Sombre relief and muted jubilation greeted the final judgement of the China Tribunal into Organ Harvesting in London this week.
That China has been and still is complicit in the mutilation of innocent human beings for their organs was found to be irrefutable and that those dealing with China in any capacity should recognize they are dealing with a “criminal state,” was the hideous verdict brought to a packed chamber.
Sir Geoffrey Nice, QC, a former prosecutor in the Milosevic trial in The Hague, addressing the 200-strong audience of victims, medical and legal experts, members of the public, translators, journalists and witnesses to the gruesome trade in harvested organs, announced the verdict they had been waiting for since the proceedings were opened last year.
The judgement was hailed by Dr Enver Tohti, one of the key witnesses, who himself had once been required to remove the organs of a live prisoner, as “a triumph of the human rights movement.” After the ruling he said it was a resounding guilty verdict “against the PRC and its organ harvesting campaign.”
What Is the China Tribunal?
The Independent People’s Tribunal into Forced Organ Harvesting from Prisoners of Conscience in China, was set up by The International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China (ETAC). The consortium was birthed in 2014 to collate information relating to persecution of Falun Gong members in China and harvesting of their organs. The International panel was invited last year to form a tribunal to examine the evidence objectively and determine whether or not criminal offenses had been committed by the PRC. The hearings were spread over five days in December 2018 and April this year.
In delivering the judgement, Sir Geoffrey Nice, QC, was at pains to stress the independence of the Tribunal and its reluctance to infer PRC complicity on the basis of its unwillingness to engage in proceedings. But despite the resounding silence from Beijing and its disinclination to defend its role in the organ trade, the Tribunal determined there was enough evidence to reach its damming verdict.
Extraordinarily short waiting times for organs promised by PRC doctors and hospitals, the number of transplant operations performed which far outnumbered the government and hospital statistics for voluntary donations, and a “massive infrastructure development of facilities and medical personnel for organ transplant operations,” even before the voluntary donor scheme was planned, were some of the conclusions, which when combined, led to the unavoidable final conclusion that forced organ harvesting has been committed for years throughout China on a significant scale.
The Tribunal determined that Falun Gong members were the primary victims of the harvest although more recently the comprehensive DNA collection since 2017 of every man, woman, and child from Xinjiang’s indigenous Uyghur community in China has created an ominous pool of potential donors from which, it concluded, evidence of harvesting might later emerge. The recent incarceration of an estimated 3 million Uyghurs in so-called transformation through education camps has added to the concern that this has become a particularly vulnerable group. The Tribunal summary judgement report states that “it has had no evidence that the significant infrastructure associated with China’s transplantation industry has been dismantled and the absence of a satisfactory explanation as to the source of readily available organs concludes that forced organ harvesting continues till today.”
The Campaign Against Falun Gong
Stark evidence of intent to destroy the Falun Gong movement, followers of which were described in the judgement as engaged in an inoffensive pursuit of “truthfulness, compassion and forbearance,” emerged in the report. Shocking details of former CCP leader Jiang Zemin’s vicious purge against the movement demonstrated violent intent towards its members. In 1999 Li Lanqing, Vice Premier of the China State Council, announced General Secretary Jiang’s directive to, “ ruin their reputations, break them financially and destroy them physically.” Jiang himself said in 2001, “Beating them to death is nothing. If they are disabled from the beating, it counts as their injuring themselves. If they die, it counts as suicide.”
The Tribunal concluded from the PRC’s obvious intent of harm towards the Falun Gong group, that it “would have no difficulty in committing them to any fate,” adding that “they could readily use them as the population of donors accessible to hospitals in the PRC, whose organs could be extracted according to demand for them by means of forced organ harvesting.”
The Tribunal stated that it was “certain, that it was indeed the Falun Gong who were used as a source-probably the principal source-of organs for forced organ harvesting.”
Evidence of organ removal without the formal establishment of brain death, witness statements asserting the removal of Falun Gong prisoners’ organs whilst still alive, systematic medical testing singling out Falun Gong and Uyghur prisoners, and routine “brutal and dehumanising” torture of members of these groups, including rape and sexual violence, were highlighted in the report.
Investigative telephone calls made in 2006 and 2018 to hospitals, by callers pretending to need a transplant, provided telling evidence that many clinics used prisoners’ organs for transplantation, a large number used or could use Falun Gong members as the supply and some admitted the organ source was a secret. It was clear that the organs would be provided by those who were alive at the time of the calls and they could be made available at short notice. Staggering evidence had already been provided to the Tribunal that individuals needing an organ transplant could order a new liver or heart in China at two weeks notice.
Misleading CCP Statistics
Exponential increases in organ transplantations in the PRC have combined with an inexplicable mismatch in the availability of voluntary donors. Since executed prisoners ceased officially being a source of organs in 2014, the number of transplants rather than decreasing, actually continued to rise. In March 2013, Huang Jiefu, the architect of the expansion of the PRC’s transplant capability boasted to the Guangzhou Daily that he had performed over 500 liver transplants in 2012. Another surgeon, Zhu Jiye, Director of the Organ Transplant Institute of Peking University, reported his hospital conducted 4,000 liver and kidney transplants within a particular year, representing 33% of the total peak of 12,000 transplants acknowledged by the state authorities from that one hospital alone.
The Tribunal, assessing the anomalous data provided by the PRC became convinced that the government’s official statistics had been falsified. Taking as credible that between 60,000 and 90,000 transplant operations are carried out each year, and the number of official eligible donors in 2017, stood at 5,146, the Tribunal concluded there was “an incomprehensible gap,” leading to the conclusion that, “there must have existed another source or other sources of tissue-typed organs.” The stark deduction was that, “there must have existed a body of donors unidentified in the PRC material.”
Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity
Despite many elements of the harvesting scandal being indicative of the crime of genocide, the Tribunal stopped short of this accusation because the definition was fraught with legal uncertainty. Some prisoners had in fact been released and there was some doubt over establishing intent by those involved. But the Tribunal was unanimous in declaring it a crime against humanity.
UK and Australian Governments Criticized
The UK and Australian governments were both singled out for their reluctance to test the allegations independently and examine the facts presented to them on numerous occasions. “It might be expected that allegations such as these, as grave as any on a death by death basis that were proved against the worst political mass murderers of the 20th century- might be thought worthy of the most urgent and politically beneficial action that the world would allow,” the Tribunal stated in its concluding remarks. “Not to be expected, it seems, of the UK and Australia,” it added. Unlike the USA which took a different stance.
Responding to the publication Tribunal’s final judgement, Dr John Chisholm, BMA medical ethics committee chair, said in a press release on the BMA website, “We are gravely concerned by the judgment delivered today by the Tribunal,” adding, “The practice of forced organ harvesting represents a gross and continuing violation of a series of inalienable, fundamental human rights, including the right to life and in some cases, the right to be free from torture or from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” It went on, “Any involvement of physicians in the forced harvesting of organs is therefore unlawful, unethical and in contravention of the professional codes set down by the World Medical Association. The primary duty of all physicians is to promote the wellbeing of their patients – and, first and foremost, to ensure they do no harm.”
The BMA called on the People’s Republic of China to “facilitate a thorough, independent investigation into forced organ harvesting, and to protect physicians’ core professional obligations by ensuring that physicians are never involved in such practices.”
Regarding the UK, the BMA called on the Government to “reconsider its position on this issue in light of the findings of the Tribunal, and to use its influence in the international community to ensure that a full and proper investigation takes place.”
Citizen Advocacy Urged
The Tribunal concluded by calling on governments and individuals, activists and motivated politicians to decide for themselves whether crimes had been committed in the face of the findings, and “do whatever they might think is their duty in the face of any revealed wickedness of the kind shown in any finding that forced organ harvesting has happened or is continuing to happen in the PRC.”
“Tragically unchecked action allowed many people to die horribly and unnecessarily in the service of objectives that successors to the present PRC leaders may come to recognize were never essential to the wellbeing and growth in stature of their state,” the Tribunal concluded.