Thursday, March 08, 2007

Falun Gong, And Involuntary Organ "Donation" In China

Last May I posted on an article I read in The Weekly Standard, about suspected atrocities in the treatment of Chinese practitioners of Falun Gong by the Chinese government. Falun Gong is a system of meditation and exercises designed to promote physical and spiritual health, sometimes called "Chinese Yoga." The Chinese government came to see the practice as an ideological threat, and declared it illegal in 1999. Since then, many practitioners of Falun Gong have disappeared, and there is strong suspicion that these disappearances are tied to the sale of donor organs in a growing Chinese "tourist transplant industry", with adherents to Falun Gong becoming involuntary donors, at the cost of their own lives.

When I linked to the Weekly Standard article, the U.S. State Department had dismissed the allegations, being unable to confirm any of the accusations of wrongdoing, given a very closed and controlling Chinese government's monopoly over accurate information. Since then, however, other reports have served to solidify human rights organizations' suspicions about the expanding Chinese organ transplant business. A couple of days ago, a reader here at the Meow commented on my original post, concerning the availability of more recent information, and was kind enough to come back and provide a link to "An Independent Investigation into Allegations of Organ Harvesting of Falun Gong Practitioners in China by David Matas, Esq. and Hon. David Kilgour, Esq." from July of 2006. According to their website:

David Matas is an immigration, refugee and international human rights lawyer in private practice in Winnipeg. He is actively involved in the promotion of respect for human rights as an author, speaker and participant in several human rights non‑governmental organizations.

David Kilgour is a former member of Parliament and a former Secretary of State of the Government of Canada for the Asia Pacific region. Before he became a parliamentarian, he was a Crown prosecutor.

The website includes links to media reports, and event information, as well as various language versions of their complete report on their investigation into the allegations against the Chinese government. Here is a direct link to that original report in English. Here is an updated report, published January 31, 2007. The revised report is, if anything, more direct in its concerns, although that is barely possible.

Kilgour and Matas make clear that they cannot point to any irrefutable proof that the Chinese government is actually harvesting and selling the organs of Falun Gong prisoners, because the government denies it, and tightly controls the access to official information, but the mass of unofficial information and evidence is damning. (Matas and Kilgour's work is meticulously documented.) Such evidence includes taped conversations with hospital staff, in which they used the availability of Falun Gong organs as a selling point for their transplant programs. (Ironically and tragically, the organs of Falun Gong practitioners are desirable because of the good health of the prisoners.) Further evidence is to be found in the many admissions of complicity from Chinese medical personnel. There are even statements made on Chinese hospital websites, touting the availability of live organs. The sheer volume of transplants being performed in China is a clear indication that the government has an organ supply that far outstrips the number of organs made available through accidental death or involuntary donation from non-Falun Gong prisoners. (China has no compunction, it seems, about harvesting organs from those people subjected to the death penalty by its court system, either. Those "donations" are more openly admitted, unlike the "donations" of the people who have simply disappeared throughout China for practicing their religion.) Matas and Kilgour's report also includes interviews with former Falun Gong prisoners, escaped to Canada, whose stories are heartbreaking. The compilation of history, testimony and lack of credible refutation paints a rather complete picture of a situation that warrants grave concern from the world at large, and human rights advocates in particular.

Read the entire report. It's sobering, and by no means pleasant, but extremely informative; the more people know of this, the more the information is spread worldwide, the more chance there is that the Chinese government can be made to feel outside pressure and either open the access to information and facilities, possibly clearing themselves of suspicion, or halt this barbaric treatment of its citizens, if the allegations are correct--and honestly, I think there's little doubt that practitioners of Falun Gong are being officially persecuted, and worse. The more people are aware outside the borders of China too, the more citizens can seek action from their own governments. Here in the U.S. it's a very simple matter to contact our representatives in Congress and let them know of our awareness of the situation and concern. I have no doubt that citizens throughout the free world have similar avenues open to them for expressing their concerns. I know many of us have written our government representatives for various reasons, and received the frustrating form letters that make us feel as though our concerns are ignored, but the truth is the more of us who speak up, the more the people who represent us in government pay attention to what we have to say. It's worth the effort.

Update: I wanted to include a portion of the report, for its clarification of Matas and Kilgour's position on the official involvement of the Chinese government:

The widespread corruption of official Chinese institutions raises the question whether the harvesting of Falun Gong organs for transplants, if it does occur, happens as the result of official policy or as the result of the profiteering of individual hospitals, taking advantage of the defenceless of a captive Falun Gong population in their regions. The policy of repression of the Falun Gong means that they are in prison without rights, at the disposition of corrupt authorities. The incitement to hatred against the Falun Gong and their dehumanization means that they can be butchered and killed without qualms by those who buy into this official hate propaganda.

Whether the harvesting of Falun Gong organs, if it does occur, happens as the result of official policy or unofficial corruption, is for us difficult to be absolutely certain about. Chinese officials, in theory in charge of the country, sometimes have substantial difficulty in determining whether corruption exists, let alone how to put an end to it. For us, on the outside, it is easier to form a conclusion on the result, whether or not the alleged organ harvesting occurs, than to determine whether this practice, if it exists, is the result of policy or corruption.

I don't believe this changes anything in terms of applying pressure, since the Chinese government, whether responsible or not, is the only entity with the power to change the situation, but I thought it was worth drawing out of the text in any case.

Update II: February, 2008--I have received emails, and now a comment saying that this information has been discredited. In the comment left today, Charles Liu includes links which he says disprove the allegations. I'll leave you to read them for yourself to determine how much these documents disprove, and what level of credibility you to give them. Frankly, I don't know what the truth is regarding the organ theft, and have never claimed to, but I do believe that attention should be paid to the situation. I will note, also, that even the documents this reader links do not deny that there are troubling questions, or that Falun Gong practitioners are grossly mistreated by China's government. I followed every link Mr. Liu provided, and nothing I read has convinced me thus far that the world should not continue its scrutiny of China and its treatment of these and other prisoners.