AN INDEPENDENT tribunal which has been investigating “forced organ harvesting” from Chinese prisoners, including Falun Gong practitioners and Uighur Muslims, published its final judgment.
The China Tribunal concluded that “forced organ harvesting has been committed for years throughout China on a significant scale, [and] the tribunal has had no evidence that the significant infrastructure associated with China’s transplantation industry has been dismantled and absent a satisfactory explanation as to the source of readily available organs concludes that forced organ harvesting continues till today.”
Central to the tribunal’s findings were estimates of the actual number of transplants taking place—far higher than official statistics, implausibly short waiting times and first-hand testimony from former detainees. Some of the organ extractions were said to have been conducted on live victims who were killed during their procedures.
The final judgment confirmed an interim statement from late last year that “the tribunal’s members are certain—unanimously, and sure beyond a reasonable doubt—that in China forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience has been practiced for a substantial period of time involving a very substantial number of victims.” Separate reports have suggested the market for such organs in China to be worth billions of dollars.
The tribunal’s chair Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, who made his name by prosecuting Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic, said that “there is no evidence of the practice [of prisoner organ harvesting] having been stopped and the tribunal is satisfied that it is continuing.”
Back in 2014, the Chinese government claimed that the practice of harvesting organs from executed prisoners would stop, but according to the tribunal that is not the case. “Falun Gong practitioners have probably the main source of organ supply,” the judgment stated, but “the concerted persecution and medical testing of the Uyghurs are more recent and it may be that evidence of forced organ harvesting of this group may emerge in due course.”
The tribunal heard evidence from human rights groups, investigators and medical experts in December of last year as well as April this year. Its conclusion that the number of transplants was far higher than official figures claim—with no plausible explanations and an entire infrastructure built up around the practice—came despite China’s claims that it “always follows the World Health Organization’s guiding principles on human organ transplant, and has strengthened its management on organ transplant in recent years.”
Various reports have estimated the number of transplants in China is somewhere between 60,000 and 100,000 per year.
One formerly imprisoned Falun Gong activist told the Guardian that “after about a month in the camp, everyone was handcuffed and put in a van and taken to a huge hospital. That was for a more thorough physical check-up. We were given X-rays. On the third occasion in the camp, they were drawing blood from us. We were all told to line up in the corridor and the test was given.”
The tribunal’s judgment included assurances that China’s reputation as “a gross human rights abuser” has not had a bearing on its “even-handed” conclusions, and that “the tribunal has requested contributions from the PRC at every stage.”
The tribunal found that “the Commission of Crimes Against Humanity against the Falun Gong and Uyghurs has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt,” with the “torture of Falun Gong and Uyghurs” in addition to “forced organ harvesting,” but stopped short of concluding that genocide had taken place. The tribunal left that open for further investigation: “There can be no doubt that there is a duty on those who have the power to institute investigations for, and proceedings at, international courts or at the UN to test whether Genocide has been committed.”
Commenting on the judgment, Sir Geoffrey Nice said “very many people have died indescribably hideous deaths for no reason, that more may suffer in similar ways and that all of us live on a planet where extreme wickedness may be found in the power of those, for the time being, running a country with one of the oldest civilizations known to modern man.”
Responding to earlier claims ahead of the final report, the Chinese embassy in London said that its “government always follows the World Health Organization’s guiding principles on human organ transplant, and has strengthened its management on organ transplant in recent years. On 21 March 2007, the Chinese state council enacted the regulation on human organ transplant, providing that human organ donation must be done voluntarily and gratis. We hope that the British people will not be misled by rumors.”