An Australian academic has challenged claims by China’s government that it has stopped removing organs from executed prisoners for transplants.
Professor Wendy Rogers spoke to The Ferret ahead of a visit to the Scottish Parliament for a special screening of a film on Chinese organ harvesting.
She called on MSPs to condemn the Chinese government for the practice and for the Scottish Government to pass a law to prevent people from taking part in the illegal trade of organs.
China has been widely condemned for taking organs from tens of thousands of prisoners including Tibetans, Uighurs and followers of Falun Gong, a banned spiritual movement.
They include a former surgeon called Enver Tohti who in 2013 said during a visit to Scotland that he was ordered to remove the kidneys and liver of a live prisoner.
Under mounting international pressure Chinese officials said in 2014 that harvesting organs from executed prisoners would end by January 2015.
Amnesty International, Tibet Truth and the European Parliament have all condemned China for using organs from prisoners of conscience.
This week the United States House of Representatives unanimously passed an unprecedented resolution condemning forced organ removal from Falun Gong practitioners and other prisoners of conscience in China.
House Resolution 343 was co-sponsored by 180 Democrat and Republican members. Among other actions, it demands that the Chinese government immediately end the practice of forced organ removal and stop the persecution of Falun Gong.
Professor Wendy Rogers – from the Department of Philosophy and Clinical Medicine at Macquarie University in Sydney – said China has been misleading and distorted the truth regarding its promises to stop using organs from prisoners.
She said that in 2015 there were some 5000 liver transplants alone at Tianjan First Central transplant centre and twice that number of kidney transplants.
Figures from the Red Cross Society of China organ donation registry reported there were just 7667 transplants across the whole of China in 2015.
People released from labour camps gave accounts saying they had examinations focused on the health of their organs while they were otherwise being beaten, tortured and maltreated Professor Wendy Rogers
Professor Rogers said: “If this estimate is anywhere near accurate, then the total number of transplants per year in the whole of China is far in excess of the number of organs that could be procured from the officially stated number of national voluntary donations.”
“People released from labour camps gave accounts saying they had examinations focused on the health of their organs while they were otherwise being beaten, tortured and maltreated.
“We’ve got a Chinese government that refuses to issue any information on how many transplants it is doing and there’s this growing body of circumstantial evidence that they’re doing many transplants, which certainly can’t be explained by voluntary donations or by criminal prisoners who are being sentenced to death.”
Professor Rogers also urged Edinburgh’s Royal College of Surgeons to cut ties with Professor Huang Jiefu, an honorary fellow who is in charge of China’s transplant system.
She said the University of Sydney, Australia, ended its relationship with Professor Jiefu last year after controversy over his links to organ harvesting.
She said: “They really couldn’t keep him on their books as an honorary because he told so many conflicting, inconsistent and incompatible stories in the public press that he’s just not credible. It’s not credible for him to say that he’s not done organ harvesting.”
Glasgow City Council’s twinning with a Chinese city called Dalian linked to organ harvesting was also questioned by Professor Rogers.
She said: “My preference would be for it to end but after some dialogue. I would encourage some questions to be asked from surgeons in Glasgow to say can you tell us what is happening with transplants, can you show us your audit trail for your transplant procedures.”
“Then if they can’t do that and provide an adequate explanation for where their organs are coming from then that would be grounds not to continue.”
Last Wednesday, 15th June, MSPs watched the award winning documentary Hard To Believe which examines the issue of forced live organ harvesting from Chinese prisoners of conscience.
The event was organized by Bob Doris MSP, of the SNP. He said: “The first step for Scotland’s MSPs in relation to Chinese forced organ harvesting is to ensure that we get ourselves properly informed. Whilst I sought to raise awareness of the issue in the last session of parliament, with so many new parliamentarians it is important to hold another event.”
“There is a growing number of parliamentarians across the globe seeking to put pressure on China to halt this abhorrent practice and we must play our part here in Scotland.”
“Glasgow City Council may be twinned with Dalian and I would urge them to be critical friends with the city should they decide to continue that association. If they wish to develop that relationship, then they must also condemn the brutal and inhumane practices that still exist and join with Scotland’s Parliamentarians to urge an end to forced organ harvesting.”
“Edinburgh University have rightly felt the heat for its links with Huang Jiefu. He is directly linked with forced organ harvesting and his statements about ending harvesting from prisoners seems to ring hollow given the reports over reclassifying prisoners as ‘citizens’ following their death.”
“Our academic institutions should not be giving respect or credence to Huang Jiefu until this practice ends. The severing of any link between Huang Jiefu and Edinburgh University would get a collective cheer from human rights campaigners and be very welcome by me.”
Yu Yu Williamson, a Chinese human rights campaigner and Falun Gong practioner based in Glasgow, said: “Scotland should make a concerted effort to raise awareness with its nationals and within its medical community; so that nationals don’t go to China as organ tourists and medical staff do not partner with China and become accomplices in forced organ harvesting of prisoners of conscience.”
“In the past three years, 19,000 people from Scotland signed DAFOH petition to UN Human Rights High Commissioner. Nicola Sturgeon should represent Scottish people and do what she can since this is a severe crime against humanity. As far as we know that since China’s brutal persecution of a large number of peaceful Falun Gong practitioners begun in 1999 the organ transplant business has spread all over China’s major cities including Glasgow’s twin city-Dalian. ”
“State institutions in Dalian are heavily implicated in forced organ harvesting of live for profit. Glasgow won commendations as one of the first cities to voice support for Nelson Mandela while he was still locked up in a prison.”
“I hope that Glasgow city can continue its heritage as a champion of human rights. People in Glasgow are rightfully outspoken about human rights violations happening around the world. Glasgow people care about injustice and will not be silenced by oppressive regimes. My friends and I strongly feel that Glasgow City Council should end its link with Dalian.”
Glasgow City Council said: “Glasgow intends to continue its twinning relationship with Dalian. The city believes maintaining its relationship and encouraging dialogue is a positive way to promote mutually beneficial projects between our cities and encourage good practice.”
“Illegal organ harvesting is clearly a deplorable practice. Human and civil rights are a fundamental part of the council’s outlook and these issues were raised by the former Lord Provost Bob Winter when he was in China in 2008.”
Michael Lavelle-Jones, President of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, said: “As a non-political organisation dedicated to the advancement of surgical practice, in order to ensure the best outcomes for patients, we acknowledge and respect the concerns which have been raised about this complex issue.”
“We take any such concerns very seriously and, as we do not have a current or active relationship with Professor Jiefu, we are currently investigating this issue further with the care and consideration it merits, and are in communication with our international contacts in an effort to secure more in-depth information.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Organ trafficking is already illegal in Scotland. The Human Tissue (Scotland) Act 2006, is based on the principle of people freely indicating their wish to donate after their death.”
“It prohibits the trafficking of organs, and provides severe penalties for anyone found guilty of doing so. Any practice at odds with this approach would be quite unacceptable.”
“Here in Scotland, as in the rest of the UK, organ donation is based on the concept of altruism, and we know how strongly recipients of organs value the sense of donation being a gift from a deceased person.”
The Chinese Embassy in London did not respond to a request for a comment but a spokesman called Zhu Haiquan said last Tuesday that the allegations of organ harvesting were fabricated.
Speaking in response to the US House of Representatives’ vote, he said Falun Gong is anti-China and urged Congress to refrain from supporting it.
A version of this story was also published in the Daily Record.