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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Pressure on UK government to act over ‘Chinese organ harvesting’

Wouldn't it be great if the governments of the free world would band together and demand some answers from China on live organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners. Seriously, there is no harm in asking, is there?

Call for action ahead of Beijing Olympics

Sunday Herald (Glasgow) By Bridget Morris - 25 March, 2007 - A SENIOR EXPERT on Asia has demanded Britain "take action now" against China, which he says is continuing to harvest organs "à la carte" from practitioners of the suppressed Falun Gong movement who are executed in prison.

David Kilgour, Canada's former secretary of state for Asia-Pacific, who will visit the Houses of Parliament this week, told the Sunday Herald that Britain is leaving the issue of organ harvesting unchecked and allowing Chinese officials to kill prisoners for their organs with impunity.

He put this down to Britain not wishing to create a diplomatic incident in the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics, concerns about protecting trade with China and the government "not listening to the expert advice they are given".

Kilgour and his colleague, lawyer David Matas, studied the transplant market in China in 2006 - their report concludes that several thousand organs have been illegally harvested from Falun Gong prisoners since 1999. Kilgour, one of Canada's longest-serving MPs, is now set to warn the UK government and British doctors that China must be brought to book over the practice, which it officially denies takes place.

He said: "I realise it is difficult to comprehend, but prisoners, especially Falun Gong prisoners, are being killed for their organs in China right now. They are executing prisoners à la carte' so that wealthy recipients get organs.

"Pressure must be put on the Chinese government to stop this, especially before the Beijing Olympics next summer. I would also call for doctors, diplomats, politicians, and ordinary people to start demanding answers about this, because, frankly, the Chinese government has none."

Tens of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners have been jailed in China for holding meetings or owning literature about their faith. According to Amnesty International, China carries out 80% of the global total of sanctioned executions each year. There is also evidence from Kilgour and others that prisoners in many jails are given regular blood tests, the purpose of which is unclear.

Others also back Kilgour's research. British transplant expert Professor Tom Treasure described organ harvesting from prisoners as a "holocaust", noting in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine this month that health tourists from the West are contributing to the problem of Falun Gong convicts being killed for their kidneys, hearts, lungs and corneas.

Comparing the practice in China to the organised euthanasia of institutionalised patients in 1930s Germany, and noting the oddity of the high number of transplants offered in China at short notice, Treasure wrote of his "horror" at colleagues being complicit in the trade, and that "the story seems horrific to the point of being almost beyond belief".

There are signs China may be ready to deal with the issue, though. In November deputy health minister Huang Jiefu admitted "most of the organs for sale are from executed prisoners", but said huge domestic and international demand is causing "a shortfall". Although Huang promised to introduce a code of conduct, Kilgour says that, as most Falun Gong convicts are young and healthy, they are at huge risk of being executed "to order" for their organs.

He said: "People in Scotland may find this so beyond normal comprehension so as not to believe it. But it is true."

A spokeswoman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said that while concerns about organ harvesting had been brought up with China as recently as February, "to date we have not seen evidence to verify the reports, and therefore there is nothing to justify using public funds to mount an investigation."

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