BY DAVID MATAS
Presentation to the European Society of Transplantation, Barecelona, Spain
David Kilgour and I have been researching, writing, and speaking on the killing of Falun Gong for their organs now for ten years. Ethan Gutmann is a journalist who interviewed us on our work and then did his own.
Since David Kilgour and I published Bloody Harvest, the third version of our report in book form, and Ethan Gutmann published The Slaughter, we three have remained active in writing, researching, investigating and speaking on organ transplant abuse in China. In June 2016, we released an 817 page update to our work. It is now available on line.1
This update undertook seven different tasks. One was to make our own assessment of transplant volumes.
In looking at the sources for organ transplants in China, we have, in the past, taken Chinese government official statements of overall transplant volumes at face value and focused on attempting to identify the sources for those asserted volumes. However, Chinese government statistics for transplant volumes are not necessarily reliable. One effort which needed to be made and which we finally have made is to determine on our own what Chinese transplant volumes are.
We did that by looking at and accumulating the data from the individual hospitals where transplants occur. Some hospitals state their transplant volumes. For those who do not, we can, from their bed counts, personnel strength, potential patient groups, rate of growth, technological development, academic publications, and media reports, come to a conclusion on their transplant volumes.
A second task we undertook, flowing from the first, was addressing coverup. Coverup is a standard reaction to wrongdoing. Chinese Communist Party coverup is not a new story. But, because we are dealing new data, we consequently have to address cover up anew, attempts to hide individual hospital transplant figures.
Deception in the data limits the yield of research from that data. Because of the Chinese corruption of the data with which we are working, we cannot make specific numerical conclusions with complete certainty. Accordingly, our estimates of Chinese transplant volumes are not expressed in single integers but in a numerical range.
Despite the cover up and corruption of data, despite our inability to produce an exact figure, we are convinced that transplant volume is substantially higher than the official figure. The high volume led us into a third component of this update, to explore the driving factors behind these volumes.
Once we started looking at what is generating the volume, we had to look at the extent to which the Chinese Communist Party is in the driver’s seat, the structure the regime has built around organ harvesting, and the culpability of some individual Party members. The update accordingly addresses that topic as well.
Fifth, we analyzed the Party’s claims of recent transplant reform. The Chinese regime announces changes regularly on organ transplant sourcing, some of which are real, while some are not. Because the Party has moved since our last published works, we too have to move, to assess their claims of change and attempt to determine how real those claims are.
A sixth new feature of tour new work was incorporation of whistleblower evidence. In the past, we have tended to avoid reproducing that evidence, even though we had it. We have to protect the identities of whistleblowers. That protection, while understandable, means that an independent researcher cannot identify and question the whistleblowers him or herself.
Whistleblower evidence nonetheless deserves to be presented publicly, albeit with the identities of the whistleblowers disguised, if for no other reason than to encourage other whistleblowers to come forward. So it was presented in the update.
Finally, the update addressed plastination, in addition to organ sourcing, a subject we have mostly not addressed before. In the past, we have shied away from addressing plastination, because plastination is different from our focus, organ transplantation. Nonetheless, there is compelling evidence that practitioners of Falun Gong are killed for both plastination and organ sourcing. The evidence supporting each abuse is also evidence in support of the other abuse.
No one in the West has witnessed organ transplant abuse in China; yet a large number have seen plastinated bodies from China on display. Furthermore, plastinated body parts from China have been sold to medical schools and universities throughout the Western world. Plastination gives an immediate, widespread, publicly visible reality to the abuse that the killing of innocents for their organs cannot.
The ultimate conclusion of the update is that the Chinese Communist Party has engaged the State in the mass killings of innocents, primarily practitioners of the spirituallybased set of exercises, Falun Gong, but also Uyghurs, Tibetans, and select House Christians, in order to obtain organs for transplants.
Even with the volumes of transplants the Chinese government has asserted in the past, there is a substantial discrepancy between the number of transplants and the number of sources which the Government of China has identified prisoners sentenced to death and voluntary donors. This discrepancy is one reason, among several, that had led us in the past to the conclusion that the above groups have been the source of many, and indeed most, organs for transplants.
The fact that the evidence we have now examined shows much larger volumes of transplants than the Government of China has asserted points to a larger discrepancy between transplant volumes and Government of China identified sources than we had previously thought existed. That increased discrepancy leads us to conclude that there has been a far larger slaughter of practitioners of Falun Gong for their organs than we had originally estimated.
When we look at hospitals and doctors one by one, a number of features jump out. One is the sheer volume of transplants. The total number of transplants which officials ascribe to the country as a whole, ten thousand a year, is easily surpassed by just a few hospitals. Whatever the total number is, it must be substantially more, by a multiple, than the official figure.
Second, many of the hospitals are relatively new or have new transplant wings or beds. This development would not have occurred without confidence in a continuing supply of organs for transplants. The transplant business in China has developed with not only an abundance of available organs from 2001 on, but also with a confidence that this abundance would continue into the indefinite future.
Third, concomitant with the large number of transplants, there is a large number of qualified staff. The transplant industry in China employs a lot of people. The investment in people as well as buildings is another testimonial to the ready availability of high volumes of organs available for transplants, not only in the immediate past and present, but also, in the view of those who have committed their careers and the careers of others to this profession, into the indefinite future.
Fourth, the transplant professionals in China are engaged in substantial training and research. Research and training in transplants cannot be done without transplants. The high volume of research bespeaks itself a high volume of transplants and a ready availability of organs for transplants.
Fifth, the combination of a large professional corps, a substantial building stock and significant research speaks money. Transplantation in China means money, lots of it.
What is the volume when we add in all transplant centres and hospitals? We would say that the range is between 60,000 to 100,000 transplants a year, with an emphasis on the higher numbers. The update indicates how we calculate that range.
What has been the response of the Chinese Communist Party to our update? An article China Daily from August 2016 tells us. The article has the headline “Organ harvesting rumors slammed”.2 The headline itself gives one response, that our work is based on rumour.
Yet, this is not so, for a variety of reasons. For one, David Kilgour and I are both lawyers, well familiar with the rule against hearsay and the need to avoid hearsay in gathering evidence. Second, one can see from simply looking at our work that there are no rumours, no repetition of second hand evidence. All statements in the update are laboriously sourced. All evidence we saw any independent researcher can see. We archived all links so that, even if the Chinese Communist Party takes down the original source links, a researcher can see what we saw.
Third, almost all our source material comes from official Chinese sources, Chinese hospitals, Chinese official media, China official websites, China official newsletters, Chinese health practitioner research and so on. Fourth, we never even heard any rumours which contain the same information as our report. What readers will see in the update was said, for the first time, in the update and not in some prior time by way of rumour.
The article states that
“Rumors about ‘organ harvesting’ were said to be false in 2006, after an investigation conducted by the United States Consulate General in Liaoning province.”
Chinese Communist Party statements about what did and did not happen in 2006 are now eleven years old. Those statements have been comprehensively addressed in Bloody Harvest. In any case, what the United States Consulate General in Liaoning province did or did not do in 2006 has nothing to do with the accuracy of a 2016 report which has entirely new data.
The China Daily text goes on to say “The source of the rumor was Falun Gong”. First of all, Falun Gong is a set of exercises with a spiritual foundation. It is a Chinese equivalent of yoga. Linguistically it makes no sense to refer to a set of exercises as the source of a rumour.
If one thinks of the phrase “Falun Gong” as shorthand for the phrase “practitioners of Falun Gong”, the text is inaccurate. The evidence of the killing of prisoners of conscience, primarily but not only Falun Gong, comes mostly from official Chinese sources. The conclusions drawn from these sources come from researchers who are not practitioners of Falun Gong.
Moreover, even if the researchers or some of them were Falun Gong practitioners that should not invalidate their research. The credibility of research depends on its replicability, thoroughness and analysis and not on whether the researchers engage in any particular form of exercises or have any particular spiritual belief. The attempt to discredit otherwise sound research because of the spiritual beliefs of researchers, is a form of bigotry.
The China Daily article goes on to say, referring to Falun Gong as “an outlawed group on the Chinese mainland”. Yet, Falun Gong is not a group and it is not outlawed. The Chinese Communist Party, like many oppressors, manufactures paranoiac propaganda against imaginary enemies to justify their non-democratic hold on power. Innocent, harmless practitioners of a popular set of exercises have become in China, for the Chinese Communist Party, the unlucky enemy of choice. But they are not a group. Some of the people who do the exercises have met each other, have formed some voluntary associations and engage in some common activities. However, anyone, anywhere, anytime can do the exercises, without telling anyone or paying anything.
Moreover, the practice of Falun Gong is not outlawed. There is no law banning the practice of Falun Gong. There is only a Chinese Communist Party policy to that effect. The police, investigators, prosecutors, courts and jailers do what the Party wants. But when practitioners of Falun Gong are prosecuted, convicted and sentenced, it is not for practising Falun Gong. It is rather for violation of some general law which was in effect before the Party decision to ban Falun Gong.
Indeed, the repression of Falun Gong is an archetypal example of the absence of the rule of law in China. Before the repression, the Party actively encouraged the practice of Falun Gong, which partly explained its widespread popular growth. Then, the Party turned on a dime, using the very same laws and legal structure which existed before and remain in place today, to repress Falun Gong. The manner in which Falun Gong was repressed, without any changes in law or regulations, shows all on its own that in China the rule of law means nothing.
The China Daily article cites Huang Jiefu, director of China Organ Donation and Transplantation Commission, as saying that transplantation surgeries performed in China annually accounted for 8.5 percent of the total number of transplantation surgeries worldwide. He said further that consumption of antirejection medications, which transplant patients must take for life after surgery to prevent their immune systems from attacking the organs, account for 8 percent of global consumption. He said that “The two numbers match, which is evidence that the speculation is groundless.”
The update we co-authored uses a very simple technique for coming to the figures we do, addition, hospital by hospital, what hospitals are doing, using the hospitals own figures. Addition is not speculation. Addition is not rumour.
What Huang Jiefu does, pulling a second imaginary number out of a hat, does nothing to justify the first imaginary number. The statement that “consumption of antirejection medications … account for 8 percent of global consumption” is based on what?
To justify that number, we would need to know the names of and production volumes of anti-rejection medications of all the pharmaceutical companies in China. We would also need to know the names of and import volumes of all the importers of anti-rejection medications into China.
Yet, that evidence is not available. The Chinese Communist Party is making no effort to make it available.
Even if those figures were available and verifiable, and even if those figures said what Huang Jiefu says they say, they would not establish what Huang Jiefu says they establish. The figures of Huang Jiefu do not take into account transplant tourism. Transplant tourists get their life time supplies of anti-rejection drugs back home, on return from the transplantation in China.
Sean O’Connor, Policy Analyst, Economics and Trade for the U.S.China Economic and Security Review Commission wrote in a report dated and titled February 1, 2017 “Fentanyl: China’s Deadly Export to the United States” that
“the country’s vast chemical and pharmaceutical industries are weakly regulated and poorly monitored. Chinese law enforcement officials have struggled to adequately regulate the thousands of chemical and pharmaceutical facilities operating legally and illegally in the country”.3
The same is true of hospitals. When China switched to a registration system for transplant hospitals, almost 1,000 hospitals applied for registration, meaning that they were doing transplants or prepared to do transplants and thought they could meet the registration requirements. Only 169 of the applying hospitals were registered. But the rest did not stop doing transplants. The description “weakly regulated and poorly monitored” applies both to the pharmaceutical industry and to the hospital system in China.
In 2006, Health Times, owned by the People’s Daily, interviewed Yan Lvnan, the director of the liver transplantation centre at West China Hospital of Sichuan University. Dr. Yan said that West China Hospital was able to keep the cost of maintenance, using immuno-suppressants, at 30,000 yuan in the first year and an average of 10,000 yuan per year after that.4
In March 2006, the Southern Medicine Economic Institute under the China Food and Drug Administration published a report in its own publication – the Medicine Economic Reporter – which said the domestic immunosuppressant market at the time was nearly 10 billion yuan, and that there were more than 100 manufacturers and nearly 30 varieties.5 If each patient pays an average of 30,000 RMB per year for immune-suppressants, the 10billionRMB market in 2006 would have supported 333,000 patients.
The Washington Post reported in September, 2017:
“Data compiled by Quintiles IMS, an American health care information company, and supplied to The Post, shows China’s share of global demand for immunosuppressants is roughly in line with the proportion of the world’s transplants China says it carries out.”6
The article reports that China performed 13,238 transplants in 2016. The information from Quintiles IMS which The Post quoted is not publicly available and therefore not verifiable. Nonetheless, even without the ability to verify, we can see that a claim of Chinese transplant volume of a little more than 13,000 a year can not be supported by looking at the Chinese share of the global demand for immunosuppressants.
Other information from Quintiles IMS which researchers have obtained shows that Japan’s immunosuppressant sales are 38% higher than China’s. If we use the Washington Post logic, Japan would have performed 38% more transplants than China or more than 18,000 in 2016. Yet Japan performs about 2,000 transplants a year.7
Reversing the calculation, calculating Chinese transplant volumes from Japanese transplant volumes using Quintiles IMS immunosuppressant sales as the basis for calculation, we get Chinese volumes of about 1,500 transplants in 2016. Put simply, the Quintiles IMS figures for share of global demand for immunosuppressants produces nonsense figures for transplant volumes.
China Daily also reported that Huang Jiefu referred to various Chinese laws about transplantation and reported him as saying:
“China has and will have zero tolerance for any violation of the country’s regulations in organ donation and transplantation”.
Yet, the Chinese Communist Party directs the legal system. The Chinese Communist Party will not enforce the law against itself. The only possible way that zero tolerance for any violation of the country’s regulations in organ donation and transplantation could operate in practice is the end to Communist Party rule in China.
Bland assurances in defiance of reality by Chinese Communist Party propagandists are not real answers to hard data. What is needed is an international independent institution based investigation into sourcing of organs for transplants in China conducted with the cooperation of the Government of China.
The United Nations Committee against Torture recommended in 2008 that China
“should immediately conduct or commission an independent investigation of the claims that some Falun Gong practitioners have been subjected to torture and used for organ transplants and take measures, as appropriate, to ensure that those responsible for such abuses are prosecuted and punished.”8
The Committee in 2015 reiterated this recommendation stating:
“The State party [China] should also commission an independent investigation to look into claims that some Falun Gong practitioners may have been subjected to this practice [removal of organs without consent].”
The European Parliament passed a resolution in December 2013 calling for a full and transparent investigation by the European Union into organ transplant practices in China.9 A United States Congress House of Representative resolution called on the United States Department of State to conduct a detailed analysis on state sanctioned organ harvesting in China from nonconsenting prisoners of conscience.10
These calls are even more urgent today in light of recent research that Chinese transplant volumes go far beyond official figures. As long as China continues to deny international verification of its transplant volumes and sources of transplants, global concern about organ transplant abuse in China will remain.
5 “Organ transplant stimulating immunosuppressant market: Source: Medical Economic News” Original: business.sohu.com Archived: archive.is
6 Simon Denyer “China used to harvest organs from prisoners.” September 15, 2017
7 Global Observatory on Donation and Transplantation, at transplant-observatory.org
8 United Nations document number CAT/C/CHN/CO/4, 12 December 2008 tbinternet.ohchr.org
9 December 12, 2013 European Parliament document number P7_TA(2013)0603 resolution number 2013/2981
10 H.Res.343 – 114th Congress (20152016), 06/13/2016, congress.gov