Honourable members of Parliament, thank you for your invitation to come and speak today. It truly is an honour and a pleasure to be here.
As the chair said, I am a member of an NGO called Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting, which is an organization that consists of medical professionals, mostly transplant surgeons, from around the world.
In the 1990s and early 2000s evidence continued to mount that China’s transplant practices were completely unethical. As early as 2001, the first solid evidence surfaced when a Chinese transplant surgeon named Wang Guoqi came to the United States to testify in front of a United States congressional hearing that China was using organs from executed prisoners.
Medical doctors were further alarmed by the rapid exponential increase in transplantations that occurred in China from 1999 onward. China went from performing a few hundred transplants each year to performing transplants on thousands of patients each year by 2004. This situation plus the tremendous increase in the number of transplant centres across China was very concerning, since no other country's transplantation program had ever grown so fast. China had done in five years what the United States took decades to accomplish.
According to China’s own official numbers, the number of transplants performed each year went from several hundred in 1999 to well over 10,000 in 2008. According to the China Daily newspaper, the actual number was closer to 20,000. It's now recognized by the international transplant community that China performs the second-highest number of transplants a year, behind only the United States, and that it will possibly overtake them in the next year or two. China, at one point, seemed to have an overabundance of organs, and its medical tourism for organs was booming.
Chinese hospitals were all over the Internet advertising that they could guarantee patients organs within a time frame of weeks and that transplantations could be scheduled in advance. This was shocking to medical professionals since the time frame to receive organs is typically years and not weeks. And the ability to schedule a transplant surgery in advance was simply unheard of.
Some hospital websites were bold enough to state that their transplants were superior because they were able to test the living donor’s organ function prior to the harvesting. It became very apparent that organ transplantation was an extremely profitable business in China, with some hospitals stating that their organ transplant programs were their number one source of revenue. On the Internet they were quoting prices as follows: kidneys, $60,000; livers, $100,000; and hearts and lungs, $170,000.
On the surface it might make sense, since China is such a big country, that they would be transplanting in such large numbers, but a few factors really need to be taken into consideration. First, there is no effective formal public organ donation system in China. This means that the hospitals rely on local situations and they have their own waiting times and organ supply. According to the Red Cross, there are only several hundred people who have registered to become organ donors in China. This is in stark contrast to the situation in other countries, such as the United States, which has over 100 million organ donors.
In 2010 China's own Vice-Minister of Health, Dr. Huang Jiefu, admitted that between 1997 and 2008 China had performed more than 100,000 transplants, with over 90% of the organs coming from executed prisoners. China's own people stated that.
The Chinese government does not provide an official count of people executed each year; however, most experts put the number of executions anywhere between 2,000 and 5,000. Obviously this number falls far short of the 10,000 organ transplants that occur every year. Furthermore, even if the numbers were to add up, there would still be a large discrepancy for the simple reason that it's impossible, given all the variables that go into transplantation, that all these people would be suitable candidates for organ donation and that they would match the people needing an organ transplant.
There was also a major problem in that the prison population has a very high percentage of people who have hepatitis B or hepatitis C, which would not make them candidates for organ donation.
Then you have the factor and the issue of timing. Since an organ, such as a liver, once harvested lasts outside the body only several hours, you cannot stockpile organs after execution for future use. That's just not possible.
China's own laws state that prisoners, once sentenced to execution, must be executed within seven days. All of this suggests that convicted felons sentenced to death could not fully account for all the large numbers of transplantations occurring every year in China, especially when you talk about the type of advanced, scheduled transplantations that occur with medical tourism.
The question from the medical community is the following: how is China able to have such an on-demand transplant system, capable of extremely short wait times compared with every other country around the world, including the United States, where the average wait time for a kidney is over two years, Canada being over three years? The only possible way China is able to do this is to have another source of donors that is available and that can be utilized on demand.
Several investigations have been performed—including by Ethan Gutmann, sitting next to me—and they have all pointed to the use of prisoners of conscience as the main source of organs, with practitioners of Falun Gong comprising the vast majority. If you follow the timeline of China's transplant boom and you compare it with the start of the persecution of Falun Gong, which occurred in 1999, the timelines correspond almost exactly. It's estimated that two million Falun Gong practitioners were arrested nationwide and placed in detention during the first year alone of the persecution, in 1999.
China has an extremely vast prison system. According to an NGO, the Laogai foundation, it's estimated that between three million to five million people sit in these prisons at any given time. Many experts now believe that Falun Gong practitioners comprise the largest population of prisoners of conscience in China today, with up to 500,000 to a million practitioners being held at any given time. Falun Gong practitioners are also persecuted nationwide, not just in one region, making these organs available to hospitals across the entire country.
One reason this may all be possible is that China has a very unique situation: the military controls the prison system. They control the forced labour camps. They control the majority of the hospitals that are performing transplantations. When patients who go to China for organs come back, they often state that they were performed secretively by military doctors in military hospitals, often in the middle of the night.
The persecution against Falun Gong is an officially state-sanctioned policy. Falun Gong practitioners are considered enemies of the state, without the right to have any legal representation. According to my knowledge, not a single person, since the start of the persecution, has ever faced criminal charges for either the torture or murder of practitioners. The lack of legal repercussions for the murdering of Falun Gong practitioners has made them a particularly vulnerable group. Falun Gong practitioners are often unwilling to give up their true identities in order to protect their families and friends, so they sit in these jails unidentified. Furthermore, a systematic propaganda campaign against this group has demonized them to the public.
An investigation in 2007 by Canada's own David Kilgour and David Matas compiled 52 verifiable forms of proof that Falun Gong practitioners were being killed for their organs. They estimated that 41,500 organ transplants that occurred in China from the years 2000 to 2004 alone had no verifiable source other than practitioners of Falun Gong. There have also been other investigators, including European Parliament member Edward McMillan-Scott.
Falun Gong practitioners who've escaped from China often testify that they underwent serial blood and urine testing, and had physical exams, X-rays, and ultrasound testing multiple times while in prison, while their fellow inmates didn't. It's hard to believe that they were doing these expensive tests to benefit the health of these people who were being tortured in prison camps.
There have also been interviews of fellow prisoners and prison staff who witnessed Falun Gong practitioners having their organs harvested. There have been several high-level Chinese officials admitting during taped phone conversations that they are aware that Falun Gong practitioners are being used as a source for organ donation. China's own vice-minister of health, Huang Jiefu, who's often quoted, has performed hundreds of transplants using organs from prisoners. He stated in an interview with China's People's Daily that the struggle against Falun Gong is a serious political campaign; we must not be merciful.
The two foremost international transplant organizations issued a letter this year to Xi Jinping, the leader of the Chinese Communist Party. In that letter, they called China's system of organ transplantation corrupt and “scorned by the international community”.
In April of this year, the director of the China organ transplant system, Wang Haibo, stated that the Chinese regime had no intention of announcing the schedule for weaning itself off the use of organs from executed prisoners, thus stating that the practice of using prisoners and prisoners of conscience as the main source of organs continues to this day, with no end in sight.
If we go by the statistics, we can estimate that every day a few dozen people are executed for their organs. If we wait another five years, there's a possibility that another 50,000 innocent lives may be taken. If we do nothing, we really run a serious risk of becoming accomplices to a great tragedy that we are witnessing in our own time.
Thank you for allowing me to be here today.
For those who engage in primary research on the organ harvesting of prisoners of conscience in China, this hearing comes at the end of a particularly ominous year.
Winter saw the fatal collapse of two years of medical engagement with Chinese medical authorities. Spring brought new evidence that the mass harvesting of prisoners of conscience was not only continuing but accelerating. Fall carried with it the first reports—unconfirmed, yet surprisingly consistent across China's provinces—that the Chinese authorities are no longer taking DNA swabs and blood tests consistent with tissue-matching from Falun Gong just in prisons and labour camps, but in their homes.
In short, the history that I'm going to condense for you today is still being written.
Let's begin the slides in the mid-1990s with one of these men who have just carried out an execution. The enlisted armed policeman on the left of the screen tries to look official. In the foreground, a supreme procuratorate officer, wearing a white rag against back splatter, meets our gaze defiantly. These are the eternal faces of routine execution. Blur the racial features and we see the same uneasy postures in many authoritarian states. In fact, the man in the front is actually wearing a white rag to protect against back splatter as he fires the gun.
Yet from an official Chinese perspective, there is nothing surreptitious taking place in this photograph. The signs on the executed prisoners indicate that they were duly convicted of capital crimes: murder, rape, drug sales, etc. Their bodies will be gathered into medical vans and harvested for their kidneys and livers. That's not secret either. Since 2006, Beijing has admitted that the vast majority of the organs that Chinese hospitals transplant into aging western organ tourists and rich Chinese are from death row prisoners.
Twenty years later—now—most executions are carried out in secret by surgeons. In the photograph shown here, they carry freshly extracted organs. The critical change since the mid-1990s is that the majority of retail organs in China are not extracted from death row convicts, but from prisoners of conscience—again, political and religious prisoners—who cannot be sentenced to death even under the vagaries of Chinese law: Tibetan monks, or a Uyghur activist who openly shook his fist in a demonstration, or a Falun Gong woman who passed out leaflets on the street.
The Chinese medical system is said to generate approximately 10,000 transplants per year. As Damon said, the number of legally executed prisoners is well below 5,000. Voluntary organ donations are negligible, and this suggests another source, but the fact is that we don't have to rely solely on mysterious numerical gaps. We can bracket this 20-year transformation through reliable medical witnesses such as this one.
I've supplied a map to you—I think you have it in your hands—that includes major police and medical installations throughout China that were involved in organ harvesting. It's not a comprehensive map; the sites are the ones that I established through personal interviews in my new book, The Slaughter. At the northwest corner of the map, you'll find Urumqi Railway Central Hospital.
In 1995, one of the hospital's surgeons, Dr. Enver Tohti, shown on the screen here, was driven to the Western Mountain Execution Grounds. Following an apparently routine mass execution, a prisoner was singled out for harvesting. The man was alive. The gunshot was deliberately aimed to the left of the side of the chest to produce shock that could act as a natural anesthesia. Dr. Tohti was told to remove the man's kidneys and liver. Following the prisoner's single reflexive contraction, Dr. Tohti performed the extraction. Based on the pulsing blood, the man's heart was beating until that. Now, this was a medical advance. Live organ harvesting promotes a lower rate of rejection by the new host.
Hard-core criminals also have a lot of health problems, particularly hepatitis. Two years later, Xinjiang was the staging point for a second change in medical ethics. The first organ harvesting of Uyghur political prisoners was carried out in Urumqi on behalf of five high-ranking Communist Party officials who had come in search of healthy young organs. Live organ harvesting would become routine through China, but the harvesting of prisoners of conscience who had not been convicted of capital crimes was initially confined to Xinjiang.
In 1999 the Chinese state security launched its largest action of scale since the cultural revolution: the eradication of Falun Gong. Yet by 2001, the blitzkrieg had become trench war, and Chinese military hospitals began targeting select Falun Gong prisoners for harvesting.
There are many points of evidence for this. As Damon said, Kilgour and Matas list 52 of them. I’ll present just one: Dr. Ko Wen-je, chairman of the Traumatology Department, National Taiwan University Hospital. Ten years ago Dr. Ko went to a mainland hospital to negotiate reduced kidney and liver prices for his department’s elderly patients. After a friendly banquet, Dr. Ko was given the Chinese price, which was about half of what a foreigner pays. In response to Dr. Ko’s concerns about unhealthy criminal organs, the Chinese surgeons assured Dr. Ko all the organs would come from Falun Gong: these people don’t drink; they don't smoke; they practise very healthy qigong. We appreciate your discretion.
Dr. Ko is now the leading candidate to be mayor of Taipei, largely due to the perception that he is a man of integrity. I’ll go further. Dr. Ko’s testimony has done more for this investigation than all the world’s health organizations put together.
The larger point is that the organ harvesting of prisoners of conscience did not begin with Falun Gong. It evolved organically. The central decision to exploit prisoners of conscience on a mass scale was little more than a legal blurring around the edges. Yet why would the Chinese Communist Party, so rich in resources and power, so eager for international acclaim, take such a risk? Thus the investigative problem becomes one of motive, of plausibility. It is not just the how, it is the why, and that question dominates six out of ten chapters in my book. I’ll just touch on it here.
You may have heard it said that the party’s decision to crush Falun Gong was driven by its size. At 70 million, there were five million more practitioners than party members. That’s true, but it is also germane that Falun Gong came from the Chinese heartland with no western intellectual or foreign trappings. So the party’s fears had more to do with that little boy in the picture in the front.
That boy could grow up to be a man and perhaps a soldier of the People’s Liberation Army like this one, and most of all they feared this woman Ding Jing. She lives in Toronto. She's in the hospital, I believe. As a Falun Gong coordinator, she taught the exercises. She carried plastic garbage bags around to make sure that practice sites stayed tidy, and she looked after three sites. The first was for China Central Television. The second was for the Public Security Bureau, the secret police of China. The third was for the high-ranking Communist Party officials and their wives.
For the party, Ding Jing’s tidy sites seemed to spring out of the Marxist template for seizing power. Start up in the heartland, infiltrate the intellectuals, then the military, and the leadership itself. For the nationalist elements of the party who believe this is China’s century, Falun Gong’s belief in truth, compassion, and forbearance suggested an earlier China: passive, weak, easily dominated.
Their theory was wrong. Falun Gong’s resistance in the labour camps and indeed globally was not passive. It was extraordinary, as was the party’s ferocious response. I won't show you pictures of labour camps and atrocities, but I will show you this picture of Falun Gong refugees, because if you take out this guy in the middle, this is a pretty good numerical representation of my findings. All these women were in labour camps. All were tortured. One of them was sexually abused. And the woman on the left was given a series of physical examinations aimed exclusively at assessing the health of her retail organs and tissue matching.
From a sample of 50 refugees, I conclude that half a million to one million Falun Gong are incarcerated at any given time. By 2008, approximately 65,000 Falun Gong practitioners had been harvested for their organs. My calculations are published in two books, The Slaughter and also State Organs, and my estimate is used as a baseline calculation in the text of U.S. Congress House Resolution 281. Your own Kilgour and Matas study, extrapolating from official Chinese numbers, estimate that approximately 60,000 Falun Gong organs were harvested by 2008. That’s an apples and oranges comparison, but clearly we are looking at fatalities above 50,000.
Although the numbers are much smaller, many Tibetans, Uyghurs, and even some house Christians received the same testing as Falun Gong. Enforced disappearances of Uyghurs are particularly dramatic. I won’t estimate that fatalities at this time. I can only say that two Tibetans came back alive.
I have some brief, final points. Any pretense that harvesting was not state controlled evaporated with this discovery that in 2012 these photographs of Wang Lijun are of the protege of former politburo member Bo Xilai. In fact Wang Lijun is directing live organ harvesting. Wang was given a public award for using a new lethal injection method on thousands of harvested prisoners. That discovery led the Chinese medical establishment to attempt to create a public picture of a rapidly reforming transplant system. Perhaps some of you have heard of these promises. In the west, the Transplantation Society played along by politely refusing to acknowledge the harvesting of prisoners of conscience, even if many members privately believe the allegations to be true.
Earlier this year the Chinese explicitly reneged on those promises of reform, leading the Transplantation Society with nothing but this now-embarrassing snapshot. We, in turn, have been left with a policy vacuum.
One component of that aborted reform was a supposed ban on western organ tourism. Actually, it never ended. Three months ago these Chinese organ brokers were still advertising openly on the Web.
The harvesting of Falun Gong did not end either. At this time I can't supply a Falun Gong fatality count after 2008, but this Falun Gong labour camp refugee was tested for her organs, along with 500 other prisoners, mainly practitioners, one year ago.
What should Canada do? I urge you to read my book with a critical eye. I am confident in my conclusions, in part because I don't go much beyond the findings that I've just presented. I did not write my book to tell you how you should think about the Chinese state.
If you believe that China is a good investment, well, perhaps it is. Yet the history I've described is also true, and that history is still being written even in this hearing today. I do not ask you to follow the path of divestment or trade war. I ask that you follow your own values. How can any Canadian citizen be complicit in a scheme where an innocent person will be killed so that a Canadian might live?
Canada has the power to stop this. The basic mechanism of criminalizing organ tourism is straightforward. If you go to China and you come back with a new organ, you will be incarcerated. Until the Chinese authorities provide a full accounting of this crime against humanity, I believe this is precisely the model that Canada should follow.
As has been said, we've had witness testimony on these matters more than once, principally from David Kilgour and David Matas.
I have to say that I feel that today is a tipping point in this whole matter because a number of considerations have emerged from your joint testimony today, which I think really are the basis for what needs to be done at this point, and that is to sound the alarm.
First, there is an ongoing crime against humanity being committed. There has been some sense—and maybe this has been part of what the Chinese authorities have managed to accomplish—that somehow there has been an abatement or that they have turned away from it, etc. I think the first thing that emerges is that there are ongoing crimes against humanity.
Second, these are state-sanctioned. I think that's an important dimension to it.
The third is that it is targeting political prisoners—mainly Falun Gong but not only Falun Gong—in the manner in which it is targeting minorities and the vulnerable in China.
The fourth thing is that there is an ongoing culture of impunity, and nobody has been held responsible.
The final thing—and this is where it becomes the responsibility of us as parliamentarians—is that if we remain silent, we effectively are complicit in all of the above things that I mentioned.
I've introduced a private member's bill to do what you've suggested, Dr. Gutmann, which is to criminalize organ tourism. It has been seconded by my colleague here Judy Sgro. But since I am a member of the Liberal party, the third party, it will not go anywhere. I'm also low on the totem pole, etc. in terms of getting a private member's bill considered.
This to me is something we have to get the government onside with, because unless we have governmental backing for it, it will go nowhere. That's what I think makes your comments propitious for the and the foreign minister, who will be visiting China shortly. I'm not saying that their bringing it up will have an impact; I'm saying that their not bringing it up would have an impact, because then China could therefore infer that we don't take it seriously.
So I think, therefore, number one, the representations in China have to be made by our leadership. Number two, we have to push that private member's bill to try to get it to be a governmental bill.
Finally—and this is what I wanted to put as a question on this—how can we internationalize the advocacy? How can we create a critical mass of advocacy around the points you mentioned, so that there will end up being a mobilization of shame against the human rights violated, in this instance in China, that will have some effect?