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Students Called to Help End Forced Organ Harvesting – an Evil Crime That’s Being Hidden Away in China

Those involved in exposing forced organ harvesting in China know how hard it is to gain the attention that this awful issue rightfully deserves. It’s not just a case that people find it hard to believe the Chinese state can be so evil as to kill innocent people to make money from their organs — it’s bigger than that.

The evidence — according to expert members of the International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China (ETAC) ­ — that mass organ harvesting in China is occurring is now irrefutable.

That prompts the question: How can such a crime be wilfully ignored by much of the international community?

But there are organizations, such as the ETAC, and individuals doing their best to try to ensure this crime is confronted and stopped.

The ETAC — a coalition of lawyers, academics, ethicists, medical professionals, researchers, and human rights advocates — has recently launched an initiative to increase awareness about the atrocity among students and to prompt them into action.

If you, yourself, are unaware of what is going on in China, the ETAC student page succinctly describes the core issue.

“In short, the Chinese government is murdering innocent prisoners of conscience — primarily Falun Gong practitioners (a meditation practice of the Buddha school tradition) — in order to transplant their organs into paying international patients and wealthy Chinese,” the page says.

The initiative has a video — you can watch it above — that features young people describing how you can make a difference in ending organ harvesting in China.

FAQs on the student page likewise explain why this awful crime has not received the attention it deserves. Here are some of them:

Why haven’t I heard about this before now?

China has long denied these claims, instead, offering very feeble — and very false — alternative explanations. The mainstream media has not probed further due to vested interests; Chinese investment is heavily relied upon by a number of countries.

Why aren’t there any official statistics to support these claims?

Unsurprisingly, the Chinese government continues to deny that they are killing prisoners of conscience for their organs. Therefore, they do not release statistics that would illustrate this. Most transplant statistics from China are unreliable and may have been fabricated in order to cover up the truth.

Why isn’t the international community doing anything?

The answer here is similar to why you have not heard about these atrocities before. Both politicians and the media are reluctant to act in a way that might provoke the Communist Party of China, as Chinese investment is so beneficial to countless economies. It is a case of economic expedience trumping moral imperatives.

This issue first came to light in 2006 when allegations were made that large numbers of Falun Gong practitioners were being killed for their organs at a hospital in northern China and credible reports followed.

In 2016, ETAC itself released a 700-page report that demonstrated the extent of forced organ harvesting in China. The report estimated that 60,000 to 100,000 organ transplants are performed annually in China.

Among the evidence used to calculate these figures was data from hospital revenues, transplantation volumes, bed utilization rates, surgical personnel, training programs, and state funding.

The report was written by Canadian researchers former MP David Kilgour, human rights lawyer David Matas, and investigative journalist Ethan Gutmann,

They concluded the source for these organs was prisoners of conscience, mostly Falun Gong practitioners who have been persecuted by the state since 1999. Other prisoners of conscience — Tibetans, Uyghurs, and House Christians — have also been targeted by the communists as a source of bodily organs, only to a lesser extent, the report said.

live organ harvesting simulation
A simulated forced live organ harvesting operation. (Image: Epoch Times)

Last year, ETAC established an independent people’s tribunal in the UK to investigate if any criminal offenses have been committed by state or state-approved organizations in China concerning forced organ harvesting.

Speaking after three days of hearings and evaluating the evidence, former English judge Sir Geoffrey Nice QC said that the China Tribunal’s interim judgment was one beyond any reasonable doubt.

“We, the tribunal members, are all certain, unanimously, beyond reasonable doubt, that in China forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience has been practiced for a substantial period of time, involving a very substantial number of victims… by state organized or approved organizations or individuals,” said Mr. Nice during his closing statement given in central London on December 10.

ETAC member Heather Draper, a professor of Bioethics at the University of Warwick, said that the tribunal was charged dispassionately to decide whether any criminal offenses contrary to international law have been committed in China’s transplantation practices.

“It is an independent process, with tribunal members recognized on the international stage to be of the highest integrity, and headed by Sir Geoffrey who has great human rights expertise. It is, therefore, an important process for all members of the international transplant community,” said Professor Draper in a statement.

“Many have refused thus far to engage with the evidence of grossly unethical practice in China prepared by ETAC and others,” she said. “Yet, it is impossible for bioethicists, practitioners, and recipients to defend organ transplantation as a practice while ignoring this evidence.”

Last month, a further two days of hearings were conducted. A final judgment is expected on June 17.

As part of its recommendations to students wanting to know more about the organ harvesting issue, ETAC says that watching this is a good start:

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South Korean Journalists Expose Transplant Center in China

Generic image of an surgical operation. (Image: via Pixabay)

There are some 32,000 people on waiting lists for an organ transplant in South Korea, but the vast majority of them will die before an organ becomes available. On average, a sick person needing a kidney transplant in South Korea has to typically wait five years. But if they go to an organ transplant center in China, they can have a kidney transplanted in as little as a few weeks.

It is believed that some 2,000 South Koreans travel to China for an organ transplant each year. There are reportedly 169 hospitals in China authorized to perform transplants, eight of which are known to be favored by organ recipients from South Korea.

These are some of the findings from the film The Dark Side of Transplant Tourism in China: Killing to Live that was first broadcast on South Korean TV in November last year.

As part of the film, three undercover journalists traveled to China seeking a kidney for a fictitious relative. There they learned that a liver can cost US$280,000 and a kidney about US$190,000 at a large unnamed transplant center in the northern city of Tianjin.

When the investigators first arrived at the Tianjin transplant center, they were met by a Chinese-Korean nurse who showed them around the center and its nearby accommodation complex.

One of the undercover journalists asked her how busy the center was.

“Yesterday one pancreas, three kidneys, and four livers,” the nurse told them.

The unnamed transplant center in the Chinese city of Tianjin that the South Korean journalists investigated. (Image: TV Chosun via Vimeo/Screenshot)
The unnamed transplant center in the Chinese city of Tianjin that the South Korean journalists investigated. (Image: Screenshot via Vimeo)

They gave the nurse medical records for a fictitious person who has been waiting for a kidney transplant for three years.

On paper, it is meant to be illegal for a foreigner to have an organ transplant in China. Despite this, it appears to occur very openly. The nurse told the journalist that foreigners are not permitted at other hospitals.

“The government banned them since the Olympics in 2008. So regular hospitals can’t do it [for foreigners], but we are different. It’s a transplant center,” she said.

The reporter asked if the center was officially authorized.

“Well, the government pretends not to know about it. We have lots of foreign patients, so we do it as a matter of course,” the nurse said.

There were many people from the Middle East seeking a transplant, she added.

As part of the process, the nurse introduced them to a Chinese surgeon, who she said was trained in the U.S.

An organ transplant center in China can transplant an organ immediately

The doctor looked over their medical records and within a few minutes he said they could do the transplant right away.

“It’s so urgent, so we should do anything to get it done soon,” said the doctor, who then went on to give information on wait times.

“Some take a week; if they’re lucky, two days. But also possibly some wait one month or more… It all depends and the only way to make it shorter is to donate some cash to the center,” he said. “You pay the regular bill and pay the extra.”

The journalist asked whether it would be an option to get an organ from a young person.

“Needless to say, there is no way we can use an organ from an old person. Every patient is sure to want a healthy and young organ,” the doctor replied.

The hospital organized accommodation for the recipient’s family at a nearby high-rise building in hotel-like conditions that also had heavy security.

There and at the center, the investigators met and spoke with several South Koreans who had or were planning to have an organ transplant at the center.

“In Korea, you just wait for a much-needed organ forever. But in China, the organs come easy,” said one Korean organ recipient.

A South Korean official staying at the center’s accommodation told the journalists he was there for both liver and pancreas transplants. He was expected to stay there for two months.

The man said he had a friend who had a transplant at the same hospital 17 years earlier.

The journalist said that there were also people from the Middle East having organ transplants done.

During their time there, the journalists said operating rooms appeared to be performing transplants 24 hours a day.

None of the South Korean organ recipients they spoke to had any idea where the Chinese organs came from.

The journalists spoke to several South Korean doctors who were involved in sending patients to China for organ transplants. Most aggressively refused to comment, but one doctor said he stopped being involved with China when reports surfaced that the organs were being sourced there from prisoners of conscience.

Hotel-styled accommodation in the Chinese city of Tianjin is provided in these buildings for foreigners having organ transplants. (Image: TV Chosun via Vimeo/Screenshot)
Hotel-styled accommodation in the Chinese city of Tianjin is provided in these buildings for foreigners having organ transplants. (Image: Screenshot via Vimeo)

Source of organs?

In the past several years, the Chinese government has tried to sell the idea they were moving toward having a functioning voluntary donation system and in 2015 declared they outlawed the use of prisoner organs.

But as the documentary reported, researchers outside of China say this is not the case.

The film looked at why it is believed that organs are coming from prisoners of conscience, predominantly Falun Gong practitioners who have been persecuted by the Chinese state since 1999, after which a sharp rise in the number of transplants in the country has been observed.

Falun Gong is based on meditation and slow moving exercises, and the practice has at its core three main principles: Truthfulness-Compassion-Tolerance.

Canadian researchers — former MP David Kilgour and human rights lawyer David Matas — said in 2006 that the source of the organs came from Falun Gong practitioners held in prisons and killed on demand. Other prisoners of conscience — Tibetans, Uyghurs, and House Christians — have also been targeted by the communists as a source of bodily organs, only to a lesser extent, they said.

In 2016, Kilgour and Matas updated their findings with investigative journalist Ethan Gutmann in another report that estimated there are 60,000 to 100,000 organ transplants performed annually in China.

Among the evidence used to calculate these figures was data from hospital revenue, transplantation volumes, bed utilization rates, surgical personnel, training programs, and state funding.

In June of 2016, a U.S. House of Representatives resolution was unanimously passed that urged the Chinese government to stop harvesting the organs of prisoners of conscience, and end the persecution against Falun Gong.


The Korean TV report included audio of “Annie,” one of the whistleblowers who first helped bring the issue out into the light in 2006.

From 1999-2004, Annie and her then-husband worked at the Thrombosis Hospital, Sujiatun District, Shenyang, Liaoning Province in China’s northeast.

Her husband was a surgeon who she said was involved in organ harvesting.

“He was in charge of sourcing corneas, some from those [people] who were still alive. I am speaking out their gruesome and dreadful surgeries. They dared to take livers, corneas, organs from Falun Gong prisoners,” she said.

“Some of them were still alive after their organs were extracted. Their bodies, dead or alive, were thrown into the incineration plant.”

The front of the Thrombosis Hospital, Sujiatun district, Shenyang, Liaoning province in China’s northeast. (Image: TV Chosun via Vimeo/Screenshot)
The front of the Thrombosis Hospital, Sujiatun District, Shenyang, Liaoning Province in China’s northeast. (Image: Screenshot via Vimeo)

Appealing to people’s consciences

In South Korea, many practitioners have been active in appealing to South Koreans not to go to China for an organ transplant.

A Falun Gong practitioner named Kim Gwangha managed to escape China and found safety in South Korea. He told the investigative journalists what he saw while he was being held in prison because of his beliefs.

“In prison, I saw practitioners of Falun Gong tortured to death,” Kim said. “One night, somebody came and took away the extracted organs in a box.”

In prison, they knew of organ harvesting, he said.

Kim also had some advice for South Koreans.

“Whether you believe in God or not, avoid trading with evil at all costs,” he said.

The journalist went with another Falun Gong practitioner into China itself and helped her search for her mother, who it is feared had been disappeared by state security. They were unable to find her.

For more on the persecution of Falun Gong, watch this short documentary by Swoop Films:

‘Brain-death machine’

The journalist also investigated a contraption called the Primary Brain Stem Injury Machine, or the “brain-death machine,” patented by Wang Lijun ­— a high-level Chongqing police officer once heavily involved in China’s transplant industry.

Wang later attempted to defect to the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu in 2012 after a fallout with Communist Party heavyweight Bo Xilai.

The brain-death machine Wang patented forces a large metal rod to hit the temple area of a person’s head causing death to the brain. Meanwhile, the organs remain in good condition to be efficiently harvested.

The patent is now held by the Chinese military and the machine, as the South Korean investigators found, has evolved.

A Chinese researcher told them that there have been three versions built.  The journalists asked the researcher what the machines are used for.

“This would cause brain death, but the other organs are not damaged,” the researcher told them.

A diagram of the so-called Brain death machine. The patent for this device is held by the Chinese military. (Image: TV Chosun via Vimeo/Screenshot)
A diagram of the so-called brain-death machine. The patent for this device is held by the Chinese military. (Image: Screenshot via Vimeo)

Back in South Korea, the investigative journalists built a version of a brain death machine based on plans they acquired.

After it was built, they invited Lee Seungwon — a respected South Korean surgeon — to look at the machine.

Lee said he was certain what the machine was used for.

“It’s just to extract human organs intact, I am quite sure. Why else cause brain death to humans?” Lee said.

The documentary was produced for the weekly program Investigative Report Seven by TV Chosun. It follows other films investigating organ harvesting in China, such as “Hard to Believe, Harvested Alive, and Human Harvest.

Watch Leon Lee, Human Harvest director, receive an award for his film in this video from Peabody Awards’ YouTube channel.

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