“Uyghur Struggle for Human Rights” Conference. European Parliament, Brussels, October 22, 2015
My objective today is to present some important new evidence about state-controlled organ harvesting of political and religious dissidents in China. I’ll begin with a brief review of what we know. Then, I’ll contrast that with how the Chinese Communist Party is presenting the current situation. Finally I will turn to what we have learned over the last year.
The last part of my talk involves numbers. I realize that it’s often hard to follow math in translation. So if you are listening to me through a translator, please don’t hesitate to stop me or ask me to repeat a point. Or you can simply approach me afterwards if you have any doubts or questions.
You might ask: why is this relevant? Obviously the Uyghur community has many pressing concerns. For example:
Party surveillance, on the street and on the Internet
Arrests of prominent Uyghur intellectuals
Party assaults on cultural and religious freedom
Particularly surrounding Ramadan
Finally, the drumbeat of Chinese propaganda: some come in the form of carrots
…some come in the form of sticks
These repressions are visible. Let us turn to the invisible; organ harvesting, particularly if rich foreigners are paying for the transplants is a very profitable business. Harvesting promotes mass murder, and mass murder is the ultimate expression of religious repression.
Now the Western media may report on harvesting as a “Falun Gong issue” but Uyghurs should make that judgement for themselves. Many of you will recall the Uyghur conference in Munich in April 2014.
We focused on “forced disappearances.” The walls were covered with portraits of missing Uyghurs. Looking at those portraits, I made the statement that: “It’s essentially certain that some of the people on the walls all around us were harvested for their organs.” Although the Chinese medical establishment now publically claims that the Chinese transplant system has reformed, I can make that same statement today with an even higher degree of certainty.
There are three works that I will draw from today:
My book, The Slaughter, was published in August 2014, the German version, in 2015. My interviews with medical professionals, Chinese law enforcement, and over 100 refugees began in 2006.
But I was not the first to examine this issue in depth. That distinction belongs to David Kilgour and David Matas, the authors of the seminal Bloody Harvest report of 2006.
Nor will I be the last. The World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong, a group of Chinese investigators scattered throughout the world, have just completed their own study. It’s only in draft form, yet the majority of my recent evidence about Chinese hospitals is culled from this report.
Based on our collective evidence then, here is a brief timeline:
In 1994, the Chinese Communist Party performed the first live organ harvesting of death-row prisoners on the execution grounds of East Turkestan. That’s why this talk is titled “The Party’s Testing Ground.”
In 1995, one of the surgeons charged with stripping a liver and two kidneys from a living human being was Enver Tohti. Enver does not know whether the man he operated on was a political prisoner or a common criminal. He only knows the man was still alive throughout the operation.
In 1997, following the “Ghulja massacre,” multiple sources confirm that political prisoners, specifically Uyghur activists, were harvested for their organs on behalf of high-ranking Chinese Communist Party cadres.
In 1999, Chinese State Security launched its largest action of scale since the Cultural Revolution: the eradication of Falun Gong.
In 2000, hospitals across China began ramping up their facilities for what would become an unprecedented explosion in China’s transplant activity. And by the end of that year, well over one million Falun Gong practitioners were incarcerated in labor camps, detention centers, psychiatric facilities, and black jails.
By 2001, Chinese military hospitals were unambiguously targeting select Falun Gong prisoners for harvesting.
By 2003, the first Tibetans and House Christians were being targeted as well.
By the end of 2005, China’s transplant apparatus had increased so dramatically that a tissue-matched organ could be located within two weeks for any foreign organ tourist with cash. While the execution of death-row prisoners – hardened criminals – supplied some of the organs, the majority were extracted from political and religious prisoners – a fact that wasn’t even being kept all that secret from the prisoner population, visiting foreign surgeons, or potential customers.
What was the scale? I can’t furnish a number for Uyghurs, Tibetans and House Christians at this time but Kilgour and Matas estimate 41,500 transplants were sourced from Falun Gong from 2000 to 2005. I estimate 65,000 Falun Gong practitioners were murdered for their organs from 2000 to 2008. The World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong believes the numbers are more likely in the hundreds of thousands.
In 2006, the Kilgour-Matas report was published.
By 2008, many analysts – I was among them – assumed that the Chinese State would stop harvesting prisoners of conscience for fear of international condemnation during the Beijing Olympics. Yet the physical examination of Falun Gong prisoners (and anecdotally at least, Uyghurs), for their “retail organs” actually showed a slight uptick.
In 2012, Wang Lijun, Bo Xilai’s right-hand man, attempted to defect at the US Consulate in Chengdu.
Two weeks later Western investigators revealed that Wang had personally received a prestigious award for overseeing thousands of organ extractions and transplants.
Fatally exposed, Chinese medical authority Huang Jiefu declared to the Western press that China would cease organ harvesting of death-row prisoners over the next five years. Yet no mention was made of prisoners of conscience and third-party verification was rejected.
These intention movements of medical reform were met with exuberant acceptance by the Western medical establishment, specifically by The Transplantation Society, the most respected surgical entity in the world. Negotiations went back and forth. But on January 1st 2015, Huang Jiefu claimed that China had ceased harvesting prisoners.
Yet it is during this period, from 2012 to the present day – even as Chinese medical authorities spoke publicly of shortages due to relying on voluntary organ donation – that a very strange anomaly occurs.
Let’s take a typical example: Zhongshan Hospital, affiliate with Fudan University, Shanghai. Starting in 2000, this hospital’s transplant volume maintained an annual growth rate of 50% — pretty typical for China’s transplant system. By 2005, Zhongsan hospital claimed to have performed a grand total of 1000 kidney transplants. And, according to the hospital’s internal newspaper, by 2007, it was 2000 total kidney transplants. Predictable, yes?
And yet remember that the revelations of organ harvesting of prisoners of conscience became public in 2006 (in the case of Zhongshan hospital, one of their doctors had even admitted to an investigator posing as a patient that all of their organs were coming from Falun Gong). At any rate, by 2007, hospitals which performed organ transplants in China simply stopped publicly updating their numbers. Zhongshan Hospital’s numbers haven’t been updated since 2008 either – except to make a downward revision: claiming a grand total of only 1000 kidney transplants by 2007 (again, their internal newspaper says its 2000).
So given this deception, what is the real number per year now? Well, one way around that is to look at the surgical teams: 6 for kidney transplant, 10 for liver transplant, and 3 for heart transplant teams. What does that suggest? Well, it suggests that Zhongshan Hospital is currently performing about 500 kidney transplants, and approximately 1000 liver transplants annually.
Let’s take another hospital in Shanghai: Affiliated Renji Hospital of Shanghai Jiaotong University claim a consistent rate of 200 liver transplants per year since 2007. But their hospital beds tell a completely different story. In 2004, Renji Hospital had 23 beds dedicated to liver transplantation. Today, Renji Hospital’s liver transplant center has 110 beds. Now the fact is that 100 transplant patient beds – assuming a 30 day recovery period – corresponds conservatively to about 1000 transplants per year. So not 200 liver transplants per year, but 1000 liver transplants per year. And in the case of Renji Hospital, the surgeons rush to keep those beds filled with patients who have received new organs – organs that are supplied directly by the PLA. As the Chinese media reports: “Because of large volumes of operations, the Renji Liver Transplant Center was immediately notified once a liver source is identified around the country. Therefore, doctors here must make sure their cellphones are on 24 hours a day, and be ready to travel for organ harvesting anytime, anywhere.”
Yet these Shanghai hospitals are relatively small. In China, access to resources is the game, and resources are dependent on guanxi — on connections to the highest levels of the Party. This is Shi Bingyi: Deputy Director of Chinese Society of Organ Transplantation, and one of the most influential figures in China’s transplant apparatus.
Shi Bingyi heads up a particularly notorious hospital for harvesting political and religious prisoners: PLA No. 309 Hospital of Beijing. By 2006, Hospital 309 was performing least 460 kidney transplants a year. But what concerns us? The velocity, the growth over time.
Hospital 309 currently has 42 doctors in the kidney transplant division alone, and we know that they were already performing nearly 1000 kidney transplants a year by 2010. Now, with 316 beds and a patient turnover rate of over 100%, (in other words, all those beds are full) – Hospital 309 has built the capability to process 2000 to 4000 transplants a year.
China only claims to perform 10,000 transplant operations in the entire country, so could this really be a third of those transplants – from a single hospital?
Let’s look at one last hospital: Tianjin First Central.
Tianjin hospital had already performed a grand total of 5000 kidney transplants by 2006, the same year that construction of a new transplant center was completed. That’s less than 1000 kidney transplants per year. After that, the hospital carefully avoided updating its transplant numbers. But recent evidence culled from academic medical theses, exposes a strikingly different picture:
110 surgeons, translating to 20 to 30 surgical transplant teams.
17 operating rooms.
In other words, the capabilities of Tianjin First Central hospital are staggering. Based on the bed turnover rate in 2013, Tianjin First Hospital’s current performance is quite plausibly estimated at 5000 liver and kidney transplants per year. In fact, the hospital has the theoretical capability to perform 10,800 liver and kidney transplants per year. Keep in mind, we are talking about one Chinese transplant hospital. And there are currently 712 hospitals in China that perform transplants.
And again, Huang Jiefu is claiming that the entire transplant system is performing only 10,000 transplants per year. So the first thing we can say is that Huang Jiefu is a liar. Transplant numbers are likely to be about 300% higher: 30,000 transplants a year.
So if Kilgour and Matas were coming up with 41,500 unexplained organs between the years from 2000 to 2005, based on the belief that China was performing 10,000 transplants a year yet the execution rate of death-row prisoners in China was only a couple of thousand a year, imagine the shortfall in 2015, with 30,000 transplants a year. With no evidence of a concordant rise in the execution rate of death-row criminals, or a plausible rise in donated organs, or a drop in the rate of organs (which would be represented by a rise in prices) perhaps the political and religious prisoners of conscience who are currently at risk should not be counted in the tens of thousands but in the hundreds of thousands.
Let me summarize:
There is no evidence that supports the Chinese medical authorities’ claim that all harvesting of prisoners stopped on January 1, 2015. Within the military hospitals, the hiring of dedicated surgical teams to harvest organs has accelerated in the last five years. And a Western doctor was recently assured by a Chinese military hospital surgeon that prisoners are still being slaughtered for organs.
In recorded phone calls, prominent Chinese officials representing the CCP’s Central Committee, the Central Military Commission, the armed police forces, public security, and the Political and Legislative Affairs Committee acknowledged that the order to harvest prisoners of conscience came from the highest levels of the CCP. The serial public declarations by the Chinese medical establishment of a new ethical environment for transplantation is simply a privacy shield to facilitate state-sanctioned murder.
Medical purchasing patterns proves that live organ harvesting continues to be the default method of surgical extraction. East Turkestan was the Party’s testing ground.
It still is. Given the size of the movement, Falun Gong is clearly the main source of the organs being harvested. But make no mistake: Uyghur organs are being harvested for profit, and likely, at a fairly high rate.
We cannot prevent the Party from continuing this crime against humanity, but we can at least limit the moral decay of whatever society we live in. There are only three countries that have banned their citizens from travelling to China in search of a transplant: Israel, Spain, and most recently, Taiwan. I urge everyone at this conference, no matter where you hail from, to study this information, take it home, and make your voices heard.