Organ Trafficking: No Guts, No Glory

Written by: Regina Paulose

So it began…

Falun Dafa (also referred to as Falun Gong) “is a spiritual discipline that seeks to improve body and ethics. It contains features of traditional systems, like Buddhism and Daoism, combined with a set of gentle exercises. Its core principles are “truthfulness, compassion and forbearance.”[1]  When the spiritual practice was first introduced in 1992 by Li Hongzhi in China it was welcomed, but that reception quickly faded when the group’s membership became larger than that of the Chinese Community Party. From its inception,[2] the group reached approximately 10 million members and by 1999, it reached 70 million members.[3] It was then that friend turned into foe and persecution of the group began.[4]

In 1999, the group was outlawed in China, because the government accused them of “spreading fallacies, hoodwinking people, inciting and creating disturbances, and jeopardizing social stability.”[5]  The government’s actions, some suggest, are rooted in concerns about the revival of independent religious activities in China and fears of the revolutionary nature of religious movements in Chinese history.”[6]  Some Chinese scholars note that “throughout Chinese history there have been these mass religious movements that have turned political and undermined the prevailing government.”[7]  It is under this supposed threat that China finds itself violating the human rights of this particular religious minority group.

The abuse suffered by the Falun Gong at the hands of the Chinese government has recently come to light. In an interview, a Falun Gong member reported,

“Because I would not renounce my Falun Gong convictions, between February 2000 and November 2001, I was imprisoned three times without any judicial process… Each time, I was mistreated and tortured by the police… At the end of September 2000, as I would not tell them my name, I was called out by the police and taken to a hospital for a complete medical examination: cardiac, blood, eyes, etc. I had to carry chains on my legs and I was attached to a window frame. The police injected me with unknown substances. After the injections, my heart beat abnormally quickly. Each one gave me the impression that my heart was going to explode…”[8]

It is estimated that in China’s forced labor camps the majority of those who are detained there (without hearing), as of 2007, are Falun Gong members.[9] Those who practice Falun Gong meet a cruel and horrible fate, often being victims of organ harvesting. Independent researchers have likened this process to the “Nazi treatment of Jewish prisoners in World War II concentration camps, which included using them for sadistic medical experiments and taking the gold fillings from the teeth of corpses.”[10]

In a report entitled Bloody Harvest, authors David Matas and David Kilgour, conducted an independent investigation regarding organ harvesting in China.[11] They found repeated incidents where the Falun Gong members were targeted and had their organs unwillingly extracted from their bodies. During the investigation conducted, people were asked to make phone calls inquiring as to how they could obtain organs. One phone caller documented:

“In early June, 2006, an official at the Mishan city detention centre told a telephone caller that the centre then had at least five or six male Falun Gong prisoners under 40 years of age available as organ suppliers. A doctor at Shanghai’s Zhongshan hospital in mid-March of 2006 said that all of his organs come from Falun Gong practitioners. A doctor at Qianfoshan hospital in Shandong in March implied that he then had organs from Falun Gong persons and added that in April there would be “more of these kinds of bodies…” In May, Dr. Lu of the Minzu hospital in Nanning city said organs from Falun Gong practitioners were not available at his institution and suggested the caller call Guangzhou to get them. He also admitted that he earlier went to prisons to select healthy Falun Gong persons in their 30s to provide their organs.”[12]

Both Matas and Kilgour conclude that the allegations were true and aimed at unwilling Falun Gong members. Furthermore, two other groups conducted independent investigations, utilizing the same techniques; and those investigations corroborated the findings in the Matas and Kilgour report. The Chinese government was given a chance to respond and during both instances insisted on the evilness of the Falun Gong.[13]

While the Chinese government has recently indicated that it is taking measures to “phase out the old system” and reform the way the organ donation system works, it is evident that many governments have taken a stand against this practice.[14] The Australian government abolished training programs for Chinese doctors in organ-transplant procedures in two hospitals and also banned joint research programs with China on organ transplantation. In early 2007, Israeli health insurance carriers stopped sending patients to China for transplants.”[15] As of 2013 the Chinese government continues to maintain its rigid stance and equates the end of organ harvesting with acceptance of the Falun Gong.[16]

Credit: Snippits and Snappits Blog

Credit: Snippits and Snappits Blog

Consider this…

Organ trafficking is just as reprehensible as other forms of trafficking. It brings in just as much money or perhaps even more money as other trafficking crimes.  For example, prior to allegations of organ trafficking in China, in 2005 the China International Transplantation Network Assistance Centre Website listed the price for a kidney at $62,000, a liver at $98,000–$130,000, and a lung at $150,000–$170,000. It is estimated that approximately $50 billion dollars is collected from this illicit activity.[17] Although this article has focused on the Falun Gong, it should be emphasized that anyone, anywhere can become a victim of organ trafficking.[18]  Reports have come out of India and Bangladesh, where people have sold their organs to repay microcredit loans.[19]

“A new fire” has started surrounding black market organ harvesting which has ignited several groups around the world to push for consideration of “preventative measures.”[20] Filmmaker Emir Kusturica from Serbia has announced that he intends to create a film regarding the topic, as people probably know little about the fact that “organ trafficking in Kosovo [was] the most horrific topics which [have] been kept hidden for years.”[21]  To prove Kusturica’s point:  Prosecutors in Kosovo have stepped up charges in a recent case, involving defendants who operated the Medicus clinic trafficking organs. “The clinic, which was closed down in 2008 as part of the initial investigation, is also mentioned in a Council of Europe report which alleged that elements of the Kosovo Liberation Army traded the organs of prisoners during the 1999 conflict.”[22]

Due to the nature of how secretive this trade is, it remains a challenge to truly understand the depths of this illicit trade (of course we do know it’s lucrative enough for organized crime to be involved). There are only two major international instruments that address this type of trafficking. The first is in the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons which includes “organ removal” and its subsequent sale as an end purpose of trafficking.[23] In addition, the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (2000) to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), states that the sale of children for the purpose of transferring their organs for profit should be a criminal offence.[24] It is clear that more needs to be done on a domestic, regional, and global level to provide for ethical medical practices in addition to protection for victims to come forward to report these atrocities.


[1] Hon. David Kilgour, J.D, “International Efforts to Stop Forced Organ Harvesting from Falun Gong in China” The Epoch Times, (February 10, 2013), available at: http://fofg.org/2013/02/international-efforts-to-stop-forced-organ-harvesting-from-falun-gong-in-china/. Another book which was recently published for those that are interested is: David Matas and Dr. Torsten Trey, STATE ORGANS, Transplant Abuse in China, (2012)

[2] Idem

[3] Matas and Kilgour, “Bloody Harvest” Revised Report into the allegations of Organ Harvesting of Falun Gong Practitioners in China, (January 31, 2007), available at: http://organharvestinvestigation.net/report0701/report20070131.htm#_Toc160145104

[4] Kilgour, cited above, Epoch Times

[5] CNN, “Falun Gong A Brief but Turbulent History” (June 24, 2002), available at: http://edition.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/asiapcf/east/07/24/china.fg.overview/

[7] Michael Lestz, “Why Smash the Falun Gong?” Religion in the News, Vol. 2, No. 3, (Fall 1999), quoting Merle Goldman, Professor of Chinese History at Boston University, available at: http://www.trincoll.edu/depts/csrpl/RINVol2No3/Falun%20Gong.htm

[8] Kilgour, cited above, Epoch Times

[9] Idem

[10] Julia Duin, “Chinese accused of vast trade in organs” The Washington Times, April 27, 2010, available at: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/apr/27/chinese-accused-of-vast-trade-in-organs/?page=all

[11] Matas and Kilgour, “Bloody Harvest” Revised Report into the allegations of Organ Harvesting of Falun Gong Practitioners in China, (January 31, 2007), available at: http://organharvestinvestigation.net/report0701/report20070131.htm#_Toc160145104. See also testimony by Matas and Kilgour at the Hearing before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on International Relations House of Representatives, “Falun Gong: Organ Harvesting and China’s ongoing War on Human Rights” 109th Congress, 2nd session, (September 29, 2006) available at: http://commdocs.house.gov/committees/intlrel/hfa30146.000/hfa30146_0f.htm

[12] Ibid

[13] Matas and Kilgour, cited above

[14] Mark McDonald, “China Fights to go Beyond Organs Harvested from Executed Prisoners” International Herald Tribune, November 2, 2012, available at: http://rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/07/organ-donation-struggles-to-take-hold-in-china/

[15] Julia Duin, “Chinese accused of vast trade in organs” The Washington Times, April 27, 2010, available at: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/apr/27/chinese-accused-of-vast-trade-in-organs/?page=all

[16] See David Matas, “Organ Harvesting, Falun Gong, and the Future of China” The Epoch Times, November 14, 2012, available at: http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/opinion/organ-harvesting-falun-gong-and-the-future-of-china-313165.html

[17] Andrea Hayley, Organ Trafficking, A New Crime of the 21st Century, The Epoch Times, February 28, 2013, available at: http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/united-states/organ-trafficking-a-new-crime-of-the-21st-century-348900.html

[19] Andy Henlon, “Micro-loans can lead to organ trafficking” March 7, 2013, available at: http://www.futurity.org/health-medicine/micro-loans-can-lead-to-organ-trafficking/ citing study by Monir Moniruzzaman,

“Living Cadavers” in Bangladesh: Bioviolence in the Human Organ Bazaar, Medical Anthropology Quarterly, March 9, 2012, full report can be found: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1548-1387.2011.01197.x/abstract

[20] IPS, “Organ Trafficking Plagues Global Community” February 18, 2013, available at: http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/02/organ-trafficking-plagues-global-community/

[21] TANJUG, “Kusturica to make film about Kosovo organ trade” April 1, 2013, available at: http://www.b92.net/eng/news/society-article.php?yyyy=2013&mm=04&dd=01&nav_id=85460

[22] Edona Peci, Fresh Charges in Kosovo –Organ Trafficking Case, Balkan Transnational Justice, March 22, 2013, available at: http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/fresh-charges-presented-in-organ-trafficking-medicus-case

[23] UN GIFT, Human Trafficking, accessed on April 1, 2013, available at: http://www.ungift.org/knowledgehub/en/about/human-trafficking.html

[24] Idem