun Gong practitioners. How we reached this conclusion is explained in our book and in our report. We deducted from the 90,000 transplants, which a government spokesman said were done over the period examined, those which came from executed criminals and other explained sources. The difference was 41,500 up until 2005 alone. Consider how much blood money the party-state and its agents, including medical professionals, are making from organ sales and forced labour provided by Falun Gong practitioners.

Forced Labour Camps

David Matas and I visited about a dozen countries to interview Falun Gong practitioners sent to forced labour camps, who managed later to leave the camps and the country itself. They told us of working in appalling conditions for up to sixteen hours daily with no pay, little food, being cramped together on the floor for sleeping, and being tortured. They made export products, ranging from clothing to chopsticks to Christmas decorations from all indications often as subcontractors to multinational companies. The camps were created in the Mao era and allow the Party to send anyone to them for up to four years without any form of hearing or appeal. One estimate of their number across China as of 2005 was 340, having a capacity of about 300,000 inmates. In 2007, a US government report estimated that at least half of the inmates in the camps were Falun Gong. It is the combination of totalitarian governance and 'anything is permitted' or 'carnivore' economics that allows such inhuman practices to persist.

Since our report came out, laws and practices in China have changed. A law on transplants in May 2007 required that transplants be performed only in registered hospitals. The Ministry of Health announced that from June 26, 2007 Chinese patients would be given priority access to organ transplants over foreigners. The announcement also banned all medical institutions from transplanting organs into foreign transplant tourists. The government announced in August 2009 that it was launching an organ donation system as a pilot project.

With these changes, however, the crimes against humanity continue. The recipients have changed from mostly foreign to local, but the sources remain substantially the same. The government denies that organs are being sourced from prisoners who are Falun Gong practitioners. Yet it accepts that organs for transplants are being sourced from prisoners. The only debate we have with the Government is which group of prisoners is the source of organs.

"Non consenting parties"

Sourcing of organs from prisoners is done without their consent. Deputy Health Minister Huang Jiefu in Guangzhou in November 2006 said in a speech, "too often organs come from non consenting parties". At the time of the announcement of an organ donor pilot project, Huang indicated that executed prisoners “are definitely not a proper source for organ transplants". This principle, that prisoners are not an acceptable source for organs, is followed by the Transplantation Society and the World Medical Association. So what is the rule of law world going to do about the party-state’s abuse of global transplant ethics? Our report and book have a long list of recommendations, but, given the shortness of time, I’ll mention here only two.

One is extraterritorial legislation. The 2007 policy giving priority to Chinese patients has cut down on transplant tourism to China, but such legislation would be a useful statement of universal principle. The sorts of transplants in which the Chinese medical system engages are illegal everywhere else in the world. But it is not illegal for a foreigner from any country to go to China, obtain a transplant which would be illegal at home, and then return home. Foreign transplant legislation everywhere is territorial; it has no extraterritorial reach. Many other laws are global in their sweep. For instance, child sex tourists can be prosecuted not just in the country where they abuse children, but often at home as well. This sort of legislative sanction does not exist for transplant tourists who pay for organ transplants without bothering to determine whether the organ donor has consented.

A second recommendation is that any person known to be involved in trafficking in the organs of prisoners in China should be barred entry by all foreign countries.


The Chinese people want the same things as Swiss, Canadians and people everywhere, including, respect for all, education, to be safe and secure, good jobs, the rule of law, good governance and a sustainable natural environment. Living standards have improved on the coast and in other urban areas in China, but there is a huge cost. Most Chinese continue to be exploited by the party-state and firms, often owned by or contracted for manufacturing to multinationals, which operate today across their country like 19th century robber barons. This explains partly why the prices of consumer products 'made in China' seem so low—the externalities are borne by workers, their families and the natural environment.

The attempted crushing of Falun Gong, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim and other independent faith groups, human rights lawyers and other civil society communities and in recent years indicates that China's party-state must be engaged with great caution despite the severe ongoing world economic problems. If it ends the systematic and gross abuses of human dignity and takes major steps to indicate that it wishes to treat its trade partners in a mutually-beneficial way, the new century can bring harmony for China and its trading partners. The Chinese people for whom, like you, I have the strongest admiration have the numbers, perseverance, self-discipline, intelligence and other qualities to help make this new century better and more peaceful for the entire human family if given the opportunity.

Thank you.

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