Organ harvesting of Falun Gong Practitioners in China: An Update

By David Matas
Remarks prepared for the Transplantation Society Congress, Sydney Australia
August 14, 2008

I. Introduction

Former Canadian Minister of State David Kilgour and I wrote a report on organ sourcing in China released first June 2006 and, in a second version, January 2007 under the title "Bloody Harvest: Organ Harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners in China". In that report we concluded that between 2001 and 2006 China killed Falun Gong practitioners in the tens of thousands so that their organs could be sold to foreign transplant tourists. Falun Gong is an exercise regime with a spiritual foundation based on ancient Chinese traditions banned in 1999.

China has no national organized organ donation system, nor a law allowing organ sourcing from the brain dead, cardiac alive. There is a strong cultural aversion against both organ donations and organ sourcing from the cardiac alive. Nor does China have a national organ matching and distribution system. Organs for transplants almost exclusively come from prisoners, whether prisoners sentenced to death or Falun Gong practitioners.

Since the report was released, David Kilgour and I travelled to over forty countries and over seventy cities to seek to end the abuse we identified. Because of our travels and the publicity surrounding our report, we received much additional evidence relevant to the subject of our report. Some it was just more of the same. For instance, we continued to find new examples of Falun Gong practitioners who in Chinese detention were systematically blood tested while their co-prisoners who were not practitioners were not blood tested.

As well, categories of evidence relevant to the conclusion of our report but not previously considered need to be examined. The first task I have set myself is to consider a sampling of these new categories of evidence.

The initial response of the Government of China to the report David Kilgour and I wrote was propagandistic, without addressing the substance of the research. More recently, particularly in the last few months, the Government of China has come out with specific responses - by way of letter to the United Nations Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak and also by way of DVD, interviewing some of the sources of our report. The second thing I want to do today is to evaluate these responses and re-assess our own conclusions in light of these responses.

Subsequent to our report, China changed both its death penalty and organ transplant laws. The combined impact was to cut down on transplant tourism to China. My third task is to address the extent to which abusive sourcing of organs from Falun Gong practitioners remains in light of these changed laws and their application.

II. New considerations supporting our conclusions n what follows, there are set out a few new considerations supporting our original conclusions. The purpose here is not to write a third version of our report. There is no attempt at comprehensiveness. In fact, we have identified many more considerations than those listed here.

The point is rather just to provide a sampling to show that new evidence, new considerations support our original conclusion. And there is nothing in the other direction, undermining or throwing into question our original conclusion.

A. Death Row

One phenomenon we did not address in our previous reports was the fact and law of immediate execution in China. According to the Chinese Code of Criminal Procedure, the death penalty can be imposed in two different fashions, by immediate execution or with two year suspension. A death sentence with a two year suspension will never be carried out if the prisoner during the two years avoids committing another intentional crime.

Death sentence with immediate execution truly means, according to law, immediate. The time period of seven days is specified. The law says that the death sentence shall be carried out within seven days of the death sentence order1.

There is no system of clemency or pardon in China for those sentenced to death. The combination of the requirement of immediate execution and the absence of a clemency system means that, in principle, there is no death row. The jails should not have, if the law is being followed, prisoners sentenced to death and waiting to be executed.

The absence of a death row means that, in principle, there is no organ bank of prisoners sentenced to death. The reality of the law in China, here as elsewhere, is not always the same as the law as it reads on the page. However, compliance with the law, which, in spite of everything, does in China, at least occasionally, occur, works against the existence of an organ donor bank of prisoners sentenced to death. That means even that prisoners sentenced to death are an even less reliable a source of organs than our original reports envisioned.

B. Lanny's story

A former prisoner from China I interviewed in July 2008 told a chilling story. While in prison, the prisoner, whom I have given the pseudonym Lanny, was kept in various prison cells averaging twenty persons per cell. In over ten instances, one of his cell mates was a prisoner sentenced to death. He became familiar with the pattern of execution of these prisoners.

A few days before execution, a man in a white coat would come and extract a blood sample from the prisoner. The day of execution, four or five men in white coats with white gloves would arrive. The prisoner would be escorted away by the men in white. Outside waiting, visible through the prison windows, was an ambulance hospital van in white with a red cross.

In one case, when Lanny was in interrogation, he saw one of these death penalty inmates in an adjoining room with a needle with a syringe sticking out of his neck. The syringe was half full of liquid. An hour later the prisoner was still there, but the syringe was empty.

What Lanny learned from cell leaders was that prisoners sentenced to death were being organ harvested for transplants. Their date of execution was set by arrangement with a nearby hospital, arranged for when organs were needed. The money paid for the transplant was split fifty between the hospital and the prison guards. About the man with the needle in his neck, his cell leader, when he returned from interrogation, told him that the prisoner was being injected with an anaesthetic to make him numb and preserve his organs until they were harvested.

In November 2006, Lanny was transferred to cell 311 in Wu Xi Number 1, prison, Wu Xi City, Jiangsu province, near Shanghai from another cell in that same prison. Shortly after his arrival, the guards asked Lanny to sign a statement that prisoner Chen Qi Dong had died of illness. The guards wanted the statement to show the family.

Chen Qi Dong had been in cell 311 before Lanny arrived but died a few days before Lanny was transferred to that cell. Lanny never met him and refused to sign the statement about his cause of death. The others in the cell signed.

Cell 311 leader Wang Yao Hu as well as seven or other eight cell members, including Wang Shi Cun from Wu Xi and Shai Hai, told Lanny what had happened to Chen Qi Dong. Chen was a Falun Gong practitioner who refused to recant and insisted on continuing the meditation and Falun Gong exercises while in prison. Guards beat and tortured him for doing so.

In reaction to his mistreatment, Chen Qi Dong went on a hunger strike. The guards in turn force fed him by pouring congee down a tube jammed into his throat. But the congee was too hot and scalded his digestive system. Chen Qi Dong got a fever.

At this point, the man in white arrived and took a blood sample, a few days before Chen was taken from his cell. The day Chen left the cell for good, four men with white coats and white gloves came to fetch him. One of the prisoners in the cell, that day in interrogation, saw Chen in the next room, with a needle in his neck. Through a window, the prisoners in cell 311 could see waiting a white hospital ambulance van with a red cross. The cell leader told Lanny that Chen had been organ harvested.

During his stay in prison, Lanny heard of 2 or 3 other such cases, but without the detail he heard in the case of Chen. There was a similar pattern in these cases. A Falun Gong practitioner refused to recant and continued his meditation and exercises in prison. The guards beat and tortured the practitioner in response. The beating and torture got out of hand to the point where the practitioner was permanently injured. The guards, in order to remove any trace of their own misdeeds, arranged for the telltale evidence to disappear through organ harvesting of the practitioner.

The full statement of Lanny's story will be posted on the web site which hosts our report.

C. Chinese response

I later refer to three different ways in which the Chinese government has responded to our report. But there is much more. The three examples I have chosen are notable not only for their error, but also for their particularity. Most of the Chinese response is verbiage without content, denials without contradiction.

In the first version of our report our lack of knowledge of Chinese geography led us to misplace in the wrong provinces two cities in China to which our investigators had called. And that, in total, was it, the only mistakes large or small which we had made.

The report is now over two years old. The fact that over those two years, the report has survived the scrutiny of peer review and has not been contradicted in any way whatsoever, serves to validate the report. The sheer silliness and vacuity of the Chinese government response means that the government of China, in substance, has nothing to say in answer to our report.

The peer review to which I am referring is that of University of Minnesota Associate Director of the Program in Human Rights and Medicine Kirk Allison, of British transplant surgeon Tom Treasure, and of Yale University thesis student Hao Wang. They have all independently from us and each other confirmed the conclusions of the Report and supported its accuracy. These independent investigations are to be found at .