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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Phasing out murder isn't good enough

Rabbi Reuven P. Bulka, National Post | 13/06/12 |

While the Canadian media focused on matters closer to home, a developing matter of global concern - and life and death - went unnoticed.

Last month, on May 17, The Associated Press reported that "China is phasing out dependence on executed prisoners for organs." In the weeks since, there has been no reaction to this news item. We do hear about overtures to mend fences with China, most recently by the united States, including on such vital issues as cyber theft. But the shameful matter of organ harvesting is ignored.

For years, China denied that it was killing prisoners to extract their organs. During these same years, human rights lawyer David Matas and human rights activist David Kilgour, a former Edmonton-area MP and Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific, insisted that this was a lie, and that China was indeed guilty of wholesale murder for profit.

Matas and Kilgour deserve credit for exposing this outrage, and having the courage to stand up to the barrage of denials. Russia, for example, banned their groundbreaking 2007 report "Bloody Harvest", and made Matas and Kilgour subject to arrest should they enter Russian territory, for the crime of inciting hatred against China.

The scale of this harvest is alarming. We know from China's Health Ministry that in 2005, 2,960 out of 2,997 liver transplants performed in China came from executed prisoners. We also know that China, with no organized system for organ donation, and a cultural aversion to it, could advertise a one-week wait time for a kidney and a two-week wait for a liver. In Ontario, a five-year wait for a kidney can be expected. To be sure, Ontario can do better. But not that much better. Where else could China be getting these organs from but the thousands of prisoners it executes each year?

All these facts have been known for years. Yet the world turned a blind eye, and even went along with staging the Olympics in China in 2008, while thousands of future organ suppliers languished in Chinese prisons. The fact that the main victims of this brutality are the Falun Gong, of whom around one million members have been imprisoned and who make up the overwhelming majority of the organ "donors," makes this disgusting practice even more distressing. This is more than just a crime. It is a crime against an oppressed minority. …

China now faces a new challenge - if it is to begin reducing its use of executed prisoners as organ donors, where will it find the organs and tissues its people need? China has not developed a culture of that supports voluntary organ donation. It had no reason to -the heavy reliance on murdering prisoners exempted the general population from needing to even consider it. And even in the West, where organ donation is culturally accepted to a far greater extent and despite steady progress, there are never enough donors to meet demand.

In February of this year, China launched a nationwide donor network. Its officials project donated organs will fully replace those harvested from prisoners by February, 2015. That ostensibly cheerful estimate, however, ignores the fact that China will continue to harvest organs from executed prisoners until that time - and, if donations come in slower than projected, beyond.

That is unacceptable. Phasing out murder still means murder. The time has come for the entire civilized world to let China know that this barbaric practice must be stopped, and to bring whatever pressure is possible against Beijing to make sure that message is heard.

Rabbi Reuven P. Bulka chairs Ontario’s Trillium Gift of Life Network and is a member of the board of Canadian Blood Services, two agencies deeply involved in organ and tissue donation.

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