Human life is often regarded too cheaply in this world. But now in the People’s Republic of China, it may be getting quite expensive. According to a new and very chilling report issued last month by two eminent Canadian lawyers, the Chinese government may be murdering members of the Falun Gong religious sect and then selling their organs on the open market.
There is no question that Chinese organ-transplant centers sell their wares. Kidney transplants have been advertised by the China International Network Assistance Center website for U.S $62,000; liver transplants cost between $98,000-$130,000; and liver-kidney transplants cost as much as $180,000. (The prices were removed from the website in April. An archived copy of the page can be found here.)
But do many of these organs really come from executed Falun Gong? China is a repressive society, indeed, a tyranny. And it is incontrovertible that Falun Gong practitioners are subjected to mass imprisonment merely because they hold heterodox religious beliefs that the Chinese government finds threatening. But the depth of evil described by prominent human-rights attorney David Matas and former Canadian member of parliament David Kilgour in their sobering “Report into Allegations of Organ Harvesting of Falun Gong Practitioners in China” simply boggles the mind. Indeed, the authors recoil from their own conclusions, stating that “the very horror [of the findings] makes us reel back in disbelief.”
“But that disbelief,” the authors add, “does not mean that the allegations are untrue.” Indeed, in 46 grueling pages, plus appendixes, Matas and Kilgour meticulously build a strong case “that there has been and continues today to be large scale organ seizures from unwilling Falun Gong practitioners” in China.
Much of the evidence, if considered on its own, is less than convincing. For example, the report states that “there are many more [organ] transplants” in China — about 10,000 per year — than there are “identifiable sources” for the organs that were procured. But China is a non-transparent society, and even though the organ-procurement numbers do indeed seem insufficient to support the number of reported transplants, this fact alone would not support their charge.
But it is the cumulative effect of the evidence that persuades. For example, the authors compare the numbers of total organ transplants in China in the six years before the crackdown on Falun Gong began with the numbers reported in the six years since the sect was outlawed. The figures startle. Between 1994 and 1999, there were about 18,500 organ transplants in China. Since the government initiated its Falun Gong pogrom — between 2000-2005 — there have been about 60,000 transplants, which represents an increase of 41,500 from the previous six year period. “Where do the organs come from for the [additional] 41,500 transplants?” the authors ask pointedly. “The allegation of organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners provides an answer.”
Matas and Kilgour acknowledge that this dramatic increase “does not establish that the Falun Gong allegations are true. “But,” they argue, “the converse, a full explanation of the source of all organ transplants, would disprove the allegation.” Indeed, it would be easy for the Chinese government to put this matter to rest simply by identifying the organ sources for these extra 41,500 transplants. It has not done so. (The government’s response to the report can be found here, and Matas and Kilgour’s rebuttal here.)
There is more. Several surviving family members of Falun Gong who died in detention reported seeing their loved ones’ bodies with “surgical incisions and body parts missing.” One witness — not a Falun Gong member — told the investigators that her surgeon husband “told her that he personally removed the corneas from approximately 2,000 anaesthetized Falun Gong prisoners.” According to this hearsay evidence, none of prisoners survived and all of the bodies were cremated.
There were also taped telephone conversations presented to Matas and Kilgour that support the allegations. (The transcripts were verified by an independent Mandarin translator.) On June 8, 2006, for example, “Mr. Li,” an official at the Mishan city detention center, was recorded having the following conversation with a Falun Gong member, given the pseudonym “M,” who posed as a potential organ customer:
M: Do you have Falun Gong [organ] suppliers?…
Li: We used to have, yes.
M: …what about now?
M: …How many [Falun Gong suppliers] under age 40 do you have?
Li: Quite a few.
M: Now, for…the male Falun Gong, how many of them do you have?
Li: Seven, eight, we have [at least] five, six now.”
M: Are they from the countryside or from the city?
An even more explicit conversation was taped on May 22, 2006, between M and a Mr. Lu, who works at Nanning City Minzu Hospital in Guangzi Autonomous Region:
M: …Could you find organs from Falun Gong practitioners?
Lu: Let me tell you, we have no way to get them. It’s rather difficult to get it now in Guangzi. If you cannot wait, I suggest you go to Guangzhou because it is very easy for them to get the organs. They are able to look for them nation wide…
M: Why is it easy for them to get?
Lu: Because they are an important institution. They contact the judicial system in the name of the whole university.
M: Then they use Falun Gong practitioners?
M then asks Lu how Falun Gong were selected when Lu’s hospital did have access to prisoners:
M: …what you used before (from Falun Gong practitioners), was it from detention centers or prisons?
Lu: From prisons.
M: …and it was from healthy Falun Gong practitioners…?
Lu: Correct. We would choose the good ones because we assure the quality in our operation
M: That means you choose the organs yourself?
M: Usually, how old is the organ supplier?
Lu: Usually in their thirties…
M: Does the person know his organs will be removed?
Lu: No, he doesn’t.
As shocking as these conversations are, the most compelling evidence of systemic wrongdoing in Chinese organ-procurement practices is the breathtakingly brief time purchasers wait to receive a properly matched organ — a wait so short the authors worry that it means “there are a number of people now alive who are available almost on demand as sources of organs.”
For context, we need to review the waiting periods for American and Canadian organ recipients. According to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, the median wait for a kidney in the United States ranged from 1,275 to 2,469 days between the years 1997 and 2002. In Canada, the average wait was 32.5 months (about 975 days) in 2003. Yet the China International Transplantation Assistance Center website claims, “It may take only one week to find a suitable (kidney) donor, the maximum time being one month.”
Adding weight to the evidence that Falun Gong “donors,” like so many lobsters in a restaurant aquarium, are kept alive until their tissue matches that of an organ customer, the English version of the Shenyang City China International Transplantation Assistance Center website assured prospective buyers (as of May 17, 2006): “Viscera providers can be found immediately!” On one of the links, it reads:
If you send your personal data to this center by e-mail or fax and accept the necessary body examination in Shenyang, China in order to assure a suitable donor, it may take only one month to receive a liver transplantation, the maximum waiting time being two months. As for the kidney transplantation, it may take one week to find a suitable donor, the maximum time being one month. Although the procedure to select a donor is very strict, the transplant operation will be terminated if the doctor discovers that there is something wrong with the donor’s organ. If this happens, the patient will have the option to be offered another organ donor and have the operation again in one week.
The site also assures potential buyers that “Our organs do not come from brain death victims because the state of the organ may not be good.” That means the organs come either from donors who have died from irreversible cardiac arrest — unlikely since these cadaver organs quickly deteriorate — or from people who are living when their organs are procured.
Of course, one never knows in situations such as this, where direct access to the source is not possible, whether a particular website is authentic. But if this one is the real deal, as Matas and Kilgour believe, “it is truly disturbing.”
China has bitterly denounced the Matas/Kilgour report, denying all charges. And it must be said that the report relies far too much on deductive reasoning and connecting the dots to prove its conclusions conclusively. Moreover, while Matas and Kilgour have impeccable credentials and sterling reputations (I have met Kilgour and found him impressive), they conducted their investigation at the request of, and received much of their evidence from, the Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of the Falun Gong in China, which is hardly an impartial source.
But this doesn’t mean their investigation isn’t important. Matas and Kilgour have shined a tiny light into what may be a vast darkness of evil. Indeed, while their evidence would not support a guilty verdict against China in a court of law, it is more than sufficient to justify a search warrant.
And that is precisely what should come next: The international community, backed by a media jolted into action, should pressure China to permit a full and impartial investigation into Matas and Kilgour’s charges. With China well on its way to becoming a hyper-power, the world needs to know whether the Middle Kingdom has such little regard for the intrinsic value of human life that it treats some of its own citizens as mere harvestable crops.
– Award winning author Wesley J. Smith, a frequent contributor to NRO, is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture. His website is www.wesleyjsmith.com.