South China Morning Post
29th July 2006
Truth and lives
by Mark O'Neill
Truth and lives An alarming report backing claims of organ harvesting
jailed Falun Gong members has been given credence by the prominence of
its two Canadian authors, writes Mark O'Neill
Tensions between Beijing and the banned spiritual movement Falun Gong
are nothing new, with the authorities fighting a war with the group it
sees as trying to destabilise China. The movement claims it is merely a
spiritual group being targeted by a brutal government that is bent on
eradicating it as a threat to its authoritarian rule.
The standoff has grabbed world headlines in recent weeks amid shocking
claims that mainland hospitals have harvested organs from live Falun
Gong prisoners, earning hundreds of millions of yuan for themselves and
the doctors who performed the operations, according to a report
published this month by two prominent Canadians - human rights lawyer
David Matas and David Kilgour, a former secretary of state for
"We believe that there has been and continues today to be large-scale
organ seizures from unwilling Falun Gong practitioners," the report
The central government has dismissed the report as "groundless and
biased", based on "rumours and false allegations" spread by the Falun
Gong to smear the country's image.
The report, mainly based on testimony provided by Falun Gong
practitioners outside China, concludes that the government and its
hospitals, detention centres and courts have since 1999 put to death a
large but unknown number of Falun Gong members, removing their hearts,
kidneys, livers, corneas and other vital organs for sale at high prices
to local and foreign patients.
"The allegations here are so shocking that they are almost impossible
believe," the report says. "The allegations, if true, would represent a
grotesque form of evil which, despite all the deprivations humanity has
seen, would be new to this planet."
Three pieces of evidence are the most persuasive. One is official
statistics that show a sharp rise in organ transplants since 2000. From
1994 to 1999, there were 18,500, and, from 2000 to last year, 60,000. A
tripling of these operations does not prove the allegations, but the
harvesting of Falun Gong organs would provide an explanation.
The second is the transcript of an interview by Mr Kilgour in the US
with the ex-wife of a surgeon who said that, between the end of 2001
October 2003, her husband removed corneas from 2,000 Falun Gong
They were said to be injected with a drug that caused heart failure but
left the brain functioning. Her ex-husband removed the cornea and
different doctors other organs, after which the remains were sent to
crematorium and burned, she said in the transcript.
The hospital allegedly charged Chinese patients 200,000 yuan for a
transplant and foreigners a little more. For this work, her ex-husband
received the yuan equivalent of hundreds of thousands of US dollars.
She said that, after he decided to resign from the work, he received
death threats and two men attempted to stab him to death. She said that
to protect herself and her children, she divorced him at the end of
The third piece of evidence pointing to the possibility of the
harvesting is material from websites offering organ transplants.
One, from the China International Transplantation Network Assistance
Centre in Shenyang , said that providers of organs, including the lung
and heart, could be found immediately and that at least 5,000 kidney
operations were done every year all over China.
Another, from the Orient Organ Transplant Centre in Tianjin , said
since January last year, it had carried out 647 liver transplants, with
an average waiting time of two weeks.
A third, from the Changzheng Hospital in Shanghai, offers a liver
transplant for 200,000 yuan, with a waiting time of one week.
The report says the average waiting time in 2003 in Canada for organ
transplants was 32.5 months and that these hospitals could only offer
such a short waiting time if they had a large bank of live "donors".
It also presents records of conversations, which it accepts as
from Falun Gong members in North America with hospitals, detention
centres and courts in China, several of whom said that they had a
of Falun Gong prisoners whose organs could be used.
In one of these conversations, on June 8 this year, an official at a
detention centre in Mishan, Heilongjiang province, allegedly said that
he had five or six male Falun Gong prisoners under the age of 40
available as organ suppliers and that it was the detention centre and
not the hospital that chose the suppliers.
The weakness of the report is the lack of eye witnesses and the
inability of the authors to interview those directly involved, such as
doctors, nurses, police and labour camp officials.
Mr Matas and Mr Kilgour said that, at Beijing's embassy in Ottawa, they
asked for permission to visit China to make inquiries, but this was
refused. The embassy official was only interested in denying the
allegations, they said.
Mr Matas and Mr Kilgour, both well-known public figures in Canada, said
the report was initiated when they accepted a request from the
to Investigate the Persecution of the Falun Gong in China, a
non-governmental organisation registered in Washington DC, to
investigate allegations of organ harvesting. They said they accepted
request because of the seriousness of the claims and their respect for
human dignity worldwide and conducted their investigation independently
from the coalition, the Falun Gong, any organisation or any government.
They received no pay for the report.
Mr Matas is an immigration, refugee and international human rights
lawyer in Winnipeg and includes among his clients Lai Changxing , whom
Beijing accuses of running the biggest smuggling racket since 1949 and
seeks to extradite from Canada.
Mr Kilgour was a crown prosecutor, then member of parliament and is a
former secretary of state for the Asia-Pacific region.
The fact that these two eminent figures wrote the report has given it a
credibility and status it would not have enjoyed had it come from the
Falun Gong itself.
Another problem in investigating the organ harvesting claims is that
there is a shortage of official data on the extent of transplants on
mainland - who provides them, how much patients pay and who receives
The transplant of organs on the mainland from criminals condemned to
death has been widely reported. But, according to public information,
Falun Gong practitioners have not been sentenced to death but given
terms in prison or labour camps, in an attempt to force them to recant.
The movement says that many of its members have died in detention from
beatings and bad treatment.
The hostility between Beijing and the Falun Gong is so deep that the
accusations each makes against the other are not easily accepted by
Since then-Communist Party chief Jiang Zemin banned the Falun Gong in
July 1999, the movement has mounted an intense propaganda campaign
against the central government, with 24-hour vigils outside embassies
and consulates and a flood of information to the media. Households on
the mainland often receive recorded telephone messages from the Falun
Gong, accusing the government of lying and misrepresenting their
Foreign governments have mostly distanced themselves from this
regarding Falun Gong accusations with scepticism and unwilling to sour
their relations with such an important diplomatic and trading partner.
However, this week, David Ritchie, a deputy secretary of the Australian
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, questioned Assistant Foreign
Minister Cui Tiankai about the reports of harvesting organs from Falun
During the meeting in Canberra he said Australia had no evidence that
the claims were true. "When we receive reports like that which are very
serious, we of course raise them directly with our Chinese
counterparts," Mr Ritchie said. Mr Cui said there was no evidence of
Outside the department in Canberra, a dozen Falun Gong supporters
carried out a mock organ transplant in the pouring rain.
Mr Jiang banned Falun Gong after more than 10,000 of its members on
April 15, 1999, surrounded the Zhongnanhai compound where the party
leaders live and work. The movement claimed 60 million practitioners in
1999, including many in top positions in the government, the military
Many Chinese believe that such a large demonstration at the centre of
Communist Party power would have been impossible without high-level
connivance - making the purge of its members that followed bitter and
Diplomats said there were differences within the government over how to
control the group, with others advocating a more measured and less
brutal approach. But Mr Jiang ruled that the organisation represented a
mortal threat to party rule and, as party chief, his was the view that
Party and government officials had to attend meetings and study
that hammered home this message, while the mass media was ordered to
demonise the movement, in order to turn public opinion against it.
On January 23, 2001, a mother and her 12-year-old daughter said to be
Falun Gong members set themselves on fire in Tiananmen Square. State
television repeatedly broadcast shocking images of the event, to show
the lunacy of the group.
Some believed the incident was staged by the government.
Mr Jiang created a special organisation with the Ministry of Public
Security, called the 6.10 office, charged with eradicating the Falun
Gong. It has branches all over China and officers in foreign embassies
charged with monitoring the group's operations abroad. It embarked on
nationwide arrests, with the aim of making members recant and denounce
the movement. According to one Falun Gong author, by the end of April
2001 the government had arrested 830,000 practitioners.
The group's founder, Li Hongzhi , a former forest ranger and grain
clerk from Jilin province who set up the movement in 1992, lives in New
York with his wife and daughter in a large house donated by a believer.
He emigrated there in early 1998 and keeps his movements secret, for
fear of assassination.
The government fears that the Falun Gong will attempt to disrupt the
2008 Beijing Olympics by sending foreign nationals, ethnic Chinese and
Caucasians to the event as tourists.