Scots MPs are among dozens of politicians from all parties at Westminster calling for a ban on UK citizens travelling to China for organ transplants.
China has been accused of forced organ harvesting for nearly two decades but has denied the claims, insisting it adheres to international medical standards that require organ donations by consent.
It has been alleged that prisoners in China have been killed ‘to order’ with their organs removed and sold for profitable transplant surgery.
The attempt by MPs to prevent organ tourism from the UK comes as an independent body called the China Tribunal continues its investigation into claims of forced organ harvesting.
The China Tribunal, chaired by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC who was a prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, took evidence last weekend from medical experts and human rights activists.
The China Tribunal’s final judgment will be published on 13 June but an interim report published last December said the allegations against China were “beyond reasonable doubt”. China was asked to participate but declined to do so.
In China forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience has been practised for a substantial period of time involving a very substantial number of victims. China Tribunal
The interim judgement by the China Tribunal said: “The Tribunal’s members are all certain – unanimously, and sure beyond reasonable doubt – that in China forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience has been practised for a substantial period of time involving a very substantial number of victims.”
At Westminster, an early day motion (EDM) was signed by 47 MPs including 10 Scots politicians who urged the UK government to “prohibit UK citizens from travelling to China for the purpose of receiving organ transplants”.
SNP MP Patricia Gibson backed the motion and spoke recently at a Westminster debate on the issue. “The UK should be working with the international community to ensure that citizens do not travel to China as organ tourists,” she said.
“I appreciate there my be challenges in preventing such travel, but the international community should seek ways which would help to overcome these challenges.”
Lib Dem MP Alistair Carmichael said: “I signed the EDM after having this concern raised with me by people campaigning to highlight the situation faced by the Uyghur Muslim population in Xinjiang Province.
“It is something that the UK Government seems very reluctant to acknowledge and should form part of any independent UN investigation into what is happening in Xinjiang.”
The Ferret reported in 2016 that the Scottish Parliament was hosting campaigners trying to raise awareness of Chinese organ harvesting. In 2016 Edinburgh‘s Royal College of Surgeons was urged to cut ties with Professor Huang Jiefu, an honorary fellow who was in charge of China’s transplant system.
Glasgow City Council’s twinning with a Chinese city called Dalian, which has been linked to organ harvesting, was also questioned.
Israel, Italy, Spain and Taiwan have all banned their citizens from organ tourism.
It is unclear how many UK citizens have travelled to China for transplants but a report by the International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse said the NHS confirmed 22 cases between 1995 and 2012.
The Chinese Embassy in London did not respond to a request for comment.
A Foreign Office source said that while UK physicians advise patients against organ tourism in less-well-regulated countries like China, it is very difficult to prevent British citizens travelling there. However, the source said it is thought that very few patients in the UK choose to do so.
A version of this story was published in The Sunday Times on 14 April 2019.