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China’s horrific harvest of prisoners’ organs


THE Chinese are a frugal people. Centuries of grinding poverty with intermittent famines have ensured that they do not let anything go to waste. Nobody creates a dish of duck feet, pig’s colon or tuna eyeballs solely out of a spirit of culinary exploration. When it comes to human bodies, the Chinese practise the same spirit of economy.

China executes more people than any other nation on earth. Amnesty International credibly claims that China executes more people than all other countries combined. They make Texans look like limp-wristed soy boys.

Lethal injection and shooting are the only methods authorised by China’s Criminal Procedure Law of 1996. Shooting executions, however, were discontinued in 2010 following a People’s Supreme Court ruling of February 2009 which held that lethal injection is the more humane form of execution. 

It is not impossible that economic factors entered into the decision. A lethal injection is cheaper at 300 yuan than the 700 yuan price tag of a firing squad. Besides which, shooting tends to mess up the bodies, which angers the relatives and is also very bad for business. China does a lucrative trade in human organs harvested from executed prisoners. Why let a good body go to waste?

While it’s not clear what drugs are used for lethal injection in China, even the narcotic-poison mix used in the United States would not damage vital organs wanted for transplant. The condemned need only be given an injection of the anticoagulant heparin beforehand, doctors say. With the proper preparation, even the heart could be transplanted if it were removed quickly.

The Independent Tribunal Into Forced Organ Harvesting from Prisoners Of Conscience in China (the China Tribunal) met in London in December last year as the world’s first independent legal analysis of forced organ extraction in China. It met again last weekend to continue its work.

The tribunal, consisting of seven independent members, is led by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, a world-renowned lawyer and professor of law with decades of experience. Among other things he led the prosecution of Slobodan Milošević at the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

The China Tribunal’s initial conclusions were damning. After listening to witnesses and expert testimony, its preliminary findings concluded, ‘The tribunal’s members are all certain – unanimously, and sure beyond reasonable doubt – that in China forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience has been practised for a substantial period of time involving a very substantial number of victims.’

Official Chinese central government’s statistics suggest approximately 10,000 organ transplantations take place every year. Hospital data, however, indicates the actual number of transplants may be much higher. Between 60,000 and 100,000 organs are transplanted in China each year. The organ recipients are wealthy Chinese or transplant tourists who travel to China and pay a substantial sum to receive the transplant. It is, in the vernacular, a nice little earner.

Unlike the NHS, waiting times for organ transplants in China are extremely short and it is even possible to book vital organs in advance. This makes it possible to fit a trip to China for a new organ with a gap in one’s busy schedule.

It is not only those condemned to death who are harvested. Those who follow the practice of Falun Gong, along with Uyghur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists and House Church Christians have become targeted groups for the purposes of organ harvesting.

Human Rights Watch speaks of ‘mass arbitrary detention’ in pre-trial centres, prisons and ‘political education’ camps. It states that ‘credible estimates indicate that one million people are being indefinitely held in the camps’.

Fiona Bruce, Conservative MP for Congleton, warns of the potential for a ‘21st century genocide’. In Parliament last month she told MPs: ‘We are discussing here the forced removal of organs from prisoners of conscience in China . . . This is not a case of a few voluntary organ transplants: it is a case of alleged mass killings through forced organ removal, of religious persecution, of grave allegations of crimes against humanity.’

Currently, no international court is empowered to investigate and prosecute atrocities perpetrated within China. The International Criminal Court has the jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression. It does not, however, have jurisdiction in this instance as China did not sign the Rome Statute, the ICC foundational document.

The UN could establish an ad hoc criminal tribunal to look into the atrocities. This, however, is not going to happen as China has client nations throughout the UN and if forced would halt any proceedings with its Security Council veto.

The China Tribunal cannot fully investigate the crimes and prosecute the perpetrators. It can shed some light on the atrocities and raise public awareness to force governments into action.

Our own government can be pressured to prevent British citizens going to China to purchase human organs for transplanting until China has allowed a full investigation into the organ harvesting of prisoners of conscience, both past and present. Desperate British citizens should be protected from unwittingly playing a role in the appalling suffering of religious minorities in China.

Unfortunately, the UK Government, concerned about post-Brexit trade deals, is unconvinced. Responding to a Parliamentary debate last month, foreign minister Mark Field said evidence suggested in the past ‘a significant proportion of organs were taken routinely from executed prisoners without prior consent’.

But, he continued: ‘There is not a strong enough evidential base to substantiate many of the claims [that] there is systematic state-sponsored or sanctioned organ harvesting taking place’.

The China Tribunal met again last weekend. There has been no improvement in the situation. Representations to the Chinese authorities have been ignored.

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Dr Campbell Campbell-Jack
Dr Campbell Campbell-Jack
Campbell is a retired Presbyterian minister who lives in Stirlingshire. He blogs at A Grain of Sand.

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