Falun Gong "Disappearing by Thousands"
The ancient city of Beijing will be the epicenter of world attention as China prepares to host the next Olympiad this summer. Rarely have the Olympic Games escaped scrutiny and controversy, but the real story of the Chinese Olympics is lost in a fog of media pollution and disinformation that is a smokescreen more deadly than the smog feared by world athletes who are boycotting the games because of health concerns. German Chancellor Angela Merckel announced she would not attend the Opening Ceremonies because of the situation in Tibet. While President Bush plans to attend the Olympic Opening Ceremonies, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in a statement on April 1, said it might be wise for the president not to attend the Games' Opening Ceremonies. Pelosi questioned the award of the Olympic venue to China and said China has not improved or honored its stated commitment to human rights. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) said in a recent speech, "China is the "world's worst human right's abuser," and added that Falun Gong practitioners are "disappearing by the thousands."
Human rights activists and organizations maintain that mainstream media reports on world leaders and their personal plans for the opening ceremonies are nothing but a diversion and window dressing. Pull the curtains aside and you will find no benevolent Wizard of Oz. There is significant, under-reported evidence that Falun Gong prisoners have been and are being used as a human transplant bank.
Deep in the Chinese provinces, in prisons where human rights are a non sequitur, are whispers, cries, and chilling stories of egregious human rights violations involving organ harvesting from live donors. This living hell is aided and abetted by a system of persecution that thrives on money, power, and secrecy. The stories are similar to those that surfaced from Auschwitz and Buchenwald during the Second World War. When the story is beyond human comprehension and morality, it becomes as the Bard wrote in Macbeth, " A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
The perceived idiots in this tale are, ironically, the truth tellers -- the Diogenes and Cassandras who offer lamps of enlightenment and words of warning. These modern "idiots" appear to be on a fools' mission to shred the veils of secretive multinational trade interests, geo-political collusion, and out-right lies. The truth tellers include United Nations Special Rapporteurs, members of the U.S. Congress, human rights activists, former Chinese prisoners, Canadian attorneys, and a maverick PhD from the University of Minnesota.
The stories of atrocities perpetrated against prisoners of conscience in China, most especially, the Falun Gong, are not new. There have been media blips regarding this tragic story since 1999, when it became obvious that an uptick in foreign visitors to China for organ transplants was beginning to appear on websites and graphs that chart such things. A 2007 Yale econometric study came to the conclusion that that the organs of detained Falun Gong practitioners have been systematically harvested for use in China's organ transplant industry. Where is the expected outrage?
Part of the problem may reside in the term "Falun Gong." For westerners, the exotic name has no real meaning. Like the name "Tutsi" from the Rwandan genocide, there is no intellectual or emotional connection -- an exotic name from a dangerous place -- but what or who is a Falun Gong? When media, especially photo documentation of the murder of up to 800,000 Tutsis, finally made its way to the broadcast booths of CNN during the "100 Days" of genocide in Central Africa in 1994, it was too late, but outrage became the appropriate response, even in the United States where President Clinton had stood silently, afraid of a repeat of Mogadishu and another assault on his presidency.
Falun Gong is a meditative practice -- the revival of the practice of Qigong, an ancient Chinese tradition of breathing and movement. Human rights activists charge that not only has China been bankrolling Darfur's conflicts for more than eight years, it has also sought to eliminate the Falun Gong, which at one point had an estimated 70 million practitioners in China.
In 2004, Asma Jahangir the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions stated, "The Special Rapporteur continues to be alarmed by deaths in custody in China. Reports describe harrowing scenes in which detainees, many of whom are followers of the Falun Gong movement, die as a result of severe ill treatment, neglect or medical inattention. The cruelty and brutality of these alleged acts of torture defy description."
In a second investigation, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, completed a fact-finding mission to China after which he issued a press release on December 2, 2005, detailing some of the alleged torture methods the Communist regime uses on its victims. The most evil include electric shock, cigarette burns, guard instructed beatings, submersion in sewage pits, exposure to heat or cold and deprivation of sleep, food or water. In March 2006, Nowak reported that Falun Gong practitioners accounted for 66 percent of the victims of alleged torture while in the Chinese government's custody.
On March 20, 2007, in a more extensive report to the Human Rights Council's Fourth Session, as part of their Agenda item 2, "The Implementation of General Assembly Resolution 60/251," Nowak lists allegations and Chinese government responses to allegations of organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners. The Chinese denied the allegations.
According to Amnesty International, China continually holds thousands of political prisoners without charge or trial and is responsible for over 80 percent of all executions documented in the world.
All of these reports segued on August 3, 2007, when Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) introduced House Resolution 610, aptly named because the "610 Office" in China is an extra-constitutional agency established by the former leader Jiang Zemin. 610 was specifically created to persecute Falun Gong and has absolute power over every level of the Communist Party and all political and judiciary systems.
Rohrabacher's H.Res. 610 states "the sense of the House of Representatives is that the United States Government should take immediate steps to boycott the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing in August 2008 unless the Government of the People's Republic of China stops engaging in serious human rights abuses against its citizens and stops supporting serious human rights abuses by the Governments of Sudan, Burma, and North Korea against their citizens."
THE 2008 OLYMPIC GAMES -- Voices Shouting "Foul" From Canada
David Kilgour, J.D. and David Matas, are independent Canadian investigators who are absolutely convinced that the reports coming from China are true and that the organs of Falun Gong practitioners in China have been harvested for profit. In May of 1996, they received a formal request from the Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of the Falun Gong in China (CIPFG). The coalition is a non-governmental organization, registered in Washington, DC with offices in Ottawa. Kilgour is a former Member of Parliament and a former Secretary of State of the Government of Canada for the Asia Pacific Region. Before he became a parliamentarian, he was a Crown prosecutor. Matas is an immigration, refugee, and international human rights attorney in private practice. He received his law degrees at Oxford -- a Bachelor of Arts in the Honour School of Jurisprudence and a Bachelor of Civil Law.
In 2007 Kilgour and Matas finalized a 46-page document, accompanied by 14 appendices, which is the culmination of their investigation into allegations that Falun Gong prisoners of conscience in China have been murdered for their vital organs -- including hearts, kidneys, livers and corneas -- which are then sold for profit. Some of the customers are foreigners "who normally face long waits for voluntary donations of such organs in their home countries," Kilgour said.
As a result of the investigation, David Kilgour has no problem indicting the Chinese government. In a phone interview from his office in Ottawa, Kilgour expressed outrage at a society he believes is "modeled after the regimes of Hitler and Stalin," a society in which police will sign detention orders for non-capital crimes against anyone who is considered a threat to the state.
Labor camps have been operating across China since the 1950s, Kilgour says. They operate outside the legal system and allow the Party to send anyone to them for up to four years with neither hearing nor appeal. The reason?
"When the practitioners of Falun Gong began to outnumber the members of the Communist Party in China, there was a crackdown," Kilgour said.
Kilgour has looked deep beneath the surface of Chinese society, a society that he believes is largely misunderstood and unknown to the Western World.
Mass Media Fails in its Duty as Messenger
As Kilgour and David Matas, his partner in the investigation, discovered, when you scratch beneath the surface of a society, you had better be prepared for what you will find. Kilgour does not mince words and blames the mainstream media for ignoring what he believes to be a fact -- that since 2001the the Falun Gong, a spiritual group, continues to be treated in a 21st century industrialized society, "not as human beings," "but essentially as objects for sale as body parts." Their body parts were sold to "organ tourists" from wealthy countries, he says. (The Kilgour/Matas report is available in nineteen languages at www.organharvestinvestigation.net)
In an official response to the report, the Chinese government said, "It is very clear that Falun Gong's rumour has ulterior political motives." Kilgour responds: "None of our findings are based on rumour. Every finding we make is sourced and independently verifiable."
In its second and final response, the Chinese government describes the Falun Gong as being "against everything from China." Kilgour asks: "What could the politics of the Falun Gong possibly be? They are not a political party or movement with a political agenda. The Chinese Government (presents) a bizarre charge, but all too typical of the hyperbole into which the Government launches when discussing this group."
David Matas spoke to us from his office in Winnipeg, in response to what will surely be the main criticism of the Kilgour/Matas report.
Why should people care about the use of Falun Gong for organ transplants, since the Chinese Minister of Heath has stated that there will be no more organ transplants to foreigners from the prison system?
"What we know from sources in the World Health Organization is that the volume of transplants in China is down but it is still happening. There is still no law, no system that governs the ethical harvesting of organs. There is not even a protocol for determining a brain dead donor."
Still, is the shutdown of tourist transplants something that might be considered a victory?
Matas says, "This source of organs in China is disreputable -- and it remains prisoners and the Falun Gong. "
So, you have a disreputable source of organs.
"No, it goes too far to say that the only source of organs in China is disreputable. There are a few, statistically insignificant cases, of donations.
"Let's say, just for the sake of argument that the persecution of the Falun Gong has stopped. All of the forced labor camps have been dismantled and the Chinese even go so far as to develop a brain dead law and organ match system," Matas said.
"Even then I would not declare victory because what has been happening is a crime against humanity. This cries out for a redress of grievances, and awarding Beijing the Olympic Games is hardly a redress for the untold suffering," he said.
Part of the 33 lines of criteria Matas and Kilgour took into account were transcripts of phone calls between investigators and doctors at transplant hospitals. Translations of the Mandarin and the original calls are available in digital format. A reading of the English translations, which are available in the Appendices, suggest that the caller might be leading the doctors to agree to the fact that Falun Gong are the best sources of organs because of their healthy constitution.
When asked whether the investigators might have been asking leading questions, Matas agreed that the phone calls could be considered "vague" in some instances, but that they were only one part of the chain of evidentiary discovery.
"Trying to assess evidence with phone calls is difficult," Matas said.
"We had to be our own critics, and from my perspective, maybe these are leading because the doctors want to make a sale of an organ and they might be willing to say, yes the Falun Gong have the best livers. That might be a plausible argument.
"My answer is, well OK so by the calls you can't tell what people intend by what they say. These calls are not a smoking gun, but one piece of 33 trails of evidence. We went down every evidentiary trail that might prove or disprove the claim of Falun Gong being used as live donors. Part of the accumulation of evidence that led to our conclusion is that what we have is a very big pile of evidence that shows this is happening. We don't have contradictory information, Matas said.
Still, the transcripts are chilling -- and the devil is certainly in the details.
This investigative call was made to the Minzu Hospital of Guangxi (Autonomous Region) on May 22, 2006. "Q" denotes the Investigator and "A" is the Doctor.
This is a partial transcript of one phone call and the translation from Mandarin.
Q: He said that the organs from Falun Gong practitioners are relatively healthy and better. Do they use this kind as well?
A: Correct, correct, correct. Usually the healthy ones are chosen.
Q: What I mean is that the organs from Falun Gong practitioner are better. Do they
use this kind as well?
A: Correct, correct, correct. For details, please call them directly. You can tell him
that Doctor Lu from Minzu Hospital recommend you to him. He is my college
Q: Oh, you are his classmate. What's your full name, so I can mention to him?
A: Um, my last name is Lu.
Q: Is Lu the same as "Lu Xun"?
A: It's the same as the "Mount" Lu.
THE YALE STUDY -- A Voice from Academia
"China's Organ Transplant Industry and Falun Gong Organ Harvesting: An Economic Analysis," was completed by Yale graduate student Hao Wong in May 2007.
The Yale study pulls no punches and concludes that vital organs from live Falun Gong prisoners have been used for organ transplants in the organ tourist trade. Organ transplants for sale is essentially a black market enterprise that is encouraged by the Chinese Communist Party. "It is a horrific form of mass murder and crimes against humanity that continues today," the study says.
The Yale white paper suggests an organ marketplace with exceedingly short waiting times, batch transplants, and a volume of transplants that exceeds the entire industrialized world. In a demand driven market, such as that in the United States, waiting times for organs are long and there is a rigid system of data banks and donor/recipient matches that is part of an extensive protocol.
China has perpetrated a supply driven model in which an obviously unwilling inventory of living Falun Gong prisoners is the organ warehouse.
"There is no group in China's prison system other than Falun Gong practitioners that has the requisite population size, health and intensity of persecution to explain the rapid growth in the organ industry from 2000 to 2005. An accumulating number of non-economic evidence supports the conclusion of this analysis," the report says.
There is no doubt that organ harvesting exists on a huge scale in China. This information is readily available on Chinese websites. [Some sites have been closed down, such as the International Transplant Center site, but it is still archived and copies are available]
The Yale Report dovetails perfectly with the Kilgour/Matas report in that it demonstrates that there was an explosive growth of organ transplants at the same time that persecution of the Falun Gong was ramped up in 1999.
Readily available data shows that between 1994 and 1999, Chinese facilities conducted 18,500 organ transplants. In a stunning statement, Shi Bingyi, Vice Chair of the China Medical Organ Transplant Association, said a national total of 90,000 organ transplants were completed by 2005.
This means that between 2000 and 2005 there was a three-fold increase in the total number of transplants. In 2004, there were 10,090 kidney, liver and heart transplants -- a total second only to the United States.
In July 2005, Huong Jiefu, Chinese Vice-Minister of Health, became the first senior official to acknowledge that the majority (95%) of organs used in transplants in China originate from executed prisoners. (Caijing Magazine)
David Kilgour also told us that one source of organs is executed prisoners, which China publicly admitted after years of denial. But death-row prisoners make up a very small portion of China's prison population.
The Yale Report, by using a mathematical regression model which examined the frequency of liver transplants in China, demonstrates convincingly that the only possible way to have a large volume of transplant operations in a certain time period is to have a "warehouse of live donors" -- Falun Gong prisoners -- who while reviled by the Chinese regime -- have desirable organs because of their healthy, spiritual lifestyle.
Putting this analysis in layman's terms -- one would expect the number of advertised executions in Chinese prisons to coincide with the increase in organ transplants after 2000, since China has said publicly that executed prisoners are the source of organs for transplant. Put another way, if liver transplants were dependent on the number of executions of prisoners, you would expect to see the same increase in announced execution of capitol offense prisoners.
What the Yale Study demonstrates is that the increase of the number of Faun Gong dying in detention would predict available liver transplants better than announced prisoner deaths.
Is it the average journalist's math anxiety that has resulted in this information not reaching the American public? Dr. Kirk Allison of the University of Minnesota suggests this might be the case.
"There has been a massive increase in organ transplants in China that coincides with the persecution of the Falun Gong," Allison told us in a phone interview. Allison referred us to the Yale regression study but cautioned that the math involved in the econometric study might be too much to digest. This writer happens to be mathematician, and had to agree with Allison that journalist's by and large do shy away from the hard sciences. It is a pity, because the regression analysis of dependent and independent factors in the business of organ harvesting in China is the perfect framework upon which to hang the numerous reports of Falun Gong organ harvesting.
Dr. Allison is outraged at what he terms a "supply-driven organ market." How is it possible that the waiting time for an organ in China is a few days or weeks while the rest of the world must wait years in some cases for a suitable organ."
The question Allison posed was obviously rhetorical.
Dr. Kirk Allison -- A Voice from Minnesota, USA
Kirk C. Allison is a medical ethicist, Human Rights and Health Program Director at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. He has a pocket full of Power Point presentations and travels extensively, reminding audiences that eradication of ideas is big business in China and that the Falun Gong will achieve the distinction of eradication if the world does not take note of ongoing Chinese repression, torture, and murder.
More than once Allison reminds the interviewer that 66 percent of the documented torture in China has been perpetrated against the Falun Gong and the next largest statistic of 11 percent is against ethnic minorities.
Allison agrees that there is a downturn in foreign organ transplants since the Chinese government does not want scrutiny with the rapid approach of the Olympic Games.
"What has not declined is the Chinese government's attitude toward the Falun Gong. It is either recant your beliefs of be relentlessly persecuted, and large numbers of Falun Gong still remain in prison or incarceration for their beliefs," Allison said.
Allison suggests that the Falun Gong persecution is predicated upon the fact that Falun Gong beliefs are independent of Chinese Party ideology and therefore the Party has no real control over the movement. Ironically, China once promoted the practice of Falun Gong, along with its tenets of meditation and a healthy lifestyle, as a health benefit.
Is Allison concerned that the downturn in foreign transplants will dampen support for the Falun Gong?
"One needs to tie the transplant issue in China back to the fact that transplants are dependent on prisoners. The Chinese have admitted this, but have said nothing about the Falun Gong prison populations," Allison said.
"Some [organ recipients] are still coming in from outside the country. It is much more clandestine, but still happening, and we have no idea how many wealthy Chinese in search of organs have now moved up the waiting lists. Plus, it is not clear that Falun Gong are no longer being used," he said.
"What is clear is that majority of organ business is still based upon prisoner executions, and the Chinese Minister of Health has confirmed the number as 95 percent."
"It is clear in terms of human rights issues that there is great scrutiny on China and they want to make a good impression -- Darfur, Tibet -- there is pressure on the Chinese in all of these areas," Allison stressed.
The irony of the situation of the Falun Gong in an Olympic year is not lost on Kirk Allison.
"When you think of the creed of the Falun Gong, which emphasizes their mottos of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance; you see that it almost matches the Olympic creed word for word," he said.
Shizhong Chen -- Voice and Founder of the Falun Gong Working Group
Shizhong Chen is President of the Conscience Foundation, co-founder of the Falun Gong Human Rights Working Group, and co-chairman of the International Coalition for Promotion of Democracy and Human Rights in China. He holds a Ph.D. in molecular biology. He spoke with us by phone and email.
Chen says that the African slave trade, Hitler's concentration camps and the Soviet Gulags "all added together" pale beside the "sinister nature of the Chinese government's 'laogi' system of education and rectification through forced labor." It is an "evil system," and no one suffers more because of it that the Falun Gong. Chen maintains that hundreds of thousands of Falun Gong have been incarcerated in labor camps and detention centers, adding his voice to those voices already mentioned in this article.
His only quarrel with recent testimonies is the Yale math study, which he feels goes too far above the heads and interest levels of the average American.
"To me the most graphic way to put this subject in direct terms is that worldwide in most free countries the recipients who need organ transplants are put on a waiting list. Finding a matching organ is not easy. A donor's organ is typed and the information is fed into a databank to find a suitable recipient. The priority is organ-dependent," he said.
"In China it is opposite; it is patient dependent. You show up and demand an organ, and the only way to accomplish the transplant is to have a pool of readily available organs. The patient wants an organ and is willing to pay a lot of money. So what do the doctors do? THEY KILL SOMEBODY."
It is not just liver and heart transplants which have increased in China since the persecution of the Falun Gong began in 1999.
Chen emphasizes that all human rights reports and investigations from China indicate that heart and pancreas transplants have also increased exponentially. The graphs on the Chinese websites clearly show these trends. Some websites have been modified since the Kilgour/Matas report was made public, but archived websites remain available for scrutiny.
"In so many other areas of medicine in China they are far behind the western world, however it is in this boasted organ transplantation that the Chinese beat the world in shear numbers as well as equipment," Chen said in our phone interview.
"Look at the reports. The transplants are done more often than not in military and police hospitals [Dr. Allison also made this point] and used to finance the military. Who has easy access to prisoners? The police and the military."
And what about the new laws regarding tourist transplants?
"China has lots of laws but they are just for window dressing," Chen says.
"China has signed on to international human rights commissions and made promises to improve human rights. China is the only country that got the Olympics on this basis.
"It is not just businesses. The U.S. government has an interest to not offend China. The U.S. needs China's support because of Sudan and North Korea."
When asked why the mainstream media has not seriously taken up an expose of the treatment of Falun Gong prisoners in China, Chen seemed surprised that the answer was not obvious.
"The media has been trying to get into China. Rupert Murdock made it his personal crusade. Look at how Google and Yahoo are practicing censorship. Even before the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, the media learned not to report on real human rights situations in China. The Chinese media in other countries are strictly under the control of the Chinese government. So, I would summarize, because of vested media interests inside and outside of China and because of multi-national interests, human rights situations are not well reported, if they are reported at all."
Chinese scholars are also to blame for the veil of secrecy, according to Chen.
At the beginning of the Falun Gong persecution, China experts and scholars offered an explanation for the crackdown on human and civil rights, saying the Chinese were surprised by the "sudden appearance" of Falun Gong.
Chen says that by 1994 there were at least 20 million people practicing Falun Gong and that the Chinese secret police had already infiltrated the movement. In 1995, the Chinese government tried unsuccessfully to ban the practice; in 1996 publications were forbidden; and 1997 saw the emergence of an active media campaign against the Falun Gong.
The propaganda campaign against the Falun Gong is easy to access through the Kilgour/Matas report, and scholars were clearly wrong when they said that the Chinese were blindsided by the emergence of the Falun Gong.
Chen referenced an article by Perry Link, an expert on Chinese literature, language and culture at Princeton University.
Perry wrote an article about scholars and self-censorship called "The Anaconda in Chandelier:"
"In sum, the Chinese government's censorial authority in recent times has resembled not so much a man-eating tiger or fire-snorting dragon as a giant anaconda coiled in an overhead chandelier. Normally the great snake doesn't move. It doesn't have to. It feels no need to be clear about its prohibitions. Its constant silent message is "You yourself decide," after which, more often than not, everyone in its shadow makes his or her large and small adjustments -- all quite "naturally."
The message is obvious. Be careful what you criticize. Self-censorship is a multi-national form of a good neighbor policy.
Chen warns that this kind of self-censorship has far-reaching and deadly repercussions for societal mores.
"People are missing that this is history unfolding in front of our eyes. The real opportunity that China has is to take advantage of modern slavery. The United States is paying a premium to a slave owner through its large trade surplus.
The Quiet Voice of the Chinese Government -- Criticism of the Kilgour/Mathas Report
"China has issued a regulation on human organ transplants, explicitly banning the sale of
organs and introducing a set of medical standards for organ transplants in an effort to
guarantee medical safety and the health of patients. The regulation requires medical
institution which is qualified for practicing (sic) human organ transplant to register at provincial level health department. Unregistered medical institutions are forbidden to
practice human organ transplant. If the government finds any registered institution
violating the regulation, it will cancel the registration and punish the people responsible."
The announcement banning the sale of prisoner's organs was made after the United Nations reports, those of Amnesty International, and the Kilgour/Matas report. There was no discussion from the Chinese as to who the prisoners were, their numbers, nor was there any mention of the Falun Gong.
Yet, the Cassandras and Diogenes' still try to tell their story of egregious human rights violations. In a letter submitted to Juan E. Méndez, the United Nations Special Adviser on Prevention of Genocide, the Falun Gong working group charged that "while the Chinese regime is cleaning up its operation, world governments and media have been slow to take this issue seriously. The U.S. State Department officials, for example, when they interviewed two witnesses, spent most of the time questioning if the witnesses had made up the story rather than asking for more details of their accounts."
Later the U.S. State Department issued a statement that it had found "no evidence" to support the Falun Gong's claims of torture and live donor organ harvesting.
Follow Georgianne Nienaber on Twitter: www.twitter.com/nienaber