Ethan Gutmann, a China analyst and human-rights investigator, briefed the Prague Senate earlier this month about forced organ harvesting in China. The following is an edited version of his presentation.
Three years ago, I spoke to the Senate about Chinese organ harvesting of prisoners of conscience. What has occurred since then — both in terms of our investigation and the Chinese Communist Party’s response to it — is a remarkable story.
Subscribe to our Newsletter!
Receive selected content straight into your inbox.
Yet, I am here today to tell you that we failed, that the world is facing a human rights crisis in China today that has no exact precedent in human history.
Let me start with this photograph below of a Chinese execution. We think it was taken in the late 1980s on an execution ground in Xinjiang.
It’s interesting to read the faces: The man on the left, uncomfortable, arms crossed, trying to look “official.” The man with the mustache, probably a Uyghur, a Muslim, trying to pretend it’s just a big party.
Yet the man on the right stares at us defiantly. Why? Because that white rag on his wrist is there to protect his uniform from back-splatter. He personally shot the people that lie scattered on the ground.
Why do we have this photograph? Because from the Chinese Communist perspective, this was legal, even commendable. Those square shapes on the bodies? “Big character” posters outlining the prisoner’s crimes.
The photo is strangely universal; everyone in this room knows that if we blur the racial features of the executioners, this photo could have been taken in any authoritarian state.
Thirty years on, in 2018, doctors are China’s new executioners. Surgeons, trained to extract human organs — the heart, liver, kidney, lungs, and corneas — from living human beings, for profit and on behalf of the state.
Now, in London, this statement might sound incredible, maybe outlandish. But today, I am in Prague, a city which has seen some of the worst things in the 20th century.
And yet since we last met, much of the free world now accepts my statement. This U.S. congressional resolution — H.R. 343 — citing “persistent and credible reports” condemned China’s organ harvesting of prisoners of conscience.
The resolution passed in the summer of 2016. Two weeks later, the European Parliament passed an almost identical resolution.
Much of the press — CNN, the Globe and Mail, the Times of London — has followed that political lead. The New York Times? They have written seven stories on the issue — including one on the heroic efforts in Prague to ban the bodies show.
Now, those “persistent and credible reports” began in 2006 with David Kilgour and David Matas, the authors of the seminal Bloody Harvest report. Recorded phone calls indicated that there was a two-week waiting time for organs, hospitals were claiming to sell Falun Gong organs, and that there was a large discrepancy between recorded executions and the actual number of transplants.
Another credible report: State Organs. Published in 2012, it showed growing concern by doctors around the world.
My approach in The Slaughter was to establish a narrative: How did mass organ harvesting of prisoners of conscience evolve? My interviews with medical professionals, Chinese law enforcement, and over 100 refugees began in 2006. The Slaughter was published in 2014. And in German and in Czech — because of two very dedicated translators — and a wise patron named Karel Janeček.
Finally, in 2016, I joined forces with Matas and Kilgour to produce a 700-page update to our previously published work.
With 2,300 footnotes referencing mainland Chinese sources, it acted as a flare in the night sky, indicating to the world that the investigation was very much alive. And that it would not go away.
For much of the press and the policymakers, this was the tipping point. But the history is essential too.
This map only includes significant locations in the early history of China’s organ harvesting.
And back in the 1980s, the organs came exclusively from death-row prisoners.
So it was not a secret that criminals were executed and then harvested in hospital vans.
This policeman (pictured above) told me that he personally examined the bodies after the organs were extracted.
It was in Xinjiang, the Muslim region of China that the experiments began
In 1994, this policeman (pictured below) heard screams coming from the medical vans — as if the prisoners were still alive.
In 1995, this surgeon, Enver Tohti was forced to remove the kidneys and the liver from a prisoner who was still alive.
In 1997, the Muslim Uyghurs of Ghulja protested. The Chinese police shot about 40 and arrested thousands.
This Uyghur policeman (above) watched the prisoners disappear. Then “closed casket” burials were held, while Chinese security guards patrolled the cemeteries.
On-demand organ harvesting in China
Then there are the witnesses I can’t show you. A Ghulja nurse recalls Uyghur babies receiving a medication causing death within 48 hours. And in Urumqi, a young doctor was forced to take blood samples of Uyghur political prisoners on behalf of six aging high-ranking Chinese Communist Party cadres who had flown in to receive new livers and kidneys. They got their organs. Six more came.
It could have ended there. A discreet program, run by a few military hospitals, on behalf of the Party cadres.
It did not. The repression of the Falun Gong spiritual movement began in 1999.
So out of 70 million Falun Gong… Half a million to a million Falun Gong would be incarcerated in centers such as Shenyang Prison City. And with the growth of detention came an explosive growth of transplant activity across China
By the end of 2005, Falun Gong were being openly taken from the prisons for organ harvesting in six-month intervals. Chinese hospitals were telling Taiwanese surgeons that all the organs would “come from Falun Gong.”
Now if you ignore the white guy in the middle, this above photograph is a pretty good numerical representation of Falun Gong refugees. All of these six women were in labor camps. All of them were tortured. One of them was sexually abused. And the woman on the left, Jing Tian, was given tests of her ‘retail organs.’
I estimated 65,000 Falun Gong practitioners were murdered for their organs from 2000 to 2008. I estimate well over twice that number now.
We don’t know how badly the Tibetans were hit. But they received the same physical organs-only examinations as Falun Gong.
In 2012, Wang Lijun, Bo Xilai’s right-hand man, attempted to defect at the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu. Two weeks later, the World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong revealed that Wang (pictured below on the right) had personally received a prestigious award for overseeing thousands of organ harvesting extractions and transplants.
The Chinese leadership was fatally exposed. In response, Chinese medical authorities (such as Huang Jiefu) declared to the Western press that they would cease organ harvesting of death-row prisoners over the next three to five years.
Eager to clean up the global reputation of transplant surgeons, Francis Delmonico, president of The Transplantation Society, engaged in a whitewash.
In 2015, when the Chinese medical establishment declared they were no longer performing organ harvesting form prisoners for their organs, Transplantation Society officials went on a few guided hospital tours and declared that China’s transplant environment was now ethical.
The Vatican, eager to make a deal with China, invited Huang Jiefu to a conference on medical ethics.
The strategy was interrupted when Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo was allowed to die in front of the entire world and when Delmonico was forced to admit, under Congressional oath, that he had been refused access to China’s military hospitals, and the embarrassment of an Internet ad, touting lung transplants for English-speaking organ tourists, 7 years after China had supposedly banned foreigners.
Now the Chinese routinely claim that they do 10,000 transplants a year. Yet in the photo above, Tianjin Central Hospital, easily capable of 5,000 transplants per year. And there is also People’s Liberation Army 309 Hospital in Beijing, a particularly notorious center for harvesting political and religious prisoners. It carries out about 4,500 transplants per year. That’s comparable in size to Nanjing General Hospital of Nanjing Military Command and Xijing Hospital Affiliated with the Fourth Military Medical University.
Imagine a typical state-licensed transplant center in China: three or four transplant teams. Thirty or 40 beds for transplant patients. A 20 to 30-day recovery period. Occupancy rate: 80-100 percent.
Let’s assume one transplant a day. Annual average volume: 365. That’s over 50,000 transplants a year. Throw in the minimum state requirements: 80,000 transplants a year. Add in the hospitals I just mentioned: 100,000 transplants per year.
The Chinese claim to have 7,000 voluntary donations a year — yet even their made-up numbers cannot explain their actual transplant volume. The majority of the shortfall is made up of Falun Gong. For example, on a single day in 2013, this woman (pictured below) watched over 500 Falun Gong labor camp prisoners being subjected to medical examinations of their retail organs.
But the Chinese Communist Party appear to be returning to the Uyghurs as a primary source of organ harvesting. Over the last year, 17 million Uyghurs — every man, woman, and child — have been DNA and blood tested. And we have just learned that half a million to a million — sound familiar? — Uyghurs, primarily males, have been sent to “re-education” camps.
The information is sketchy. The Internet is cut off, and no Western reporters can enter. But we do know that the Party is building nine crematoriums in Xinjiang. The first one, near Urumqi, just became operational. And the Chinese are not hiring two or three security guards, as most crematoriums would. They are hiring 50.
I don’t really know how else to put this: This is a human rights catastrophe. The evidence is unmistakable. It is unfolding before our eyes.
I am not a lawyer. I cannot tell you what course of action you should take: Ban Chinese transplant surgeons from entering Prague using the Magnitsky Act. Write a resolution. Make a statement. But for God’s sake, do something about organ harvesting in China.
Watch Ethan Gutmann talk about the 2016 report titled Bloody Harvest/The Slaughter: An Update, which found that organ harvesting in China is much worse than previously thought: