Eric and his father’s story is the subject of a new short film, ‘Split by the State’. (Alexander Nilsen)Eric and his father’s story is the subject of a new short film, ‘Split by the State’. (Alexander Nilsen)

“Split by the State”


As millions of Australian families prepare to celebrate Father’s Day to honour their paternal bonds, for Sydney refugee Eric Jia, his version of Father’s Day is a lonely affair.

The last time he saw his father Ye Jia was 15 years-ago when he was 3-years-old. This father and son were forcefully split by China’s one-party state, simply because Ye Jia wanted to meditate and follow his beliefs.

Eric and his dad in Shaanxi province China during happier times.  (Alexander Nilsen)

Eric and his dad in Shaanxi Province China during happier times. (Alexander Nilsen)


He practices Falun Gong, a traditional Chinese meditation and spiritual practice based on the principles of ‘Truthfulness, Compassion and Forbearance’. It rose to popularity in China in the 1990’s, with over 100 million people experiencing its health benefits.

: Eric doing the Falun Gong meditation exercise at home in Sydney, Australia. China is the only country in the world that doesn't allow Falun Gong practitioners to meditate freely.  (Alexander Nilsen)

Eric doing the Falun Gong meditation exercise at home in Sydney, Australia. China is the only country in the world that doesn’t allow Falun Gong practitioners to meditate freely. (Alexander Nilsen)


These numbers proved too overwhelming for the Chinese regime, which with around 60 million communist members at the time, saw the practice as a threat. Former dictator Jiang Zemin initiated a country-wide crackdown and persecution against the peaceful movement, that hasn’t waned since it began on July 20, 1999.

The decision to persecute Falun Gong was made by former Communist Party leader Jiang Zemin alone. Other members of the leadership favoured a more conciliatory approach, recognising that Falun Gong was peaceful. (NTD Television)

The decision to persecute Falun Gong was made by former Communist Party leader Jiang Zemin alone. Other members of the leadership favoured a more conciliatory approach, recognising that Falun Gong was peaceful. (NTD Television)


As days and months turned into years, the state-sanctioned persecution has taken a heavy toll on fathers, sons and families alike, who have suffered severely and have too often been torn apart.

In modern China torture is a routine component of law-enforcement and punishment. Jiang Zemin issued his famous edict, “It is not a crime to beat a Falun Gong practitioner to death.” (


Eric and his father’s story is the subject of a new short film, “Split by the State”, its release comes on Father’s Day.

The film’s director Gina Shakespeare said: “this film is dedicated to prisoners of conscience, like Ye Jia, who today number in their millions. It’s also an exposé of the Chinese regime’s relentless use of physical and psychological torture against Falun Gong adherents and their families, told through a young man’s heart.”

Ms Shakespeare recalled being deeply touched as she read Eric Jia’s original letter he wrote to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in 2016, pleading to save his dad from a Chinese prison.


“I knew Eric’s story needed to be told and that the letter he wrote was actually the beginning of a powerful script, one that would also move others” she said.

“Hearing that his dad was spending eight years in a Chinese prison, had been tortured, starved and subjected to filthy and inhumane living conditions, I could never fathom this type of ill-treatment, this just doesn’t happen in Australia” said Ms Shakespeare.

“Eric possesses an incredible resilience and determination. His desire for justice and to be reunited with his father, after all this time has never diminished. I really hope the Prime Minister can pressure China to release Eric’s dad urgently.”

Australia's Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull. (Alexander Nilsen)

Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. (Alexander Nilsen)


Eric spends a good deal of time assisting other Falun Gong families still imprisoned in China by speaking out at rallies, collecting signatures for petitions and even calling prisons in mainland China. Surely something his father would be proud of. 

You can also help Eric and his family by sharing the film and by visiting this website and signing the petition.



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Mr Chen Yonglin, former Chinese diplomat who defected to Australia in 2005, speaking at the Sydney rally. (Shar Adams/The Epoch Times)Mr Chen Yonglin, former Chinese diplomat who defected to Australia in 2005, speaking at the Sydney rally. (Shar Adams/The Epoch Times)

Australian news outlets ran a series of reports in June exposing the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) infiltration of Australia’s political system. The joint investigation by Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and Fairfax Media found that Chinese businessmen with ties to Beijing had in the past decade donated millions of dollars to the major political parties in an attempt to sway national policy and even sabotage Australian national interests.

The Chinese communist regime further extended its influence abroad by manipulating local Chinese communities, suppressing Australian-based Chinese dissidents, co-opting Chinese student associations, and controlling Chinese-language media, according to the investigation.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has since launched a major inquiry into Australia’s espionage and foreign interference laws, according to the ABC.

The topic of CCP infiltration is one that former Chinese consular official Chen Yonglin is very familiar with. Disillusioned with the CCP, Chen defected to Australia in 2005 and proceeded to expose the CCP’s subversive actions, an episode that The Epoch Times covered extensively.  

In a recent interview with this newspaper, Chen expounded on the latest CCP operations that were uncovered by the Australian media.

Buying Political Influence

Chen Yonglin said that the CCP plans to “infiltrate Australia from all directions so that Australia would eventually cooperate strategically with the CCP,” and veer away from its alliance with the United States. The CCP has employed similar tactics in other countries, “but with Australia, the CCP has managed to achieve significant results,” he added.

The recent Australian media investigation illustrates Chen’s point.

In 2015, Australia’s domestic spy chief, Duncan Lewis, warned the nation’s political parties that some of their major donors—including wealthy property developers Chau Chak Wing and Huang Xiangmo—were closely tied to Beijing, according to ABC.

Chau (also known as Zhou Zerong), a Chinese-born Australian citizen, donated over $1 million  (AU$1.35 million) to Australia’s political parties through his investment companies between 2013 and 2014. Chau happens to be a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the Chinese regime’s top political advisory body.

Sheri Yan, a well-connected Chinese-Australian socialite and the wife of a former high-ranking Australian intelligence official, used $200,000 of Chau’s money to bribe the former UN General Assembly president John Ashe in November 2013. Yan pleaded guilty to bribery charges in Jan. 2016 and is currently serving a 20-month prison sentence in the U.S.

Huang Xiangmo, the other wealthy Chinese donor included in Lewis’ brief to Australian party leaders, had contributed over $400,000 (AU$525,000) in political donations to the Liberal Party and the Labor Party between 2014 and 2015.

Huang and his associates had also donated $37,900 (AU$50,000) to the campaign financing vehicle of then-Trade Minister Andrew Robb on the same day the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement was finalized in 2014, according to disclosures from the Australian Electoral Commission.

In 2016, Huang pledged $303,160 (AU$400,000) to the Labor Party, but backed out in June after the Labor defense spokesman criticized Chinese policy in the South China Sea. The next day, Labor Party Senator Sam Dastyari appeared in a media event with Huang and said that Australia should not interfere with China’s activities in the South China Sea.

“[Dastyari] openly advocated for the CCP and contradicted the foreign policy of his own party, damaging Australia’s national interests,” Chen the former Chinese diplomat said.

Huang and another Chinese donor were later revealed to have paid for some of Senator Dastyari’s expenses in the past, including a travel expense and a $3,788 (AU$5,000) legal bill in 2014. Dastyari later resigned from his position on Australia’s shadow cabinet.

The impact of CCP bribery “can be seen with a large number of decision-makers in the Australian government, so the infiltration is quite serious,” Chen said. “Aside from political contributions, a larger amount was actually being handled out as secret bribes,” including lavish tours around China, Chen added.

The CCP “bring those guys to China for a first-class tour and treat them like emperors,” Chen says. “With such temptations, many Australian officials and even some journalists change their attitude drastically after they return, and start to support Chinese policies.”

According to Chen, when the son of Henry Tsang, a former member of the New South Wales Legislative Council, wanted to study abroad in China, the Chinese consulate covered all his tuition and living expenses.  

Controlling Strategic Infrastructure and Resources

Chen Yonglin said: “As early as August 2004, the CCP decided that among the countries in China’s periphery, Australia would be a major target for strategic deployment.”

He elaborated: “The CCP’s main consideration, for one, was that resources and energy in Australia would be key to ensuring the CCP’s economic expansion in the next two decades. And the other consideration was that Australia would be a stable supply base.”

For instance, in 2015, Landbridge Group, the company helmed by Chinese billionaire Ye Cheng, paid over $383 million (AU$506 million) for a 99-year lease of the Port of Darwin.

“What was strange was that the Australian federal government and Department of Defence both consented to leasing Darwin Port,” Chen said. “The Australian public was in an uproar when the media reported on it. The public felt that Australia’s most important national security asset had been forfeited.”

Additionally, former Trade Minister Andrew Robb started working as a financial consultant at Landbridge Group right after retiring from the Australian Parliament, and commanded an annual salary of $666,000 (AU$880,000), according to the ABC.

As for the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, Chen said that while Australia did gain in terms of trade, “Australia made considerable compromises in national security and sovereignty.”

“First, a Chinese company took over Darwin Port for 99 years. Second, China was free to invest substantially in strategic industries as well as agriculture and livestock farming. Third, it pushed forward the ratification of a bilateral extradition treaty, despite concerns over the differences between the two nations’ judicial systems,” Chen said.

The extradition treaty with Beijing was rejected in May this year because lawmakers objected to China’s inadequate protections of human rights and rule of law. “The dissenting voices were so overwhelming that Prime Minister Turnbull had to revoke that treaty proposal,” Chen said.

The Chinese regime continues to target Australia’s resources, Chen added. Chinese state-owned firms, the CCP elite, and CCP-affiliated Chinese businessmen have made extensive investments in Australia’s agriculture and mining sector.

Chinese buyers have also dominated real estate investment in Australia, and have driven up Australian housing prices in the process, Chen said.

Manipulating Overseas Chinese

The CCP has for many years maintained a vast intelligence network in Australia, according to Chen Yonglin, the former Chinese diplomat. This network has been tapped for intelligence gathering, as well as commercial and military espionage.

“China has about 300 to 500 professional spies in Australia,” Chen said. “There are also another 500 to 700 steady, part-time CCP agents or temporary informers. These agents are scattered in various organizations, industries, and even in Australian government departments.”

By infiltrating overseas Chinese communities and organizations, the Chinese regime aims to bring them all in line to form an overarching “united front” that is aligned with the CCP’s interests. Two CCP organs, the United Front Department and the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, spearhead the Chinese regime’s efforts to control ethnic Chinese living abroad.

An opaque organization, the Australian Council for the Promotion of Peaceful Reunification of China, ensures overseas Chinese toe the Party line, according to Chen. The Council is headed by the Chinese political donor and businessman Huang Xiangmo.

“Former Australian prime ministers were all recruited by the ‘Reunification’ council to be their advisors,” Chen said. “It was revealed that former U.S. President Clinton accepted $300,000 from the organization to deliver a speech.”

The Chinese regime also recruits informers from within the Chinese community to keep a close eye on ethnic Chinese dissidents and activists in Australia.

Tony Chang, a pro-democracy activist and university student in Australia, had suspected for months that he was being monitored, according to Australian investigative documentary television program Four Corners. Chang’s fears were confirmed when a family member called and said his parents in China had been harassed by state security agents because of their son’s activities, Chang told Four Corners.

Chen Yonglin said that the Chinese consulates mobilize Chinese students through Chinese students associations.

For instance, when Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited Australia in March, thousands of Chinese students were on hand to welcome him in Canberra. Lupin Liu, President of the Canberra University Students and Scholars Association, told Four Corners that the Chinese embassy sponsored the rally by providing transportation, flags, food, and legal aid.

Chen said that the CCP has managed to muddy Australian politics with its funneling of large sums of money to local politicians. Australian democracy, Chen added, is being slowly eroded by the CCP’s cash.  


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On November 21, hundreds of Australian Falun Gong practitioners rallied in front of Capital Hill in Canberra to raise awareness of the ongoing human rights abuses perpetrated against their fellow practitioners in China since 1999. The rally put focus on murder for organs in China, and called for Australian politicians to support bringing an end to forced live organ harvesting and the persecution of Falun Gong by Chinese Communist Regime.

Banners calling for support from the Australian public and displaying the principles of the practice, Truth, Compassion and Tolerance, lined both sides of Commonwealth Avenue through the city centre and around Capital Hill.

Speakers at the rally included Fan Huiqiang from Australian Falun Dafa Association, MP Craig Kelly, former Canadian cabinet minister David Kilgour and Winnipeg international human rights lawyer David Matas. The two co-authored a new report which documents the killing of Falun Gong practitioners to supply China’s lucrative organ trade.

The report concludes that as many as 60,000 to 100,000 transplants have been taking place in China from the year 2000 to the present with the source being non-consenting prisoners of conscience; primarily Falun Gong. This puts the likely death toll of Falun Gong practitioners from forced organ harvesting in the region of 1.5 million over the past 15 years.

The emcee of the rally, Mr John Deller said: “What Falun Gong practitioners are doing is not protesting; they are only trying to tell the truth.”

Forced organ harvesting goes against everything we in believe in.

— Craig Kelly, member of parliament.

MP Craig Kelly spoke at the rally, sharing about a business trip he took to China a decade ago. He explained how most of the tourist brochures in his hotel contained a leaflet inside defaming Falun Gong in poor English. It took him 10 years to work out why the Chinese communist Government did this. Once he understood the truth of Falun Gong, he said: “I’ve always stood with you since then. That’s why I have been proud to be co-chairmen of the Parliamentary group against forced organ harvesting … doing something to stop it.”

Mr Kelly told Epoch Times that David Kilgour had held a briefing inside parliament house, introducing new evidence and explaining some of the latest findings on this human rights abuse.   “We want people to donate their organs freely. But having a system where people are forced to have their organs harvested without consent … truthfully, this goes against everything we believe in. It is something we need to speak out against in our free and democratic parliament.”

Kelly said the introduction of a motion to the House of Representatives is underway. “We will make sure that it will go to parliament, and we will make sure it is bipartisan.”

Kelly said the motion condemning forced organ harvesting will be introduced early in the New Year.

David Kilgour also spoke at the rally outside parliament, “David and I have met with Falun Gong practitioners in over 50 countries; we have a great respect for you, what you believe, and what you do. There is never been an act of violence committed by any Falun Gong practitioner anywhere in China or anywhere else, you should be really, really proud of that. “

He also mentioned that he had a good hearing with parliamentarians that morning, but he said there are a lot of members of parliament who have yet to learn the truth of the matter before the Australian government will place a ban on Australians going to China for organs.

“What happened to the Jewish community is different from what’s happening to Falun Gong community. Not even Adolf Hitler would murder people and sell the organs to wealthy residents from Germany or China.” He said.

“A lot of people know what’s happening now, it’s better to stop it. Australia, Canada and all who believe in human dignity have to get this stopped. Please continue what you’re doing.”

Renowned international human rights lawyer David Matas also addressed the crowd, highlighting the total lack of transparency, accountability and traceability from China’s organ transplant industry.

“The Chinese communist regime cannot explain the organ source,” he said.

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Falun Gong practitioners in Brisbane Square, on July 16, 2016. Practitioners are protesting against the communist regime’s killing of potentially hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens and pillaging their organs for profit. (Jern/NTD Television)Falun Gong practitioners in Brisbane Square, on July 16, 2016. Practitioners are protesting against the communist regime’s killing of potentially hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens and pillaging their organs for profit. (Jern/NTD Television)

BRISBANE, Australia—Certain days and events stay in our memories for many reasons, some joyful, others sad, but for Chinese families gathered in Brisbane Square on a rainy July 16, the memories of certain events in their homeland are shocking. They have come to mark the seventeenth anniversary of the brutal persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in mainland China. 

The persecution was launched on July 20, 1999, when, behind the scenes, former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin gave orders to eradicate the peaceful spiritual discipline. Millions of Chinese overnight lost their freedom to gather openly for meditation and exercises in parks, and to follow a peaceful cultivation practice based on the principles of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Tolerance. Many thousands have since been detained and tortured, many losing their lives

A number of Falun Gong practitioners at the Brisbane event experienced the ongoing persecution in China first hand, their lives changed forever and, forced to flee, now unable to return to their native country.

Emma Ma, in Brisbane Square, on July 16, 2016. (Emily Wang)

Emma Ma, in Brisbane Square, on July 16, 2016. (Emily Wang)

Emma Ma was just 14 years old when Falun Gong was first banned in China. She recalled how the practice had made her whole family harmonious and then, in 1999 when her parents were illegally taken and their possessions confiscated, she was forced to live with relatives. That was difficult as the relatives believed the propaganda, broadcast in all the media at the time, which spread lies about Falun Gong around the whole country. She also witnessed the brutality of the crackdown and described her school where “teachers and students, even during the class, the police officers would forcibly take them away.”

Now she lives in Australia and practises Falun Gong freely, with her husband who also fled China as a result of persecution.

David Yu and his wife and daughter in Brisbane Square, on July 16, 2016. (Emily Wang)

David Yu and his wife and daughter in Brisbane Square, on July 16, 2016. (Emily Wang)

David Yu, a PhD student at the University of Queensland, also in Brisbane Square with his family, remembers that 17 years ago he was “PhD student at the Tsing Hua University in China.” He said “I benefited much from practising Falun Gong—my moral standard, health, all improved a lot.”

On hearing about the ban, he thought he needed to let the government know how good Falun Gong was. “I think the government shouldn’t ban Falun Gong, so I went to the petition department of the government together with other practitioners,” he said. His message was “that all the Falun Dafa practitioners are good” people. For this he lost his freedom for six years. The persecution extended to his other family members, who were also practitioners. In his family, a total of 23 years have since been lost in prisons or labour camps because of the persecution.

Yu wants more kind people to speak out to stop the ongoing persecution and the horrendous crime of organ harvesting from detained Falun Gong practitioners in China.

At Brisbane Square on July 16, 2016. Jiang Zemin  adopted the policy of

On Brisbane Square, July 16, 2016. (Jern/NTD Television)

Justice Sought

Xie Weiguo, now a senior research fellow at the University of Queensland, recalls being one of the thousands of people arrested, in 1999, while appealing for Falun Gong at the central state offices. Now he and his family live in Australia and are unable to return to China still: “I cannot go back to China because I was blacklisted,” he said. 

His father warned him it was not safe for him to return even for a funeral. “I was very sad when my mother died, in 2003, because I cannot go back to China,” Xie explained. He hopes that the former leader Jiang Zemin, who illegally banned Falun Gong, is brought to justice soon.

John Meng at the protest in Brisbane Square, on July 16, 2016. (Emily Wang)

John Meng at the protest in Brisbane Square, on July 16, 2016. (Emily Wang)

John Meng, a software developer working in Brisbane now, remembers he was travelling in China when the news of a ban on Falun Gong was broadcast in 1999. “Suddenly the media of the whole nation, was pointing their fingers at Falun Gong and tried their best to stigmatise or demonise Falun Gong and I was very shocked,” Meng said.

“My life was totally changed after that day. My parents and my relatives, they listened to the media in China, and they opposed me practising Falun Gong,” he said. In 1999 at his workplace, the Tsing Hua University, they first suspended him from teaching duties and then when he tried telling the truth about Falun Gong to others he said “I was taken to jail. I was put behind bars for quite a long time.”

Meng wants the present Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, to bring the former leader, Jiang Zemin, to trial for the deaths of thousands of Chinese Falun Gong practitioners and his crimes against humanity exposed and stopped.

Steven Zhang, in Brisbane Square, on July 16, 2016. (Emily Wang)

Steven Zhang, in Brisbane Square, on July 16, 2016. (Emily Wang)

Steven Zhang recalls his sister being persecuted in 1999 and suffering greatly, but he knows good will triumph over evil. Zhang collects signatures everyday from kind people to help stop the persecution of Falun Gong.

In China, over 209,000 Falun Gong practitioners and Chinese citizens have lodged complaints against Jiang with the regime’s highest legal authorities, according to incomplete data compiled by Minghui, a website that reports on Falun Gong and the persecution in China.

With reporting by Iesha Smythe and Heeyo Ge




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With one of the largest state-owned enterprises from communist China in the running to lease TransGrid from the New South Wales government for 99 years, there are serious concerns that the $10 billion electricity transmission and telecommunications network would become vulnerable to cyber-espionage.
In a joint bid with Macquarie, State Grid Corp of China (SGCC) is on the short list with three other groups competing to manage Transgrid’s extensive asset base, including 99 large substations, around 12,900 kilometres of high-voltage transmission lines and cables, and what TransGrid says is the fifth largest optical fibre network in the country.
SGCC applications were just approved by the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB), and a decision by NSW government is expected within days. The SGCC-Macquarie consortium is thought to have placed the highest offer, and to be the favoured bidder for the lease, ahead of two other foreign groups, and an Australian-owned one.
As well as NSW, TransGrid also supplies electricity to Canberra, the Australian Federal Police, parliament and numerous government departments, including the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO).
SGCC uses technology from Huawei, another state-owned enterprise, to create smart grids by putting domestic electricity meters online to create a so-called Internet of energy. Huawei was banned from being involved with the National Broadband Network 2 years ago, based on advice from ASIO.
Smart grids increase the threat of cyber terrorism and spying, according to several reports given to the US Congress. SGCC’s motives in expanding overseas and creating a global Internet of energy remain unclear, apart from the obvious profits for the world’s largest utility.
Former senior defence official Ross Babbage said that U.S. and Australian security experts and officials are concerned about Communist China gaining control of NSW’s power grid, according to the Daily Telegraph, particularly in the wake of the Port of Darwin sale last month to a Chinese company linked with the People’s Liberation Army.
SGCC already controls 19 per cent of SP Ausnet, a Victorian power company, 41 per cent of ElectraNet in South Australia, and 60 per cent of Jemena in the Northern Territory. It has total ownership of Brazil’s national grid, and owns a significant share of the grids in Portugal, Italy, and the Philippines. Earlier this year, 16 SGCC technicians were denied visa renewals in the Philippines due to national security concerns.
Corruption Probe
In China, SGCC is currently under investigation by central authorities, with the company management accused of bribery and corruption. An audit in 2014 revealed that more than $1 billion was misappropriated during construction of a long-distance electricity grid.
Top leaders in the firm were found to have abused their positions and accepted bribes to enrich themselves and their families, state-run People’s Net reported on June 17. Five executives—Zhu Zhanglin, Guan Shouzhong, Ma Linguo, Yan Fulong and Wu Zhouchun—have been arrested, according to overseas Chinese news website Bowen Press.
In an exclusive report, Bowen Press stated that SGCC chairman, Liu Zhenya, is allegedly being investigated by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI)— the Communist Party’s anti-corruption agency.
Rights Violations
While national security fears and a corruption probe will continue to be associated with SGCC’s foreign operations, a less known issue is the Chinese power company’s abuse of its employees.
Since 1999, the Chinese regime has been brutally persecuting practitioners of Falun Gong, a widespread, peaceful mediation and spiritual practice whose teachings are based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion and tolerance. To gain favour with top officials involved in the crackdown, many state-owned companies have participated in the persecution.
SGCC has taken part in monitoring, detaining and re-education of Falun Gong practitioners in China, according to the Minghui website, which documents persecution of the practice.
Minghui has reported over 150 cases that directly contravene international human rights law at 21 of SGCC’s 27 provincial-level grid companies. These included dismissing staff, monitoring of staff outside of work by in-house security, pressuring employees to sign promises not to practise Falun Gong, and hosting re-education facilities on company premises.
Eleven employees were persecuted to the point of mental illness or death, and another five are missing. Although these abuses were carried out by state law-enforcement agencies, SGCC’s security departments assisted with the arrest and home searches of 39 employees.
These accounts raise serious concerns that SGCC has not been following international human right standards in its labour practices. Part of the FIRB’s analysis is determining whether an international investor has followed the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s enterprise obligations, including the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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SYDNEY, Australia—Academics and professionals from medical and legal fields watched “Hard to Believe“—a documentary-style film exploring unethical organ harvesting in China, at NSW Parliament House in Sydney on October 28.
The film, a winner of six awards of excellence at the prestigious Accolade Global Film Competition, pulls together medical specialists including a former Chinese transplant surgeon, researchers and others to support the case that mass harvesting of Falun Gong prisoners takes place in China. The aptly named film, asks why more attention isn’t being paid to the issue—why it’s so “hard to believe,” in the words of Louisa Greve, a vice president of the US National Endowment for Democracy, who appears briefly in the film.
The screening was supported by the Australian Lawyers for Human Rights and followed by a Q&A session facilitated by N.S.W. Greens MP David Shoebridge. The upper house member has been instrumental in proposing law reform to deter N.S.W. residents from travelling abroad to receive unethically sourced organs.
Three experts provided commentary including China analyst and human rights investigator Ethan Gutmann via video link, and in person—renown transplant ethicist Professor Katrina Bramstedt Ph.D., from Bond University, and Professor Maria Fiatarone Singh M.D., a member of the Medical Advisory Board for Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting and geriatrician from University of Sydney.
Dr Jacob Lavee, a heart transplant surgeon at Israel’s Sheba Medical Center, explains in the documentary that he could not believe when a patient in his hospital said that he was expected in China in two weeks, on a specific date, for a heart transplant.
“I looked at him and I asked, ‘Do you listen to yourself? How can they schedule a heart transplant ahead of time 2 weeks?’” Dr Lavee said.
Gutmann who also features in the film witnessed the Chinese communist regime’s harsh crackdown on Falun Gong as a reporter in Beijing in 1999. At that time the spiritual and meditation practice was at the height of its popularity with estimates ranging from 70 to 100 million practitioners. After allegations of organ harvesting of imprisoned Falun Gong practitioners emerged in 2006, Gutmann began his own investigation.
In his 2014 book “The Slaughter”, Gutmann traced organ harvesting of prisoners back to the early 1990s in China’s north-western frontier province – Xinjiang, right through to the present day where so called “health checks” are carried out on unsuspecting prisoners of conscience to profile their organs.
When a recipient—typically a wealthy Chinese national or foreign transplant tourist needs an organ, a suitable donor prisoner is matched and effectively killed on demand.
Ethicist Prof. Bramstedt said that some patients with organ failure in Australia and other countries “are ready recipients for organs from China.
“Their desperation to save their life, potentially fuelled by Australia’s severe under-performance in the area of organ donation, can lead them to unethical decisions.”
She said that organ donation is the very opposite of forced harvesting.
“Organ transplantation is supposed to be a medical marvel which pivots on the positive event of ‘organ donation,’ not ‘forced organ harvesting,’” said Prof. Bramstedt.
While official statistics of Australians travelling overseas for transplants do not exist, it’s estimated that in N.S.W. the number may be a dozen each year. While some critics suggest that these numbers don’t represent a significant problem, Prof. Fiatarone Singh said that having the attitude that it’s happening in “some other land and has nothing to do with us is really the problem.
“We should be just as horrified by what’s going on … even if nobody had ever gone there from Australia,” said Prof. Fiatarone Singh.
A simple demand and supply analogy would suggest an improvement in the domestic organ donation system and would likely reduce Australians looking abroad for organs, however that doesn’t address the gross human rights violations happening to thousands of prisoners of conscience in China.
We can’t afford to turn our back on these types of atrocities.— Nathan Kennedy – President, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights

“We can’t afford to turn our back on these types of atrocities,” said President of the Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, Nathan Kennedy.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights was presented a petition in 2014 with over 1.5 million signatures collected by Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting. Although signatures are now over 2 million, the organisation founded by medical doctors from around the world is yet to receive a response.
Mr Kennedy spoke of the U.N.’s 70-year history, starting after W.W.II in the wake of the Nazi atrocities and charged with upholding human rights. He said that the U.N. not replying to the petition is “disgraceful” but “brings the realism of the United Nations into focus given that it is a political organisation full of sovereign states, and China is a very powerful one.
“This is an ongoing issue and has to be dealt with, looked at and stopped.”
Australia has been implicated in China’s grisly organ trade in another way. Before 2006, hundreds of Chinese surgeons were trained in transplant procedures by Australian hospitals.
“That’s how the Chinese transplant system developed … by being trained by Australia,” said Prof. Fiatarone Singh.
She suggested an element of culpability on the Australian medical profession is inherent. She said the medical community knew harvesting organs from prisoners was going on, but the Chinese did not admit to it until later. In this light it is difficult to distance Australia from the grim reality of forced organ harvesting in China.
“That’s why I say silence is complicity, we are responsible for what happened in China, we facilitated it,” added Prof. Fiatarone Singh.

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