Speech: Ending Abuse of Organ Transplantation in China
Posted by Author on August 20, 2010
Revised remarks prepared for delivery to The Transplantation Society Congress, Vancouver, BC, Canada, Aug. 17, 2010, By David Matas –
I am amazed it has taken this long. Finally people are starting to take the abuse of organ transplant surgery in China seriously. There have been isolated pockets of concern before. But an abuse which dates from the 1980’s is only now, twenty five years too late, generating widespread notice.
China, from the very moment it began transplant surgery, killed non-consenting donors for their organs. The law even allowed for it.
The Regulations on the Use of Dead Bodies or Organs From Condemned Criminals, dated October 9, 1984, contemplated involuntary organ sourcing from prisoners sentenced to death and then executed. The law set out three events which could allow for harvesting of organs.
One event was consent of the source, the prisoner. A second event was consent of the family. A third event was the refusal or failure of the family to collect the body of the executed prisoner.
The law, then, allowed organ harvesting with consent, but did not prohibit organ harvesting without consent. That meant that, even where there was an express refusal of consent, both by the prisoner before death and the family after death, but the family refused or even just neglected to collect the body, then organs could, according to the law, still be harvested.
In 1984, when this law was enacted, China was still in the early stages of its shift from socialism to capitalism. As the shift progressed, the health system became a major part of the shift. From 1980, the Government began withdrawing funds from the health sector, expecting the health system to make up the difference through charges to consumers of health services.
The sale of organs for transplants became the primary source of funds. There is global demand for organs because of shortages everywhere. The sale of organs became for hospitals a way to keep their doors open, and a means by which other health services could be provided to the community. This dire need for funds led to a rationalization that selling the organs of prisoners who would be executed anyway was acceptable and to a desire not to question too closely whether the donors wheeled in by the authorities really were prisoners sentenced to death.
Organ price lists were posted on Chinese websites. Hospitals boasted openly on their websites about the money being made from the sale of organs.
China began the organ trade by selling the organs of prisoners sentenced to death. But the global demand for organs and the health system need for money eventually outgrew the available death row supply. The Falun Gong community became the next source.
Falun Gong is a simple set of exercises with a spiritual foundation which started in China in 1992. The belief behind the exercises is a blending and updating of the Chinese Buddhist and Tao traditions.
The Chinese Communist Party/state at first encouraged the exercises because they are healthful. With official encouragement, the practice of the exercises spread rapidly to the point where there were more practitioners than members of the Communist Party.
The Party then, in June 1999, out of jealousy and fear of losing ideological supremacy, banned the exercises. When practitioners persisted and protested, the Party/state in November 1999 got vicious — vilifying the practice through propaganda, arresting practitioners, torturing them to elicit recantations, and disappearing them if they did not recant.
Practitioners of Falun Gong quickly became the number one victims of repression in China — two thirds of the torture victims, according to the United Nations rapporteur in torture; one half of those in the slave labour camps, according to the United States Department of State Human Rights reports. Many of those Falun Gong practitioners who were arrested and refused to recant also refused to identify themselves, in order to protect their friends, family and workplaces back home who otherwise would have been victimized for not having denounced them. The depersonalization of the Falun Gong, their huge numbers in detention and their vulnerability as an unidentified population made it easy for them to become the next source of organs for sale.
According to research David Kilgour and I did, first in a report released in July 2006 and updated in January 2007, and then in a book titled Bloody Harvest released in November 2009, we concluded that Falun Gong were killed in the tens of thousands so that their organs could be sold to foreigners, generating a billion dollar business for China. We launched a global campaign to attempt to end the abuse we identified, speaking in over forty countries and eighty cities about our research.
The Chinese government reacted to our work, but not always in ways which countered our concerns. The Government took down Chinese internet information we referenced. We archived it all so that you can see it on our website. However, because of official blocking, internet users can no longer see it in China.
The Government through its embassies, consulates and front organizations, made every effort, wherever we went, to prevent or cancel our speaking engagements, and to bar or discourage people from meeting with us. The Party/state churned out hostile propaganda, mostly by attacking Falun Gong or us personally, without dealing with the substance of our research.
At this Congress, the reaction of a delegate from China to my presentation, expressed during the question period, was typical of the Communist Party. He stated that the organizers should not have allowed me to speak and attacked my presentation at a personal level without offering a hint of rebuttal.
The Chinese speaker did, to a certain extent, get his way. Congress rules were enforced selectively to impede attendance at the event where I spoke.
At the door of the room to the Congress session where I presented, unlike any other event I and others observed at the Congress, there was an astounding number of eight security people turning away those who were registered at the Congress but who did not have blue colour coded delegate badges. People who had stayed in the corridor outside the room during the session informed me that large numbers were denied entry. At other Congress events, including lunch, registered attendees without blue color coded badges entered unimpeded, even though in theory the colour coding on their badges did not entitle them to entry. ….. (more details from The Epoch Times)
David Matas is an international human rights lawyer based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
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