Epoch Times by David Kilgour: Falun Gong (or Falun Dafa) is a spiritual discipline which seeks to improve body, character and ethics. It contains features of traditional systems, like Buddhism and Daoism (Taoism), combined with a set of gentle exercises. Its core principles are “truth, compassion and forbearance”, which echo those of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and other faiths. It today has practitioners in numerous countries.
In China, where it first became public in 1992, Falun Gong grew within seven years to 70-100 million practitioners by the government’s own estimate. Some Communist party leaders in early 1999 reacted negatively at seeing citizens from all walks of life, including party members, engaging publicly in a form of exercise, which had a belief system behind it different from Marxism-Leninism. The exercises, moreover, could be done anywhere at any time, singly or in groups, indoors or outdoors. The amorphous nature meant it was impossible for the party-state to control it.
The first vilification of Falun Gong by Party elements seeking to ban it in 1999 led to protests by practitioners, mobilized through cell phones and Internet coordination. A large protest at party headquarters in Beijing enraged then party-state leader Jiang Zemin. For him and others, banning and persecuting Falun Gong became official violence easier to get away with than doing the same to other spiritual communities because Falun Gong in China often lack Western connections. The incitement to hatred against them across China in Party media since mid-1999 has had many tragic consequences, most notably the widespread commercial trafficking in their vital organs.
The party-state has repressed Falun Gong savagely since July 1999. Torture, rapes, beatings to death, detentions in forced labour camps, brainwashing—all became the daily lot of many Falun Gong across China. Practitioners responded with a non-violent, but energetic defence of human dignity both within China and in other countries.
After 1980, the party-state had begun withdrawing funds from the health system as a whole across China, obliging it to make up the difference through service charges to mostly uninsured patients. Selling the organs of executed convicts soon became a major source of funds because of world demand created by chronic organ shortages. Falun Gong later became a major additional source of organs for patients from China and elsewhere who did not question whether the “donors” were convicted prisoners sentenced to death. Many Falun Gong were sent to labour camps after mid-1999 without any form of hearing on only a police signature. The system was created in Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Third Reich and copied in China in the 1950s by Mao. Organ price lists were posted on Chinese websites. Hospitals boasted openly on their websites about the money being made from the sale of organs.
The Party, published this year by Richard McGregor, former China bureau chief of the Financial Times, probably unintentionally places organ trafficking in context. The book addresses how the Party functions today, with a vice-like grip on every aspect of daily life across China, including its huge cities and tiny villages, media, culture, courts, religion, and the health system. On the economy, for example, despite hundreds of millions of desperately poor citizens, it notes notes: “In 2007, personal consumption was just 35 per cent of GDP. Meanwhile, China was investing 11 per cent of GDP in low-yielding foreign assets…consider that the net transfer of resources abroad was equal to a third of personal consumption.”
McGregor explains that the Party alone disposes of corruption accusations against its members. Despite numerous anti-graft campaigns since 1982, about 80 per cent of the 130,000 to 190,000 officials disciplined annually for malfeasance by the Party received only warnings. Only three percent of the six percent criminally prosecuted went to jail. Party leaders know, the book explains, that the main threat to their authority is corruption, yet their practices everywhere make it inevitable. McGregor adds that corruption has become a sort of “transaction tax that distributes ill-gotten gains among the ruling class…It becomes the glue that keeps the system together.”
Falun Gong practitioners today comprise about two-thirds of the torture victims and half of those in forced labour camps across China. The documented yearly arbitrary killings and disappearances of Falun Gong exceed by far the totals for any other victim group. According to research David Matas and I have done, set out in our book Bloody Harvest, practitioners have been killed in the thousands since 2001 so that their organs could be trafficked to Chinese and foreign patients. For the period 2000-2005 alone, Matas and I concluded that for 41,500 transplants done the only explanation for sourcing was Falun Gong.
The main conclusion of our book is that there “continues today to be large-scale organ seizures from unwilling Falun Gong practitioners. We have concluded that the government of China and its agencies in numerous parts of the country, in particular hospitals but also detention centres and ‘people’s courts,’ since 1999 have put to death a large but unknown number of Falun Gong prisoners of conscience. Their vital organs, including kidneys, livers, corneas and hearts, were seized involuntarily for sale at high prices, sometimes to foreigners, who normally face long waits for voluntary donations of such organs in their home countries.” Our revised report is accessible in 18 languages from www.david-kilgour.com.
Have the efforts of many in China and around the world to stop these appalling crimes against humanity made any difference? Our book points at various developments within and beyond China occurring since our first report in 2006, but, to save time, I’ll only mention two:
• The government of China now accepts that sourcing of organs from prisoners is improper. Deputy Health Minister Huang Jeifu in 2009, stated that executed prisoners “are definitely not a proper source for organ transplants.”
• Belgian senator Patrik Vankrunkelsven and Canadian MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj have each introduced into their respective parliaments extraterritorial legislation banning “transplant tourism”. Both would penalize any transplant patient who receives an organ without consent of the donor where the patient knew or ought to have known of the absence of consent.
Unfortunately, such developments have not yet ended the murders and trafficking in organs across China. For Falun Gong, matters have in fact become worse. Since we began our work, the number of convicted persons sentenced to death and then executed across China has decreased quite dramatically, but the number of transplants, after a slight decline, rose to earlier levels. Since the only other substantial source of organs for transplants in China besides Falun Gong is prisoners sentenced to death, a decrease of sourcing from that population means an increase of sourcing from Falun Gong.
Organ pillaging from Falun Gong practitioners has worsened since our work began, but the substantial movement in policy and practice inside and outside China is encouraging to a degree. All UN member governments should pressure Beijing until its trafficking ends.
Matas and I visited about a dozen countries to interview practitioners who had been sent to forced labour camps, but who had later managed to leave the camps and China. Some became so sick that they were sent to local hospitals, presumably out of fear that they would die in the camps, and later managed to escape; others opted to renounce Falun Gong and were eventually permitted to leave the camps and later escaped China. They told us of working in appalling conditions for up to sixteen hours daily with no pay, little food, sleeping together on the floor in cramped conditions, and torture. Their labour involved making export products, ranging from clothing to chopsticks to Christmas decorations, no doubt as concealed subcontractors to unethical exporters and contrary to the laws of the World Trade Organization.
One estimate of the number of the camps across China as of 2005 was 340, with a capacity of about 300,000 workers. Other estimates are much higher. In 2007, a US government report estimated that at least half of the inmates in the camps were Falun Gong. It is the toxic combination of totalitarian governance and “anything is permitted” economics that allows this export production to continue. Those profiting include surgeons, hospitals and the military, whose surgeons do some of the organ pillaging and whose aircraft fly organs from rural labour camps to hospitals in major cities where patients await compatible organs based on prior computer matching of blood and tissue types.
Harold Myerson recently wrote bluntly in the Washington Post about the general problem of outsourcing manufacturing to China. “American big business is now so inextricably invested in China that it won’t defend or promote American-based manufacturing. These tasks have fallen to our largest manufacturing union. By any dispassionate measure, it`s our labor movement, not our leading businesses, that deserve the term ‘American’. In how many other manufacturing nations, including Canada, might the same be said? Is the migration in recent years of many jobs from developing countries to China not one reason why the UN Development Goals are not being achieved?
For organs trafficked in China or any other state which abuses its own people, David Matas and I would encourage UN members to consider our twenty recommendations, including:
Urging the party-state in China to:
- cease the repression of Falun Gong;
- cease organ-pillaging from all prisoners;
- remove its military from the organ transplant business;
- establish and regulate a legitimate organ donor system (Every organ transplant donor should consent to the donation in writing. These consents should be available for inspection by international human rights officials.);
- open all detention centres, including forced labour camps, for international investigation;
- free Gao Zhisheng, a human rights lawyer and defender of Falun Gong, who has become “the conscience of China,” and permit him to reunite with his family.
- Implement the following measures until the party-state in China ceases organ pillaging from prisoners:
- Medical professionals in every UN member country should actively discourage their patients from going to China for transplant surgery;
- No government should issue visas to Chinese MDs seeking training in organ or body tissue transplantation;
- MDs from outside China should not travel there to give training in transplant surgery;
- Contributions submitted to medicals journals outside China about its experience with transplants should be rejected;
- Pharmaceutical companies everywhere should be barred by their national governments from exporting to China any drugs used solely in transplant surgery;
- National parliaments should enact extra-territorial legislation, penalizing participation in organ transplants without consent; and
- All governments should bar entry to any person known to be participating in organ trafficking without informed consent.