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The Olympics and organ harvesting

Remarks prepared for delivery to a rally at Upper Senate Park
17 July 2008, Washington DC
by David Matas

David Kilgour and I concluded in a report we wrote titled "Bloody Harvest" that Falun Gong practitioners were being killed for their organs. The organs were sold to foreign transplant tourists for huge sums. Our report had two versions, dated July 6, 2006 and January 31, 2007. Here are a few of our findings:

Falun Gong practitioners who protested the banning of Falun Gong, were arrested, in the hundreds of thousands. If they gave their names and recanted, they were released. If they did not give their names, they disappeared. If they gave their names and did not recant, they were tortured and threatened with death. If they recanted after the torture and threats, they were then released. If they still did not recant, they disappeared.

The sources in other countries of organs for transplants does not exist in China. There is no functioning organ donation system and a strong cultural aversion to donation. There is no law allowing for organ harvesting from the brain dead cardiac alive. There is a deep seated Chinese antipathy to harvesting organs from the brain dead cardiac alive. The only significant source in China of organs for transplants before the persecution of the Falun Gong was prisoners sentenced to death.

There is no national organ matching or distribution system in China, meaning that there is a tremendous amount of organ wastage.

The volume of organ transplants in China went up dramatically shortly after the persecution of the Falun Gong began. Yet, the numbers of those sentenced to death remained constant.

Falun Gong practitioners in prison, detention, and labour camps have been systematically blood tested. Other prisoners were not blood tested.

Hospitals throughout China advertised on their web sites organs for sale on short notice. The sale of organs for China became a billion dollar business. Organ sales became the leading money maker for many Chinese hospitals.

Our investigators called hospitals pretending to be relatives of patients needing transplants, asking the hospitals if they had Falun Gong organs for sale Falun Gong because their exercise regime meant that their organs would be healthy. Throughout China, we got admissions on tape that the hospitals had Falun Gong organs for sale.

And there is much, much more.

The Government of China has reacted to our report in four different ways. One was simply trying to shut us up. Wherever we went, the Chinese consulate, if they knew about the event, would call up the local hosts urging cancellation, suggesting that hosting the event would be considered an unfriendly act towards China and that our event represented a security threat to the institution. But there is no security threat from the Falun Gong either inside or outside of China. The Falun Gong do not become a security threat simply because the Communist Party of China has decided to suppress them. A second Chinese government reaction to our report was counter propaganda. For instance, the Chinese Government has circulated a statement that the report David Kilgour and I wrote on organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners contains:

"verbal evidence without sources, unverifiable witnesses and huge amount of unconvincingly conclusive remarks based on words like "probably", "possibly", "maybe" and "it is said", etc. All these only call into question the truth of the report."

Yet, all one has to do to is to look at the report to see that every statement we make in our report is independently verifiable. There is no verbal evidence without sources. Where we rely on witnesses we identify them and quote what they say.

The report is on the internet and is word searchable. Anyone who searches it can see that the words "probably", "possibly", "maybe" and the phrase "it is said" are not used in our report, not even once.

A third Chinese government reaction to our report was destruction of the evidence on which our report was based. Much of the evidence in our report comes from the Government of China itself, from hospital web sites and Chinese medical research. The Government of China has been systematically taking down or altering the sites on which we have relied. We have electronically archived all our source material. Any one who wants to see what we saw can go to the links in our report and see our source material. However, those use the internet in China, which is filtered by the Government, can not access these sources.

The fourth Government of China reaction to our report was an attempt to change the facts on the ground. A new Chinese law on transplants in May 2007 prohibited the sale of organs. Similar laws had been passed at least twice before. But this law, unlike previous laws, appears to have had an effect. Foreign transplant tourism has been curtailed. The number of organs sold in China to foreign transplant tourists has decreased with the new law. But transplantation in China has not ceased altogether.

Yet, the sources of organs in China are almost entirely disreputable. There still is no law in China allowing for organ harvesting from the brain dead cardiac alive. The legal gap is a reflection of a cultural aversion.

There is still no organ donation scheme in China. The number of organ donations in China is tiny, statistically insignificant. Again this reflects cultural attitudes.

There is still no national organ distribution or transfer or sharing or matching system in China. As the result, the wastage of organs from those who are organ sources continues.

The only substantial source of organs for transplants in China remains prisoners. And there are only two prisoner pools which have been used for transplants prisoners sentenced to death and Falun Gong practitioners.

It used to be that the death penalty could be approved only by regional courts. Since January 2007, it has to be approved by the Supreme Court. This shift in procedures has reduced substantially the pool of prisoners sentenced to death. This change requires increased reliance on the Falun Gong practitioner pool.

We found, before the new law came into force, when the Chinese focus was on the foreign market, that waiting times for foreign customers were much shorter than waiting times for Chinese nationals. Chinese nationals waiting for transplants were miffed by this preferential treatment to foreigners. The decrease in transplant tourism and the continuation of transplants means that the beneficiaries are now patients within China.

Even if the sourcing of organs for transplants from Falun Gong practitioners were to cease immediately, or had ceased yesterday, that is not the end of the problem. The harvesting that did take place was a crime against humanity. Crimes against humanity call out for redress. Perpetrators of crimes against humanity must be brought to justice.

To be specific then.

  • China should have an organ donation system.
  • China should have a national organ matching and sharing distribution system.
  • China needs a law allowing for organ harvesting from the brain dead cardiac alive.
  • Organ sourcing in China from prisoners should stop.
  • Those involved in organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners should be brought to justice.
  • The persecution of the Falun Gong should stop.

The decision of President George Bush to go the Beijing Olympic Games opening ceremonies is ill advised. The better stance is that of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, German Chancellor Angela Merkl, who said they would not attend.

President Bush, if he is to salvage something from this visit, must raise specific human rights concerns when he meets with Chinese President Hu Jintao. President Bush should call for an end to persecution against the Falun Gong in all its forms and insist specifically on an end to the organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners.

David Matas is an international human rights lawyer based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

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