Harvesting human organs in China


MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Thursday the 20th of June, 2019. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. First up today: a story you might want to listen to a bit later. This one may not be suitable for young ears.

It has to do with now hard evidence of an utterly barbaric practice in China.

For almost 20 years, we’ve heard accusations that in China, jailers forcibly remove vital organs from prisoners and sell those organs on the black market.

Chinese officials assured the watching world five years ago that they had stopped. But the stories persisted, many based on the eyewitness accounts of former prisoners themselves.

REICHARD: In 2018, the International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China formed a tribunal to investigate. It held hearings and interviewed witnesses. And on Monday, it released its final report.

June Cheng joins me now to talk about this, specifically the conclusion of the tribunal. She’s WORLD’s East Asia correspondent. Good morning, June!

JUNE CHENG, REPORTER: Good morning, Mary.

REICHARD: Well, what does the report say?

CHENG: It confirms all of our worst fears.

REICHARD:  How so? What are the details in the report?

CHENG: The tribunal found that China is still harvesting the organs of prisoners of conscience, especially Falun Gong practitioners. They found that there’s evidence that organ harvesting in China has occurred over the past 20 years and the tribunal chairman, Sir Geoffery Nice said, quote—”Very many people have died indescribably hideous deaths for no reason.”

So, the tribunal concluded that China has committed crimes against humanity against the Falun Gong and Uighurs and the evidence points that this is also indicative of genocide. They’re encouraging governments and international groups to investigate the issue further.

REICHARD: What other evidence of forced organ harvesting was reported?

CHENG: The tribunal heard testimonies from former Falun Gong and Uighur prisoners who recalled undergoing repeated medical exams and blood tests while imprisoned. They also heard from a Uighur doctor—Enver Toti—who said that back in 1995 he harvested the liver and kidneys of a prisoner while the man was still alive. Investigators have also called transplant hospitals pretending to be patients and they were told that the organs they would be receiving would be healthy as they came from Falun Gong practitioners who don’t drink, they don’t smoke, and they have a very healthy diet because of their religion.

REICHARD: How do the number of transplants point to the harvesting of organs? Do you have information on that?

CHENG: The tribunal found that China has incredibly short wait times for transplants. And this has become a booming industry as foreigners are coming to China in order to get transplants quicker. And so China claims that there are about 10,000 transplants a year. However, researchers found in 2016 that the actual number is between 60,000 to 100,000. They use hospital records and the claims of individual doctors to come up with this number.

So the question then is where do all these organs come from? In China, there isn’t really a history of voluntary donation. It’s actually more of a recent phenomenon. They believe this points to the fact that there was another source of organs.

REICHARD: How is China officially responding to this devastating report?

CHENG: Complete denial. China has always denied that they harvested the organs of prisoners of conscience such as Falun Gong. And in 2015 they also claim to have stopped using organ donors from executed prisoners. And before this ruling came out, the Chinese embassy in London said that any claims made by the tribunal were just rumors.

REICHARD: Tell us more about the groups Chinese officials targeted with this practice. Who are they?

CHENG: Falun Gong is a religious group that has its basis in Buddhism and Daoism and this practice of qigong and they have been banned in China. And a lot of them have been rounded up in the past since the late 90s and they’ve been detained. And so in these detentions, a lot of them have disappeared and many believe that there is evidence they have been harvested for their organs. And Uighurs are an ethnic minority living in the region of China called Xinjiang and they are mainly Muslims.

REICHARD: How many of them were used in this way, according to the report?

CHENG: The total number is unknown but one researcher, Ethan Gutman, estimated that between the years of 2000 and 2008, 65,000 Falun Gong practitioners had their organs harvested.

REICHARD: So what happens next?

CHENG: So, the tribunal has encouraged other governments, the UN, and other international groups to investigate the issue to see if what China is doing would be described as a genocide.

REICHARD: June Cheng is WORLD’s East Asia correspondent. June, thanks so much for joining us today.

CHENG: Thank you, Mary.


(Photo/Seth Wenig, Associated Press) Members of Falun Gong who have found refuge in the United States protest organ harvesting in China outside the Chinese Consulate in New York in April. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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