Tags: CCP, China, Falun Gong, human rights, labor camps, persecution of dissidents, Society
By Carol Wickenkamp
Electric shock weapons, dart guns, stun shields, thumb cuffs, restraint chairs, and spiked batons are just some of the specialty weapons designed to inflict pain being exported by Chinese companies closely aligned with, or owned by the state, according to a new report by Amnesty International.
Some of the equipment discussed in the report, such as ordinary handcuffs and restraints, a limited number of controlled stun weapons, and certain blunt striking instruments, all have legitimate law enforcement purposes, the report says.
But many of the weapons are “intrinsically cruel, inhuman and degrading, and therefore should be prohibited” from manufacture in the first place, the report says.
There are currently no comprehensive international covenants governing the manufacture and export of police weapons, and part of Amnesty’s advocacy work following the report will be to begin establishing such a mechanism—with China perhaps serving as a negative example.
Read more: China Markets Tools of Torture
Tags: CCP, China, Falun Gong, human rights lawyers, labor camps, persecution of dissidents, Society
The Masanjia Women’s Labor Camp was supposed to be closed down, but now it simply has two names
By Carol Wickenkamp
For years the tales of torture that came out of Masanjia Women’s Labor Camp in China’s northeast were a potent demonstration of the abuses of the country’s forced labor system. In turn, Masanjia’s apparent closure last year was seen as a hopeful sign that the system was, in fact, being closed down, as authorities had promised.
But recent reports from China tell a different story: the Masanjia Forced Labor Camp is alive and well, except for the fact that it’s no longer called the Masanjia Forced Labor Camp. Instead, the same sprawling set of buildings and facilities appears to be now put to use as both a “drug rehabilitation center” and as part of the Liaoning Province’s prison system. These bureaucratic modifications disguise the fact that the same guards, in the same buildings, abuse and exploit the same or similar prisoners—just as before.
Masanjia made world headlines in 2013 when an Oregon woman, Julie Keith, discovered a letter from the labor camp in a plastic Halloween kit shipped from China. Shocked, she contacted the media, which set about exploring the background of the camp.
It was exposure of that kind that the Chinese Communist Party found deeply embarrassing, and was part of the reason for its high-profile move to—on paper at least—close the system of re-education through forced labor, which has been part of the Party’s coercive toolkit since the 1950s.
When a CNN film crew visited Masanjia last year, it had every impression of being empty. No guards were in the watchtowers, and no one came to trouble CNN correspondent David McKenzie as he strolled within feet of the chain-link fence. Minghui.org, a website that carries firsthand reports from the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China, also reported last year that the remaining practitioners detained in Masanjia were being released. Falun Gong is a spiritual practice that has been persecuted in China since 1999.
The Same Camp
Shang Liping, a female Falun Gong practitioner, was recently transferred from Shenyang Women’s Prison to the Masanjia Addiction Treatment Center, according to a March report in Minghui. The report continued that staff and police were the same people that had worked at Masanjia when it was a labor camp.
Yu Shuxian and Chi Xiuhua, two other female Falun Gong practitioners, were put into the same drug rehab center in Masanjia this January, according to Minghui. When family visited Chi, they found that “she had completely changed; her face was pallid and listless, she neither lifted her head nor opened her eyes, and she had no energy to speak,” according to Minghui. “Her family was distraught, extremely scared, and could not guess what torment she had been put through.”
Other sections of the large labor facility have been transferred to the provincial prison system, and operate as the Masanjia Prison District of Liaoning Province’s Shenyang Women’s Prison, according to Minghui.
The Shenyang provincial prison for women is extremely violent, with Minghui reporting 20 Falun Gong deaths since 1999. At present at least 84 Falun Gong practitioners are incarcerated in Liaoning Province’s women’s prison in Shenyang, many of them serving sentences of up to 13 years.
A group of Falun Gong practitioners who were held in the women’s prison in Shenyang were transferred to the Masanjia Prison District, most of them this year. Multiple telephone calls made by Epoch Times to phone numbers identified as belonging to Masanjia were not answered.
Niu Guifang, a female practitioner, in a trial thick with illegalities, was sentenced to the women’s prison in March 2013, and was transferred to Masanjia Prison District at the end of last year. Although her hands were injured by the prison police, and she couldn’t hold heavy things, she has still been forced to work every day in the workhouse at Masanjia, Minghui reported in April.
When the Communist Party announced the death of the re-education through labor system in early 2013, seasoned observers of the regime’s security system began expecting what has now transpired.
“Cosmetic changes” won’t stop the abuses, said Sophie Richardson, the China director at Human Rights Watch. Instead, they “might only further entrench the system,” she said.
A detailed report by Amnesty International nearly one year later observed: “Abolishing the RTL [re-education through labor] system is a step in the right direction. However, it now appears that it may only be a cosmetic change just to avert the public outcry over the abusive RTL system where torture was rife,” said Corinna-Barbara Francis, China researcher, in a December 2013 paper.
“It’s clear that the underlying policies of punishing people for their political activities or religious beliefs haven’t changed. The abuses and torture are continuing, just in a different way,” she said.
That same month the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy noted, in its own report in the matter, that re-education through labor has simply been replaced with other forms of detention, like forced drug rehab and “legal education classes.” The group said, “These systems are already used in Tibet and merely continue the abuses associated with RTL under a different name.”
The Same Work
While the new division at Masanjia appears to be between a prison and a drug rehabilitation center, the latter, as far as prisoners of conscience go seems to be used in the same way that the old labor camp was used: Falun Gong practitioners are sent there by police, without a trial, regardless of their drug-free lives.
The mixing of prisoner types has taken place for years in China. “People from the Liaoning Provincial Labor Education Bureau came to audit us in 2011, and ordered that every Falun Gong practitioner needed to take a test. Our medical examination document listed us as drug addicts, but in fact, out of the nearly 400 inmates, only four were drug users,” former Masanjia inmate Qiu Tieyan wrote in October 2013 about her incarceration.
“We had to work six hours every day making military coats, forest coats, and firefighter jackets for the Jihua 3504 Limited Corporation in Changchun City. Outside of the workshop, we had to load and unload things, clean, and do other chores. Guard Wang Guangyun brought in her dirty laundry from home, and we had to wash it. We had to keep this a secret and do it quickly,” she said.
The same Minghui report said there are about 300 prisoners in the Masanjia Prison District, but did not give a total for Falun Gong practitioners held there.
Drug offenders are treated in the same way in detention as when the facilities were called re-education camps. They are forced to do factory work, light manufacturing, and repetitive labor.
Once locked up, there is little rehabilitation either—only brutality and hard labor, said Human Rights Watch in a 2012 paper.
“If people weren’t working hard enough we would beat them with a one-meter board, or we would just kick them or beat them with our hands,” a former re-education through labor guard from Guangxi Province told Human Rights Watch. “Sometimes people got beaten to death. About 10 percent of people who come into re-education through labor centers die inside.”
Additional research and reporting by Lu Chen
By Lu Chen
An extralegal detention center in China was shut down on April 28 after it drew national and international attention for detaining practitioners of Falun Gong and, then, a number of human rights lawyers who traveled there in an attempt to rescue those practitioners.
“The Qinglongshan brainwashing center was dissolved today! All the illegally detained people there have gone home!” said a note that was shared by Chinese lawyer Liu Jinbin, and posted on Weibo, a Twitter-like platform in China.
“We’ve sacrificed a lot, especially the just lawyers and family members from different places. This will become part of the annals of history!” the post, written by an Internet user @mianma, who was informed of the closure by released prisoners, was spread widely online, including by a number of human rights lawyers involved in the struggle.
The apparent closure of the facility follows months of effort by activists and civil rights lawyers from around China, who wrote letters and traveled there, in some cases camping out overnight and hunger striking in protest.
Liu Jinbin added, however, that while the facility was shut down, seven people were still detained elsewhere. The identity of those seven was not immediately clear.
What Liu called the Qinglongshan brainwashing center was formally called a “Legal Education Base,” operated by the Jiansanjiang Land Cultivation General Office and local public security officials, in the province of Heilongjiang, which borders Russia.
In general, extralegal facilities of this sort are called black jails. This facility was specifically established for detaining practitioners of Falun Gong, a traditional spiritual practice, and forcing them to give up their faith, often times through physical and mental torture. The Chinese Communist Party began a brutal persecution of Falun Gong in 1999 that involved mass arbitrary incarceration and widespread torture.
As a result of their efforts to secure the release of three Falun Gong practitioners detained at the Jiansanjiang facility, seven more practitioners and family members, plus the four human rights lawyers were detained and beaten, they said in later interviews.
Internet users calculated that they had 24 broken bones in total after being beaten and tortured by police there: Tang Jitian reported 10 rib fractures, Jiang Tianyong 8 rib fractures, Wang Cheng 3, and Zhang Junjie 3 spine fractures.
The lawyers were sentenced to between 5 and 15 days of administrative detention by the Jiansanjiang Public Security Bureau on March 22 for “using heretical religions to harm society,” after they staged protests outside the black jail.
Their detention, in turn, resulted in dozens of other activists flocking to the center and camping out the front for up to 10 days agitating for their release. Police arrested at least 15 protesters.
The shutdown of the center, though not announced on any official websites, has excited many Internet users and activists.
“24 ribs were not broken in vain,” was one widely forwarded remark.
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By Gisela Sommer
The U.S. State Department joined international human rights groups in their support of four Chinese lawyers who are being held captive and tortured at a detention center in Heilongjiang Province for trying to represent a group of detained Falun Gong practitioners.
The lawyers, Tang Jitian, Jiang Tianyong, Wang Cheng, and Zhang Junjie were arrested on March 21 when trying to provide legal counsel to family members of Falun Gong practitioners who are held at the Qinglongshan Detention Center, officially titled the “Jiansanjiang Land Cultivation General Office Legal Education Base.”
The four lawyers were brutally beaten by police, according to Zhang Junjie, one of the lawyers who was released on March 27 and diagnosed with three fractures in his spine. The other three lawyers are still held at the Qixing Detention Center.
On March 25, another group of lawyers and citizens went to the detention center and held a hunger strike outside, demanding to meet with the detained lawyers. On the morning of March 29, the entire group of 17 people was arrested, many of them also subject to violence.
Three of the first group of detained Falun Gong practitioners are said to be in critical condition.
“This appears to be part of a disturbing pattern of arrests and detentions of public interest lawyers, Internet activists, journalists, religious leaders and others who peacefully challenge official Chinese policies and actions,” the U.S. State Department said in an April 3 email statement to the Epoch Times.
“We call on Chinese authorities to guarantee all Chinese citizens the protections and freedoms to which they are entitled under China’s international human rights commitments, including the freedom of expression,” the statement continued.
Chinese Lawyers Demand Investigation
Earlier, the Chinese Bar Association had issued a directive, telling lawyers not to participate in protests at Jiansanjiang, and not to post any online comments.
“It’s not an authentic Bar Association,” Tang Jingling, a lawyer from Guangzhou, told New Tang Dynasty (NTD) Television. “The Communist Party manipulates the organization, which is playing a very disgraceful role.”
Tang said lawyers have posted an open online letter, condemning the Lawyers Association and calling for an investigation of its head.
U.S.-based human rights lawyer Ye Ning told NTD, “Lawyers across the country should stand up for their persecuted colleagues.”
On the morning of April 2, lawyers Tsai Ying, Hu Guiyun, and Dong Qianyong delivered an appeals letter to the All China Lawyers Association in Beijing. They demanded that the Association defend the rights of lawyers to practice law and initiate an investigation team on the arrest, beating, and humiliation of the lawyers, NTD reported.
Amnesty International issued a public statement on March 28, expressing concern about “the safety of the three lawyers who remain in detention and that they too may have been tortured.”
Amnesty also expressed concern that the Chinese authorities are using other forms of arbitrary detention, such as the so called Legal Education Centers, to hold people previously detained in labor camps, which were shut down last year.
In Hong Kong, China Rights Lawyers Concern Group, Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, and the Justice Peace Commission of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese protested outside the Mainland Chinese Liaison Office on April 2. They called for closing the Jiansanjiang brainwashing center and for the immediate release of the three rights lawyers still in detention, the Minghui report said.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a traditional Chinese spiritual discipline that became popular in China over the 1990s. By 1999, when former leader Jiang Zemin ordered the persecution, approximately 70 to 100 million Chinese were practicing Falun Gong, including many high-level Party members.
To date 3,750 Falun Gong deaths from torture and other abuse in detention have been documented, as well as over 63,000 accounts of torture. An estimate of the real figure puts the actual death toll in the tens of thousands, according to Minghui.
In a statement issued on April 3, the New York based Falun Dafa Information Center called for the release of all detained Falun Gong practitioners and their lawyers in China.
The statement said the detentions and subsequent mistreatment of the four lawyers illustrate two important trends: First, that many Chinese people are challenging the persecution of Falun Gong, by signing petitions, calling for the release of practitioners from labor camps, and more. Second, that the persecution continues despite the closure of the reeducation through forced labor camps, which had become a symbol internationally of the Party’s human rights abuses.
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By now many of us heard the Chinese Communist Party’s promises to close its system of forced labor camps. While I sincerely hope this comes to pass, the other forms of detention in China have not gone away—in particular, the regime’s notorious prison system remains as brutal and lawless as ever. I was an inmate of Chinese jails for seven years, and have seen and experienced what conditions there are like.
Abuses in countries outside China have been reported because inspectors are allowed there. But never since the Communist Party came to power in 1949 has it allowed unfettered, independent investigation of its vast detention system. When UN personnel visited in 2005, their movements were severely restricted.
I was detained in the Beijing Qichu Detention Center in 2005, where UN Special Rapporteur Manfred Nowak was allowed to visit. But in the end the UN didn’t manage to get any interviews with Western or Chinese prisoners; they were only allowed to observe the conditions on the cells via monitors. Nowak reported that all efforts to interview former detainees, family members, lawyers, and human rights activists suffered government interference.
The conditions in Chinese prisons are horrible. I saw them. Cells were between 7 and 21 square meters, and between six and sixteen inmates were crammed inside. We slept, ate, and defecated in these tiny rooms. The food was appalling, and not one day passed when we were not physically and psychologically tortured by the guards or “hired” inmates.
Beatings, starvation, and forced labor are all parts of life for those stuck in Chinese prisons. Even minor complaints can result in punishment or even death for yourself or an inmate. Some prisoners I knew tried to commit suicide because the conditions were so abusive. Only some succeeded. Those who didn’t were punished severely.
Guards would sometimes extract confessions from prisoners for the crimes they were accused of: they would break fingers, apply electric shocks, or if they did not want the injuries to show, would simply expose prisoners to the freezing weather, or force them into stress positions for hours.
Embassies in Western countries heard about all this from me, but they did nothing to speak out about it—perhaps because they don’t want to jeopardize their country’s relations with China.
The time I was imprisoned, from 2003 to 2010, also saw China issue new laws and make a lot of promises about improving its human rights policies. Many in the West thought that helping to improve China’s economy, and giving China the Olympics in 2008, would somehow result in more respect for human rights, or even democracy. It was a fantasy. But this fiction, along with corporate greed, has simply helped the Chinese regime cover up the truth of its abuses, while everyone goes about business as usual.
The kowtowing of the West has, of course, also been used by the Communist Party’s propaganda machine to legitimize its rule. The domestic propaganda system, which creates fake films showing how mild prison life is in China, means that the Chinese public is kept in the dark. Foreign media have only shed some light on the conditions in these detention facilities, partly because in-depth investigation may result in their being thrown out of China.
That’s precisely what happened to Al Jazeera after it produced a documentary about the system of slave labor camps, which heavily featured interviews with former Falun Gong detainees.
Excuses about the lack of evidence of abuses also mean that Western countries have put minimal political and diplomatic pressure on the Chinese regime. The regime thus continues to carry out these abuses in the dark, with organ harvesting from living prisoners—some death row prisoners, but mostly Falun Gong prisoners of conscience—being the most appalling.
When I was in the Beijing prison, organ theft was a known and sad fact for all inmates on death row. I spoke to a policeman who admitted to this. “So what?” he said. “They’re going to die anyway, so let the hospitals do what they want with the organs.” I will never forget the time that an inmate recounted to me how he had just met a person from his hometown that was supposed to have already been executed and cremated. This person knew that because the family had received the ashes—two years before.
This made it clear to us all that many inmates were being kept alive simply so their organs could be matched with donors. Then the real execution—or, rather, tranquilization and organ extraction, which leads to death—would take place. A similar process has been used against prisoners of conscience, including some Uyghurs in the 1990s, and a large number of Falun Gong practitioners during the 2000s and up till today. Western countries have not shown an interest in looking closely at these modern horrors, happening right under their noses.
I hope that officials and politicians from democratic Western countries, including the United States, and Sweden where I am from, who interact with Chinese officials, will dare to tell them that they know full well what is happening inside China. I also hope that they will begin demanding that all prisoners of conscience be set free from these facilities.
George Karimi is a Swedish businessman of Armenian origin. He was sentenced to life in prison in China after one of his business associates was tortured and forced to accuse him of counterfeiting money. He spent seven years in Chinese jails until being transferred to Sweden in 2010; now, after a reduction of his sentence, he is due to be released in November 2015. Mr. Karimi recently completed a book about his experiences.
By Lu Chen
Although the notorious labor camp system in China has effectively been shut down in most parts of the country, the extralegal detention and torture of large numbers of Chinese citizens has not ended.
One of the new, legally dubious, facilities that has cropped up for those deemed by the Chinese Communist Party to be anti-social elements—such as elderly people who petition the government after their houses are demolished—are called “disciplinary centers.”
The full name of one of the facilities exposed on the Internet recently was “The Education and Discipline Center for Abnormal Petitioning.” It was located in Wolong District, Nanyang City, in Henan Province, central China.
Petitioning refers to seeking out higher-level authorities to resolve injustices perpetrated by officials at lower levels, which the judicial system has been unable or unwilling to correct.
“It’s a new style of labor camp,” said Yang Jinfen, an Internet user who posted a photograph of the facility in Nanyang. “It illegally detains petitioners. My mom Zhang Fengmei who’s nearly 70 years old, has been detained there since Feb. 4 without any legal procedure …”
The picture and message was first put onto Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, and then deleted.
Yang said her mother was first locked away there for 10 days in January.
“They detained my mom in a very small room without a bed,” she said to Epoch Times in a telephone interview. “They just gave her a blanket and let her sleep on the floor. They detain you as long as they want. It’s the same with the labor camp and black jail. The local government officials are just like rogues.”
Local Communist Party cadres respond to the incentives and disincentives set by those higher up in the system.
“The local government is afraid that if my mom goes to Beijing to petition, it will reflect badly on their political achievements,” Yang said. “So they just detain her.”
Zhang Fengmei, the mother, is calling for justice for her son, who was tortured into disability during a prison sentence. The son, Yang Jinde, was an entrepreneur who was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2010 for six crimes including “leading a criminal syndicate” and “disturbing social order.” The criminal justice system in China is often prone to corruption and, many Chinese complain of unfair judgments.
Rather than investigate the torture of her son, authorities in Henan simply locked up the mother.
Inside the disciplinary centers, petitioners are said to be under “24-hour nonstop discipline, warnings, and educative persuasion,” according to a local government website.
But according to Xinhua, the state mouthpiece, an official at the State Bureau of Letters and Calls in Henan, the agency that is responsible for petitioners, admitted that the disciplinary centers “do not meet legal requirements.” The official did not disclose his name.
Yang Jinfen, whose mother is locked up, said, “My mom just wants her son healthy.”
Human rights advocates might have been tempted to cheer when the Chinese regime confirmed on Nov. 15 it was closing its vast system of labor camps. Any desire to celebrate, though, would have been rapidly stilled by the knowledge of what this closure entails.
According to the state-run Legal Evening News, many labor camps are “closing” by simply changing the sign out front. Camps are being rebranded as prisons or addiction treatment centers, while inside the same walls the same guards mete out the same abuses as before.
There have been reports of some inmates being released, but prisoners of conscience, including Falun Gong practitioners, are being sent from labor camps to prisons or, of greater concern, to “legal education centers,” otherwise known as brainwashing centers.
Finding new places for the practitioners, estimated to be a population in the hundreds of thousands, is a big task, but there are more legal education centers in China than labor camps.
While the centers now hold a variety of detainees, they appear to have been created in 1999 expressly for the purpose of “transforming” Falun Gong practitioners—forcing them to give up their beliefs.
According to Chinese rights lawyers, these centers are less regulated than labor camps and more violent. There is no limit on how long individuals may be detained in the centers, which, like labor camps, do not require a trial or even a warrant to hold someone.
In a blog post Chinese rights lawyer Teng Biao referred to the centers as “torture camps” and quoted other lawyers as saying that “such illegal detention facilities have killed more people than prisons and labor camps.”
In 2014 look for human rights advocates to begin reporting on these centers, bringing upon them the condemnation the labor camps had so justly earned.
In fact, this has already begun, a Dec. 17 Amnesty International report warns that former labor camp detainees are being sent to legal education centers, where they suffer torture and abuse.
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Tags: Kilgour and Matas
The European Parliament has put the People’s Republic of China on notice that its practice of forced organ harvesting is unacceptable.
A resolution passed Thursday afternoon in Strasbourg, France, expresses “deep concern over persistent and credible reports of systematic, state-sanctioned organ harvesting from nonconsenting prisoners of conscience in the People’s Republic of China, including from large numbers of Falun Gong practitioners imprisoned for their religious beliefs, and members of other religious and ethnic minority groups.”
China is called on by the resolution to: “immediately end the practice of organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience”; respond to requests from the UN special rapporteurs on torture and on freedom of religion or belief as to the source of the organs used in transplantation and allow the rapporteurs to conduct an investigation; and immediately release “all prisoners of conscience in China, including the Falun Gong practitioners.”
The EU and its member states are recommended by the resolution to publicly condemn the transplantation abuses in China and to raise awareness among their citizens travelling to the PRC. The resolution calls for the EU to conduct a “full and transparent investigation” into the PRC’s organ transplant practices and “for the prosecution of those found to have engaged in such unethical practices.”
The resolution also identifies the main victims of forced organ harvesting in China: “In July 1999, the Chinese Communist Party launched an intensive, nationwide persecution designed to eradicate the spiritual practice of Falun Gong leading to the arrest and detention of hundreds of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners … there are reports that Uyghur and Tibetan prisoners have also been subject to forced organ transplantations.”
“The position of the European Parliament is really very important,” wrote Dr. Rafael Matesanz, the director of the National Transplant Organization in Spain, in an email.
“That the representation of the citizens of 28 EU countries express a common position in front of the Chinese government and ask them to stop immediately all these unethical practices … should be certainly welcome,” wrote Matesanz.
He noted that on this occasion “other considerations” that have “modulated the positions of many governments or international bodies” were forgotten. The PRC regularly uses access to trade and diplomatic browbeating to try to suppress criticism of its human rights record.
Erping Zhang, the spokesman for the Falun Dafa Information Center, said the EU resolution “has sent a loud message to the CCP regime that such crimes against humanity are unacceptable by members of civilized societies.”
Kirk Allison, Ph.D., the director of the program in Human Rights and Health at the University of Minnesota, hailed the resolution as a “significant step forward.”
“By formally recognizing as credible the evidence of … ongoing abuses,” Allison wrote in an email. “It advances the issue from discussion to action.”
“International pressure should follow in the same direction [as the EU resolution] not just in Europe but all over the world, with international bodies like the WHO, the UN, or the Council of Europe,” wrote Matesanz.
Dr. Torsten Trey, executive director of the human rights organization Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting, sees the resolution as helping to galvanize international condemnation of the PRC’s forced organ harvesting.
The resolution “will serve as a beacon for many other sovereign countries and regions to demand from China to immediately live up to the basic rights of the 21st century,” wrote Dr. Trey in an email.
Matesanz said the resolution gives “A clear definition about what should not be done for patients: going abroad to buy an organ of unethical origin.” It also gives guidance to “some European doctors, which ‘understand’ or even facilitate such practices for the theoretical benefit of their patients.”
Matesanz worked in his native Spain to see that a law was passed that criminalized a Spanish citizen receiving an organ taken from an unwilling victim, whether the transplantation took place in Spain, China, or elsewhere.
Trey wrote, “This resolution will contribute to sensitize nations around the world to adopt regulations that put an end to unethical organ trade and procurement.”
The EU resolution builds on work done investigating and condemning the PRC’s regime of forced organ transplantation and its human rights record.
The resolution refers to U.N. conventions, previous EU resolutions, hearings at which “former Canadian Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific David Kilgour and human rights lawyer David Matas” testified, and reports by U.N. special rapporteurs.
The work that has previously been done on the issue of the PRC’s forced organ harvesting has borne fruit not only in the EU resolution, but also in several other recent initiatives.
On Dec. 9, a delegation from Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting delivered a petition to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights that had been signed by 1.48 million people from 53 countries.
The petition asks the high commissioner to call for “an immediate end of forced organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners in China,” to initiate investigations that will lead to the prosecution of those responsible for this crime against humanity and to call upon the Chinese government to end the persecution of Falun Gong.
On Dec. 6, Canadian M.P. Irving Cotler introduced a law that seeks to prevent Canadians from getting a transplant of organs that were not willingly donated.
The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote soon on a resolution with 165 co-sponsors that condemns the forced harvesting of organs from prisoners of conscience.
In Australia, when the Parliament of the state of New South Wales comes back in session in early 2014, it will consider a bill that will prohibit obtaining organs harvested from unwilling victims.
Tunne Kelam, a European Parliament MP from Estonia, believes the fundamental cause of the forced organ harvesting in China is the system.
He told a New Tang Dynasty reporter that, being from Estonia, “I’m more familiar with that totalitarian system, they can do anything, being a dictatorship.”
At a forum held at the European Parliament on Dec. 11, the day before the vote on the resolution, Edward McMillan-Scott, the vice president of the EU Parliament responsible for human rights and democracy, described China as “probably the most terror-based country on earth.” He said, “The repressive, brutal, and arbitrary tactics used by the Chinese regime… [are] the result of totalitarianism.”
Zhang of FDI wrote that the practice of forced organ harvesting in China “is essentially the expression of the CCP’s system of eradicating all dissenting voices.”
“The ultimate solution to ending injustice in today’s China is a change in the system, namely a China free of the Communist Party,” Zhang wrote, “where the citizens of China can freely practice their personal beliefs and follow their cultural traditions.”
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Tags: Kilgour and Matas
By Stephen Gregory
A grass-roots movement that has spanned 5 continents and 53 countries reached a climax Monday morning in Geneva when a delegation from the organization Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting formally presented to the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights a petition that has garnered almost 1.5 million signatures. The presentation was timed to coincide with International Human Rights Day, which falls on Tuesday, Dec. 10.
The petition calls for “an immediate end of forced organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners in China,” and asks the high commissioner to initiate investigations that will lead to the prosecution of those responsible for this crime against humanity and to call upon the Chinese government to end the persecution of Falun Gong.
In a one and one-half hour meeting in a conference room in the U.N.’s Motta Building, Torsten Trey, M.D., executive director of Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting (DAFOH), along with three doctors and three lawyers from six countries and three continents, presented a letter for the high commissioner and briefed the high commissioner’s staff on the forced organ harvesting taking place in China.
In a phone conversation, Torsten Trey explained how the petition got started. The members of DAFOH were frustrated, Trey said. They knew an atrocity was taking place in China, but governments and professional and human rights organizations had often been slow to react.
The DAFOH members thought that if people were asked directly, they would respond. In June DAFOH reached out to a few supporters to start collecting signatures for a petition. The signature collection started in earnest in July.
The petition took off. The more people heard about the organ harvesting taking place in China, the more volunteers and organizations wanted to help gather signatures, in more places around the world. Like the proverbial snowball rolling downhill, the petition rapidly started getting bigger.
By the end of September it had 400,000 signatures. By the end of October, the signature count doubled to approximately 800,000. By the end of November, when the petition was closed, it had almost doubled again, to 1.48 million.
The work of gathering signatures was done by volunteers, with Falun Gong practitioners taking the lead in most areas, but then often finding non-practitioners jumping in to assist. Getting signatures was not a hard sell.
Zek Halu, a real estate developer in his mid-60s, would show up in London’s Chinatown with two clipboards under each arm, one in his hands, and pens sticking out of his pockets.
On the weekends, the streets of Chinatown are thronged with people, mostly European tourists. Halu would plunge into a group and find one person who wanted to sign. “Soon, everyone wants to sign, and then the clipboards with the petitions start getting tossed around in the crowd from one to the other. One can’t keep up.”
Also collecting signatures in London’s Chinatown was a couple in their sixties from mainland China each of whom had been tortured in mainland China for their belief in Falun Gong. Without speaking any more English than “please sign” and “petition,” they would collect signatures every day.
“Their faces are so kind,” Halu said, “People want to do whatever they ask.”
In fact, formidable, elderly Chinese practitioners of Falun Gong with limited English skills collected signatures in major cities all over the world. In Toronto, the 75-year-old Ms. Li Jiayu collected 8,000 signatures from July through November.
In Switzerland, the Swiss chapter of the human rights organization International Society for Human Rights organized the signature collection.
Silvan Fedier, a 40-year-old educator, headed up the project for the society. “Individuals from churches would simply pick up a petition somewhere without our knowing and take it to their church,” Fedier said in an email, “And then they would send us the filled-out signature sheets.”
In Korea, tables at which doctors could sign the organ harvesting petition were set up at 18 different meetings of medical societies; 7,000 doctors signed.
While people were willing, most had not heard of the forced organ harvesting before and were not prepared for what the volunteers had to tell them.
“80 to 90 percent were disgusted,” said Thanh Le a retired manager for Los Angeles County in California. “They couldn’t believe it. ‘This is the most inhumane thing,’ they would say.”
Toronto’s Ms. Zhou Chuanying said through an interpreter, “What impressed me the most was how many people’s faces were shocked after they read the petition letter. With some, their eyes reddened. With others, there were tears on their cheeks.”
The information in the petition letter first came to the world’s attention in March 2006, after an investigative reporter for a Japanese TV station and the wife of an eye surgeon fled the country for the United States, where they told a gruesome story.
They provided credible details about a camp near a hospital in northeastern China in which Falun Gong practitioners were held as a kind of live organ bank. When the hospital needed an organ for transplantation, they would check the records of individuals in that camp, and if one matched, pluck that person out and harvest all of his or her salable organs, killing the practitioner in the process.
After this story broke, international human rights lawyer David Matas and former Canadian Secretary of State David Kilgour began investigating the allegations that forced organ harvesting was taking place on a mass scale in China.
In the report Bloody Harvest (released in July 2006 and since published as a revised report and then a book), they concluded the allegations were true. They estimated that in the years 2000–2005, Falun Gong practitioners had provided organs for 41,500 transplantations.
Among other pieces of evidence, Kilgour and Matas pointed to the following: unexplained blood tests and medical exams given to detained Falun Gong practitioners, but not to other prisoners; phone admissions by doctors in China in 2006 that they had or could get access to “fresh organs” from Falun Gong practitioners; the way in which the number of transplants done in China shot upward after the persecution of Falun Gong began in China; and the absence of any other source other than Falun Gong practitioners that could provide the organs for this rapid increase.
Bloody Harvest understands the forced organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners to be part of the persecution of Falun Gong launched by then-paramount leader Jiang Zemin in 1999.
Falun Gong involves practicing meditative exercises and seeking to become a better person by living according to the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. After first being publicly taught in 1992, it rapidly became very popular. According to official Chinese state reports at the time, at least 70 million people had taken up the practice. Practitioners say the true number was over 100 million.
Jiang feared how popular Falun Gong had become—more were practicing it than were members of the Chinese Communist Party. He also feared that the traditional moral teachings of Falun Gong would erode the authority of the Communist Party’s atheist ideology.
David Matas is well-positioned to gauge how the public is responding to the forced organ harvesting taking place in China. In an email, Matas wrote that he had traveled “almost continuously” for more than seven years—since completing Bloody Harvest in July 2006—meeting with groups and politicians to tell them about these crimes against humanity.
He wrote that when he returns to a location after time has lapsed, he can see that awareness of organ harvesting, and activism opposing it, has increased, with more concern at higher levels of society. “The story of organ transplant abuse in China has, over the years, spread wider, higher, and deeper,” Matas wrote.
“There is a gathering global momentum finally to set in place the mechanisms to prevent the transplant abuse we have seen and continue to see in China.” Matas wrote. “The petition both reflects and adds to the momentum.”
That momentum has recently broken through in several legislatures. On Dec. 7 legislation was introduced in the Canadian Parliament that would sanction those involved in organ trafficking. On Dec. 12, the European Parliament is scheduled to vote on a resolution condemning organ harvesting. On Dec. 13, the U.S. House of Representatives is also expected to vote on a resolution condemning organ harvesting.
A state in Australia is considering legislation that would prohibit individuals from receiving organs harvested from unwilling victims. New legislation has been discussed in France. In Sweden recently, 20 MPs took part in a brainstorming session that discussed possible new legislation.
“Out of the Chinese Communist Party’s killing of Falun Gong for their organs will arise a global legacy, an ethical global organ transplantation system,” Matas wrote. “That legacy will survive long after the Communist Party of China is a bitter, distant memory.”
Additional reporting by Allen Zhou
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More in China Human Rights
This song wins 2013 “Best Song for Indie/Documentary Film” at Hollywood Music in Media Awards.
The permanent committee of the Council’s parliamentary assembly met in the Austrian capital of Vienna on Friday to discuss measures against the illegal trade of human organs, Germany’s international broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported on Saturday.
Under the convention, proposed by the leading multi-national organization for human rights on Europe, there would be punishments for those who pay people for their body parts or force them to part with their organs.
The agreement could come into force by next year after European countries individually adopt the rules of the convention.
Petition to the UN Human Rights High Commissioner .
Calling for an Immediate End of Forced Organ.
Harvesting From Falun Gong Practitioners.
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) performs the second-highest number of organ transplants per country per year, yet there exist no sufficient public organ donation program or organ distribution system in China, and the Chinese population has a cultural aversion to donation.
It is understood that medical professionals in the People’s Republic of China began conducting organ transplants with the use of organs that were harvested from executed prisoners in the 1980s. In June 2001, Chinese Dr. Wang Guoqi testified before the House International Affairs Subcommittee that hospitals worked in collusion with state security agencies to extract organs from executed prisoners without written consent of the donors. These transplants became a lucrative source of income for Chinese hospitals.
The practice of sourcing organs from nonconsenting prisoners is a violation of medical ethics and has been condemned by international medical organizations, such as the WMA, TTS and the transplant community.
In order to protect their families and associates, while in detention, many Falun Gong prisoners refuse to provide their real names or other identifying information. This makes them more of a target for transplant abuse.
In 2006, Canadian researchers human-rights attorney David Matas and former Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific David Kilgour conducted an investigation into allegations of organ harvesting from Falun Gong prisoners. Based on extensive circumstantial evidence, their report concluded that the allegations were true, and that tens of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners may have been killed for their organs.
In their book Bloody Harvest, Messrs. Matas and Kilgour quote a 2006 phone recording of a doctor from a Chinese hospital:
Caller: I want to know how long [the patients] have to wait [for a liver transplant].
Dr. Dai: The supply of organs we have, we have every day. We do them every day.
Caller: We want fresh, live ones.
Dr. Dai: They are all live, all live…
Caller: I heard some come from those who practice Falun Gong, those who are very healthy.
Dr. Dai: Yes, we have. I can’t talk openly to you over the phone.
Caller: If you can find me this type, I am coming very soon.
Dr. Dai: It’s OK. Please come.
After 1999, an exponential increase of transplantations in China coincided with the onset of the unlawful and brutal persecution of Falun Gong practitioners. In the absence of a public organ-donation program and a decrease in the number of executions, detained Falun Gong practitioners became part of a living pool of donors, ready to be organ harvested on demand. They have been contributing to the more than 10,000 transplants per year in China.
Falun Gong practitioners are subject to medical examinations while in detention, such as blood tests, urine tests, X‑rays, and physical exams. These examinations are unlikely to be motivated by health care concerns since detained Falun Gong practitioners are subject to persecution and torture. It is implausible that the detention centers would go to the extra expense for the exams unless there were financial returns.
There is a significant discrepancy between the number of organ transplants performed in China and the number of identifiable sources of organs, including death row prisoners. The PRC government has failed to adequately account for the sources of these organs.
Senior Chinese Communist Party officials are complicit in the forced organ harvesting from living Falun Gong practitioners. In 2012, David Matas said at the annual conference of the International Association of Genocide Scholars in San Francisco:
“On Nov. 30, 1999, the ‘610 Office’ [in China] called more than 3,000 officials to the Great Hall of the People in the capital to discuss the campaign against Falun Gong, which was then not going well. Demonstrations were continuing to occur at Tiananmen Square. The head of the ‘610 Office’, Li Lanqing, announced the government’s new policy on the movement:‘Defame their reputations, bankrupt them financially, and destroy them physically.’
A call to destroy Falun Gong physically is a call to genocide. It is not admittedly a call to genocide through sourcing their organs. Nonetheless, when that sourcing occurs, in the context of a call for physical destruction, the two should be linked. Organ sourcing is the means. Physical destruction is the intent.”
Under the format of “executing prisoners”, killing people to harvest their organs for transplantation is a crime against humanity and a breach of medical ethics. The demand for transplant organs must not justify the means.
Falun Gong practitioners, the largest group of prisoners of conscience in China, are the main targets of this crime against humanity.
By Steven Jiang, CNN
CNN — Tree leaves were turning yellow and red in Damascus, Oregon, in late October. Competing with fall foliage for attention were Halloween decorations, which adorned almost every house in this sleepy middle-class suburb of Portland on America\’s Pacific West Coast.
A few pumpkins sat on the steps leading to Julie Keith’s house, while three fake tombstones greeted visitors in the front porch — as they did last year.
“I feel obligated to use them every year now because I feel they need to have some worth,” said Keith, 43, who lives here with her husband and their two young children. “I am sad for the people who have to endure torture to make these silly decorations.”
The decorations came in a $29 “Totally Ghoul” toy set that Keith purchased in a local Kmart store in 2011. When she opened the package before Halloween last year, a letter fell out.
In broken English mixed with Chinese, the author cried for help: “If you occasionally (sic) buy this product, please kindly resend this letter to the World Human Right Organization. Thousands people here… will thank and remember you forever.”
Long hours, abuse
The letter went on to detail grueling hours, verbal and physical abuses as well as torture that inmates making the products had to endure — all in a place called Masanjia Labor Camp in China.
“It was surprising at first and I didn’t know if it was a hoax,” recalled Keith, a program manager at a company that runs a chain of thrift stores and donation centers. “Once I read the letter and researched on the Internet, I realized that this may be the real deal.
“I knew there are labor camps in China, but this slammed me in the face. I had no idea if this person was still alive or dead or in the camp — it’s extraordinary that it was able to come all the way from China.”
Keith heeded the writer’s call by reaching out to human rights groups but received no response. She then posted the letter on Facebook, which prompted the local Oregonian newspaper to run a front-page article.
As word of Keith’s unusual Halloween discovery spread, her story turned into international news, throwing a spotlight on one of China’s most notorious labor camps — and the controversial system behind them.
Tags: Body & Mind, CCP, China, Falun Gong, human rights, labor camps, organ harvesting, persecution of dissidents, Society
By Matthew Robertson
It is the latest attempt by the Chinese authorities to give a veneer of credibility to their organ transplant industry: new regulations. But the long anticipated rules about how organs should be procured and allocated, made public on Sept. 1, still don’t answer a few basic questions.
They do not explain, for example, whether the organs of executed prisoners will be included in the registry of organs that the authorities say they are establishing.
It was not until 2008 that Huang Jiefu, the then-Chinese vice-minister of health, acknowledged publicly and in writing that the Chinese transplant system relied heavily (to the tune of 90 percent) on organs from executed prisoners.
That was two years after reports emerged that prisoners of conscience, overwhelmingly practitioners of Falun Gong, a persecuted spiritual group, were the targets of widespread organ harvesting.
It was also nearly a decade after credible testimony was given that the Chinese system widely used death row prisoners. For many years, the Chinese authorities simply said that all organs from China came from voluntary donations, and attacked those who suggested otherwise.
Now, the authorities have admitted that they did in fact take organs from prisoners, and without consent—though they have never admitted to the harvesting of Falun Gong.
Chinese medical officials this year said that they intend to “phase out the dependency on organs from executed prisoners,” rather than promise to immediately cease the practice, as would be in line with international medical ethics.
Will executed prisoners be part of the organ registration system? It is unclear. Article II of the regulations says that it applies to all “citizens.” Do prisoners count?
The South China Morning Post quotes an unnamed surgeon saying that organs harvested from prisoners would enter the electronic allocation system. But China Daily, a state mouthpiece, says that only organs from the “general public” will be registered.
If the new system, called China Organ Transplant Response System (COTRS), did include executed prisoners, it would make it a very simple matter to launder the organs of Falun Gong detainees by representing them as death row prisoners.
Organ donation registration fraud in hospitals has been reported in the Chinese media, and official institutions in China are widely seen to lack probity and credibility. The security apparatus, and the military-medical complex, in particular, which have been heavily involved in organ harvesting, are notoriously secretive.
The regulations, moreover, do not provide any real transparency to the allocation process. The idea that the source of organs can be verified is bedrock for the trust that, for example, the United States organ donation system is based on.
Verification of the source is also a condition that the World Health Organization and The Transplantation Society, both international health groups that are attempting to work with the Chinese regime on its organ transplantation system, require from countries. They have shown little appetite for challenging Chinese authorities on their practices, however.
If organs were still “harvested and allocated in secrecy,” as Arne Schwarz, an independent researcher, put it, it would mean that none of the promises made by the authorities could be tested or trusted.
Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting (DAFOH), a medical advocacy group that typically attempts to strike a reserved tone, published a press release showing exasperation at what has become an exercise in avoidance by the Chinese regime.
China’s announcement of phasing out the harvesting of organs from prisoners is deceptive and insufficient, they titled the statement.
DAFOH’s primary problem with the regulations was similar to the issues articulated by Schwarz: no external safeguards or monitoring, and a miasma of ambiguity about whether unethically procured organs would be allowed into the new computerized system.
Failing to obtain these two items, DAFOH said, “We might need to ask ourselves, if China were successful in using a computerized organ-allocation system, whether the announcement of a phaseout is like a Trojan Horse that undermines and dilutes our ethical standards.”
Tags: CCP, China, Falun Gong, human rights, Kilgour and Matas, labor camps, organ harvesting, persecution of dissidents, Society
The West is deeply enmeshed in China’s questionable and lucrative organ trade, a major German newspaper says.
In China, executed prisoners’ organs are removed and sold for transplantation, including into patients from the West. Western hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and doctors support Chinese transplantation centres without asking questions, according to an investigative report in the German newspaper, Die Zeit.
The German-language report, titled “Herz auf Bestellung,” or “Heart to Order,” and written by Martina Keller, said it intends to expose China’s practice of execution on demand, and to shine a light on doctors who go against the ethics of their profession.
As they maneuver on a narrow path “between co-operation and complicity,” participants become entangled by moral conflicts, professional ambitions, and money, with many preferring to remain silent about the issue, writes Keller.
“A human being dies, just in time, so that another can continue to live. In the Chinese transplant system, this is possible. In the name of progress, in the name of making money—including Western money,” states the report.
The article poses the question, “Where must the West draw its boundaries so as to not become an accomplice?”
China holds second place in organ transplant statistics worldwide after the United States, “a fact that fills the government with pride,” writes Keller.
“More than 10,000 kidneys, livers, hearts, and lungs are being transplanted annually, [former] deputy minister of health Huang Jiefu—himself a transplant surgeon—wrote in the scientific journal The Lancet last year. According to his statics, close to 60 per cent of these organs come from executed prisoners, an open admission that surprises,” states Die Zeit.
Until a few years ago, the government had dismissed as propaganda all foreign reports regarding questionable Chinese transplant practices, and the number of executions in China is a state secret.
“Insiders say that transplant hospitals work together with prisons and send out their own teams to harvest the organs. It cannot be excluded that doctors are participating in the execution,” the report states.
Short Waiting Times
Patients from Western countries also get their new kidneys, livers, and hearts thanks to Chinese executions, the report claims.
Die Zeit conducted an interview with 63-year-old Mordechai Shtiglits from Tel Aviv, who flew to China in November, 2005 to receive a new heart at Shanghai’s Zhongshan hospital. There he met patients from Canada, Australia, and Hong Kong who were all waiting for new, life-saving organs.
In China, one gets a new heart in two to three weeks. If you are lucky, it is even faster…
“In China one gets a new heart in two to three weeks. If you are lucky, as Mordechai Shtiglits, it is even faster,” writes Keller. One week after his arrival in Shanghai, a Chinese surgeon told him he would get his new heart the following day, saying it came from a 22-year-old “donor,” the victim of a traffic accident.
The report claims that this situation is extremely unlikely, however. Although more than 60,000 Chinese people die annually in traffic accidents, Chinese doctors cannot know in advance when someone will die through an accident. In addition, China to this day doesn’t have a central system for rapid organ distribution.
Organ removal from executed prisoners is outlawed worldwide, according to Die Zeit—transplantation is based on the principle of voluntary donation. Prisoners, however, are not in a position to make a free decision. This is how the World Association of Doctors sees it, as does the International Transplantation Society.
Dr Jacob Lavee, director of heart transplantation at Sheba Medical Centre, took care of Mordechai Shtiglits for years before Shtiglits received his new heart in China. Lavee said he was almost out of hope for his patient. But when Shtiglits told him he was going to China to get a heart transplant in two weeks, Lavee smiled at him and said, “That is not possible.”
You can take a kidney or part of a liver from a living donor, Dr Lavee explained. “But when somebody gets a heart, it means someone else must die,” he told Die Zeit.
The article quotes New York ethicist Arthur Caplan, a contributor to the book State Organs: Transplant Abuse in China: “Prison authorities have to specifically search for potential donors, test their health, blood, and tissue type, and execute them while the tourist is in China. That is simply killing on demand.”
Organ trafficking that is tolerated by a government is frightening, as are executions that supply the material for transplantations. But it is not all—there is another, even worse suspicion. Canadian lawyer David Matas and David Kilgour, a former Canadian Secretary of State, both nominated for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, have meticulously gathered facts since 2006.
The two Canadians have tried as far as possible to keep everything in their research independent of statements made by Falun Gong practitioners, according to the Die Zeit article. They gathered not only material about Falun Gong prisoners who were medically examined in prisons, disappeared without a trace from camps, or whose corpses were missing body parts. They also interviewed foreign patients who received kidney or liver transplants in China.
They’ve even succeeded in questioning former accomplices about organ removal from Falun Gong prisoners. And they documented phone calls by investigators, who posed as patients or their relatives inquiring at Chinese transplantation centers and institutions about the availability of Falun Gong organs—Falun Gong practitioners are regarded as particularly suitable donors, while other prisoners are frequently infected with Hepatitis B.
They also cite a March 2006 phone conversation with Zhongshan Hospital, four months after Mordecai Shtiglits received his new heart there, Die Zeit reports. To answer the question of the caller on whether organs from Falun Gong practitioners were being transplanted, a doctor responded: “Ours are all of this type.”
Keller’s article quoted Manfred Nowak, Professor of International Law at the University of Vienna and UN Special Rapporteur on Torture until the year 2010, as saying that the allegations of the two Canadians are “well-researched and very serious,” and an important indication is the strong increase in the numbers of transplantations in China coinciding with the persecution of Falun Gong.
On behalf of the United Nations, Nowak sent an urgent call to the Chinese government to provide accurate information regarding the sourcing of all the transplanted organs. According to Nowak, China has rejected all accusations as propaganda, but never explained them.
“Elsewhere in the world, such announcements raise horror,” reports Die Zeit. “But what almost nobody knows is that the West is deeply enmeshed in the Chinese system.”
Pharmaceutical companies supply the Chinese market with anti-rejection medication, and carry out transplantation research that most likely uses organs from executed prisoners. Western hospitals and doctors support Chinese transplantation centers without asking questions, Die Zeit reports.
Western advisors of the Chinese government purport to help advance change in China’s transplantation practice, while at the same time pursuing financial interests in China.
Automobiles from the West are being outfitted as so-called ‘execution-mobiles’. A Chinese car dealer, for example, offers a European-brand van on the internet that is equipped with medical monitoring and infusion apparatuses—a grisly symbol of the hand-in-hand co-operation between executioners and doctors, reports Die Zeit.
With such entanglements, many Western participants prefer to be silent.
According to a presentation in Madrid by former Chinese deputy minister of health Huang Jiefu, organ transplantation experienced a remarkable upturn, saying kidney transplants increased between 1997 and 2005 from 3,000 to 8,500 per year, livers from two to approximately 3,000. The boom was possible in part thanks to new and better medications.
They are medications that come from the West, Die Zeit said.
The Swiss company Sandoz has supplied China since the mid 1980s with Cyclosporin A, which is vital to the survival of transplant patients. Roche and Novartis, who now own Sandoz, as well as Japan’s Astellas, now sell their anti-rejection drugs in China, according to Die Zeit. At the latest, since 1994, these corporations were able to know about the accusations against China: At that time the NGO Human Rights Watch published a detailed report, Die Zeit said.
At the End of 2005 Roche even began producing their drug Cellcept in China. During a grand opening celebration at their plant in Shanghai, according to a report in the Handelsblatt, Roche chief Franz Humer defended their decision why, of all places, Cellcept should be produced in China: In contrast to Japan, there were no ethical or cultural inhibitions in China against the transplant medical field, Die Zeit said.
The Western pharmacological industry is also responsible for research studies in China, Die Zeit said. Research journals have published nine clinical studies of around 1,200 transplantations in which the companies Wyeth and Pfizer from the U.S., Novartis and Roche from Switzerland, and Astellas from Japan have tested their transplant drugs. Altogether, these companies have collaborated with 20 hospitals in China for these studies.
Training Chinese Surgeons
In the journal Liver Transplantation, Huang Jiefu wrote that “whole transplantation teams from the PRC” have received their training abroad. He himself perfected his abilities in Australia.
Some Australian medical centers, meanwhile, have put requirements in place when training Chinese surgeons, writes Keller. For example, Dr Stephan Lynch at the Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane asks applicants to supply a written assurance by their clinic directors, or someone responsible in the provincial government, that the acquired abilities will not be used in transplant programs that use executed prisoners as donors.
However, German doctors are less scrupulous, Die Zeit reports. The German Heart Centre in Berlin, where nearly 2,300 hearts have been transplanted since its founding in 1986, works together with more than 30 hospitals in China, including transplantation centers. In 2005, the personal assistant to medical director Roland Hetzer proudly reported on Radio China International about their strong co-operation.
At the opening of a heart surgery conference in Shanghai in May, 2012, Hetzer announced: “More than 500 doctors…from China have participated in our work in Berlin over the years. Some of the surgeons have completed an entire five-year training. They all have done good work after returning to their homeland,” Die Zeit quotes.
Keller provides another, different interpretation: “Put another way: In Germany, Chinese doctors get the tools that allow them to transplant organs from executed prisoners in China—the tools for human rights abuses.”
Liu Zhongmin is one of the surgeons who has worked in Berlin for several years, Keller writes. He is now the executive director of the Chinese-German Heart Institute in Shanghai, which was founded in 2000 by the German Heart Centre and the Shanghai East Hospital. The hospital is the German’s closest co-operation partner in China.
Liu’s qualifications are listed on the website of the Heart Institute: He is responsible for clinical research into “heart transplantation, artificial heart, and combination heart-lung transplantation.”
In total, how many hearts have been transplanted at the Chinese-German Heart Institute? What is the source of the organs? To these questions posed by Die Zeit, Liu did not reply.
Weng, Hetzer’s long-time representative, and now a senior physician at the German Heart Centre, is, like Liu, an executive director at the Chinese-German Heart Institute. Several times a year, he travels to China, according to Die Zeit.
He, too, failed to answer questions from Die Zeit. As did Hetzer.
Stopping the Organ Trade
Since Mordechai Shtiglits returned from China, Dr Jacob Lavee has been active politically in seeking to stop more Israeli citizens from obtaining hearts in China, Keller writes. In 2008, a transplantation law was enacted in the country to prohibit medical reimbursement for transplants received in foreign countries if organ trade was involved. Since that time, no patients from Israel have gone for organ transplants to China.
Dr Lavee told Die Zeit that he has been subjected to online abuse for having blocked patients from going to China.
“About this accusation, I am very proud,” Lavee said. But he has not reached the end of his mission because international organ tourism to China continues, even as the Chinese leadership is—officially, at least—trying to reform, he told Die Zeit.
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