Professor Paul Macneill
Honorary Professor, Sydney Health Ethics, University of Sydney
Member of the EOP Australian Committee
July 19, 2017
Earlier this year I was invited to a screening of “Hard to Believe”. “Hard to Believe” is a documentary film about executing Chinese prisoners and taking their organs to transplant them into other people who need an organ. This includes kidneys, livers, hearts, lungs and other vital organs. The majority of these prisoners are practitioners of Falun Gong—which is a peaceful Buddha-school practice. Other minority groups in China including the Uighur and Tibetan political dissidents are also included.
The documentary “Hard to Believe” is about how these people are taken into custody and executed for their organs. The scale is enormous – from the best evidence available, it appears that hundreds of thousands of prisoners have been executed for their organs since the year 2000.
I have walked past Falun Gong practitioners quietly protesting at several international conferences that I have attended in the last 10 years. I have not stopped to talk with them, because I found the claims Hard to Believe!. That’s the name of the documentary, it is hard to believe.
Earlier this year I was invited by colleagues to see the documentary and I was convinced that this really is happening. I am a professor of ethics in medicine.
The parallels with what happened to Jewish prisoners (and others) in Nazi Concentration camps during WWII—were too obvious to ignore. After seeing the documentary, I felt as though I living through another Nazi German holocaust in which jews were being executed in concentration camps in Germany and Poland simply because of religious and racial vilification.
There parallels are too strong to ignore:
And worse is that these prisoners in China, are being held in camps, having all their vital statistics taken, including blood type and so on, and then executed for their organs on demand when a suitable recipient makes a booking for surgery to receive a kidney, heart, liver or other vital organ. This is so obviously wrong that it hardly needs to be said.
It violates fundamental human rights including the right to life, right to a fair trial, right to liberty, the right to be free from torture.
I was shocked by what I saw in the documentary. I felt as though I was downwind from the smokestacks at Auschwitz. This time I had to do something and I am doing what I can to bring attention to these atrocities.
So what is the evidence that this is true?
The evidence is comprehensive and compelling. Initial investigations were carried out by Western lawyers and journalists: David Matas, David Kilgour and Ethan Gutmann. None of them had no axe to grind against the Chinese government.
The evidence itself:
China has admitted to transplant of organs, but claims that the organs were from criminals who had been executed.
But this is unbelievable for several reasons:
- There is not enough of them. The number of executions in China per year is a state secret, but the numbers of executed prisoners (estimated by international human rights groups) does not match what is known about organ transplant activity.
- Prisoners make poor donors. They are often unhealthy. In particular, infections with blood-borne viruses are common, which makes them unsuitable to be donors.
- Organs are produced on demand, which is not compatible with the Chinese law.
Death penalty criminals must be executed within one week.
But it is possible to book transplants in China several weeks in the future, including liver or heart transplants. This requires advance identification of so-called ‘donor’, in order to tissue type etc.
- Also, the rise in organ transplantation coincided with the persecution and incarceration of Falun Gong practitioners. Many practitioners refused to reveal their identities, to protect their families. This lead to a large pool of unidentified or anonymous prisoners, in good health, who were not ‘on the books’. They could be killed with impunity. The Falun Gong persecution began in July 1999. Organ transplants in China began doubling and tripling from the year 2000.
- There have been some Falun Gong practitioners released from prison, and they have reported medical examinations that make no sense. Prisoners were deprived of food and shelter, and tortured to recant their beliefs. Yet some of them were given blood tests, corneal examinations, ECGs, abdominal ultrasounds, X-Rays, and other physical tests. These tests only make sense in the prisoners were being checked for their suitability to provide organs for transplantation. In mixed labour camps, only the Falun Gong practitioners were called out to be tested.
- Covert investigators rang many different hospitals, posing as relatives of patients needing organ transplants. The investigators asked specifically whether the organs would be healthy, from Falun Gong donors, and, on many occasions, were told that yes, the organs would be from Falun Gong practitioners.
- China now claims that executed prisoners are no longer used for the supply of organs, but that the organs are from volunteers. But this does not make sense. Who volunteers for donating a heart?
Even if we believe that prisoners, due for execution, ‘volunteer’ their organs, the number of transplants performed in China could not be accounted for by the number of convicted criminals who have been executed.
More accurate estimates are based on:
- The number of hospitals doing transplants
- The number of transplant beds in each hospital, and their occupancy rates
- The number of trained staff
- Numbers of transplants performed by individual doctors
- The amount of transplant research and training
- The hospital income attributed to transplants
- The growth of the domestic anti-rejection drug industry in China.
The Chinese government has offered no evidence to dispute the claim that Falun Gong practitioners and others are being killed to supply organs for transplant.
It is my belief that China is transplanting a large number of organs each year, far more than they admit to. They keep the volume of activity secret because there is no way to explain where the organs come from. They keep it secret because the source is unspeakable – China’s own citizens being executed for their organs.
If there was an innocent explanation, they could simply make public how many transplants each hospital has performed — yet this information is treated with the utmost secrecy.
How does China maintain the secrecy?
- First, the Chinese government has denounced Falun Gong as a “heretical cult.” And demonised people who adopt these practices.
- Second, the Chinese works hard to counter dissent in other countries. A NSW politician organised a cross party briefing on the unethical Chinese organ trade. The Consulate General of the People’s Republic ofChina sent a letter to all politicians suggesting that they should be mindful of the “sensitiveness” of the issue and avoid spreading anti-China propaganda or preaching the cult messages of Falun Gong. The letter suggested it could affect “the development of China-NSW relations”. This tactic worked – only one person attended the meeting.
- Third, to most people, it is unbelievable that a crime of such a hideous nature could occur. Harvesting people for their organs is the stuff of horror movies. It is beyond belief that a government would cannibalise its own citizens for profit.
- In a way, it’s the perfect crime. The prisoner is anonymous, the crime takes place in a surgical setting that is subsequently cleaned, the organs are smuggled out—inside unknown patients—who have good reason to keep quiet about their connivance.
And the body remains are cremated.
- There are few witnesses. There have been two high profile whistle blowers, including a surgeon, who has testified to removing organs from a prisoner. But not many are willing to come forward because of the danger to themselves and their families. The Chinese military is heavily involved, and many of the senior transplant surgeons are powerful Communist Party members. The Communist Party has every incentive to cover-up this crime, and for years it has almost succeeded in doing so.
So what can we do?
My action is to try to publicise these atrocities. I hope you will give this your attention and let your friends and work-mates know what is happening.
If you are like me: once we know about it you won’t be able to stand by without protesting. It would be like living in Nazi Germany and doing nothing to stop the atrocities againsts Jews. We need to do all we can to protect the persecuted minorities and to bring and end to these abuses of human being—who are just like us.
To specific actions you can take right away:
- Sign the petition at one of the tables here in Martin Place.
- Look up the End Organ Pillaging website endorganpillaging.org where you can see the “Hard to Believe” documentary I spoke of at the beginning of this talk, and learn more about the situation in China and what is being done to confront these atrocities.