Torsten Trey, the executive director of Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting, speaks at an event in Taipei on Feb. 27, 2013. (Chen Pochou/Epoch Times)Torsten Trey, the executive director of Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting, speaks at an event in Taipei on Feb. 27, 2013. (Chen Pochou/Epoch Times)

Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting, a nongovernmental coalition of medical professionals, has declared the date of Oct. 1 the “International Day Against Forced Organ Harvesting.”  This year is the inaugural occasion, and to mark it the group has called on the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to take action on the abuse.

The concerns of DAFOH, as the organization is often known, focus primarily on what they describe as the killing of prisoners of conscience in China for organs—the practice is believed by researchers to primarily target practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline that has been marked for elimination since 1999, as well as other ethnic or religious communities, including Tibetans, Uyghurs, and possibly some “house church” Christians.

Those concerned with the issue are enjoined by DAFOH to download their petition and send it to both DAFOH and the email address of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The petition expresses “alarm… [at] the mass of evidence of forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience in China.”

It calls on the High Commissioner, currently Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad of Jordan, to call upon China to cease forced organ harvesting, “initiate further objective investigations that lead to the prosecution of the perpetrators involved in this crime against humanity,” and also call upon the cessation of the persecution of Falun Gong.

 Falun Gong, a set of five slow-motion exercises and moral teachings centered on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance, gained significant popularity in China during the 1990s, before it befell the wrath of the leader at the time, Jiang Zemin.

According to the most recent research by the investigators David Kilgour, David Matas, and Ethan Gutmann, between 60,000 and 100,000 organ transplants have been conducted per year in China since around the year 2000 — just six months after the persecution of Falun Gong started. During this period, China claimed that almost the sole source of its organs were death row prisoners — even as the number of death row executees fell, year by year.

Given the enormous gap between the number of transplants and judicial executions, however, (researchers say the latter number is only in the thousands per year), researchers have explored alternate organ sources, and concluded that practitioners of Falun Gong are targeted. The evidence supporting this includes surreptitiously recorded telephone calls with doctors who say they have healthy organs from Falun Gong, multiple independent reports of blood-testing in custody, overlap between personnel engaged in the anti-Falun Gong campaign and organ transplantation, and a range of other indicators.

DAFOH highlights on its website a number of statements of international support, including from Japan and the United States.

Hiroshi Yamada, Member of the House of Councillors in the Japanese Diet, is quoted saying: “I sincerely express my condolence to those who were victims of the forced organ harvesting.  We will take an action from Japan so that this Holocaust, which challenges the sublime spirit of medicine, will be eliminated as soon as possible through strong solidarity of people with conscience in the whole world.”

A number of U.S. federal and state elected representatives also provided comments on the occasion. “Dear Members of the United Nations Human Rights Commission,” writes State Rep. Michael F. Curtin of Ohio. “For many years, I have been deeply troubled by the mounting evidence of forced organ harvesting in China and elsewhere in the world.

The U.N. Human Rights Commission has a moral duty to do everything in its power to bring an end to this outrageous scourge, an affront to civilization and an affront to humanity itself.”

Congressman Michael G. Fitzpatrick, a Republican from Pennsylvania, entered the commemoration into the House of Representatives record with a statement on Sept. 30. “This practice is another form of evil in our time and the United Nations will be further alerted to this crime against humanity, as are we,” he said.

Incidentally, or not, the date of Oct. 1 contains additional significance: It is on this date in 1949 that Mao Zedong proclaimed the People’s Republic of China.

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Dr. Annika Tibell, chief physician at the New Karolinska Hospital Project in Sweden. (Karolinska Institutet)Dr. Annika Tibell, chief physician at the New Karolinska Hospital Project in Sweden. (Karolinska Institutet)

STOCKHOLM—Dr. Annika Tibell is one of the world’s most respected voices in the ethics of organ transplantation. Currently Chief Physician for the New Karolinska Hospital Project, commissioned this fall in the capital of Sweden, Dr. Tibell was the lead author for The Transplantation Society’s first policy statement on China in 2006, and was one of the founders of the Declaration of Istanbul Custodian Group, a major organization focused on transplantation ethics.

In a recent interview, Tibell joined calls for a major international investigation into China’s organ transplant practices, where researchers believe that for over a decade prisoners of conscience have been the primary source of organs used to supply the massive and profitable industry.

Dr. Annika Tibell, a figure in international transplant ethics, in Stockholm, on Feb. 17, 2011. (Jan Ainali)

The issue came into renewed focus this summer, when a report by investigators Ethan Gutmann, David Kilgour and David Matas presented data indicating that over one million transplants likely look place in China beginning from the year 2000. They believe that the primary source of all these organs is practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice that has been targeted for elimination in China since 1999.

She says that the new report is comprehensive and in-depth, though the sheer amount of information has made it difficult to grapple with. She calls the report’s estimate of 60,000 to 100,000 yearly transplants in China “staggering” and calls for an in-depth investigation by a “major, established, public organization” such as the UN or the Council of Europe.

“I wish the calls for action to various major organizations had lead to greater results than what we have seen so far. It’s a shame that this has not happened,” she said.  

When The Transplantation Society reviews its China policy in 2017, it should, to the best of its ability, include in its considerations the findings of the Kilgour-Gutmann-Matas report, as well as other new information to emerge since the policy was written, in 2006, Tibell said. She also says the TTS should contribute to the evaluation of the report, and of the general situation of organ sourcing in China.

China has categorically denied these allegations without responding to them in detail, and claimed that the organ source in the past was mainly death row prisoners, but that there is now a voluntary donation system in place.

This claim has met with skepticism by transplantation specialists, including the current leadership of TTS.

“There remains, in many sectors, a deep sense of mistrust of your transplant programs,” said Philip O’Connell, former TTS president, speaking at a press conference in Hong Kong on Aug. 19. “It is important that you understand that the global community is appalled by the practices, which you have adhered to in the past.”

He added: “Many people in the global community are not persuaded that China has changed.”

Philip O’Connell, former president of The Transplantation Society, at a press conference during the Society’s biennial conference, in Hong Kong on Aug. 19, 2016. (Sun Mingguo/Epoch Times)

The Hong Kong conference was The Transplantation Society’s biennial conference, and originally was aimed to coincide with promised reforms in China to end the practice of procuring organs from executed prisoners.

When it became clear that those reforms were not going to come to fruition, however, TTS executives turned sour on China’s promises.

Interacting with China on transplantation issues is “extremely difficult”, Tibell said. One the one hand, she believes in a dialogue that puts pressure on China to change, but thinks it’s a “balancing act.”

“My opinion is that all interaction with China should have the purpose of achieving change. There is no other reason to interact with China”, she says.

When TTS chose Hong Kong as the venue for the 2016 conference – and included a session about a supposed “new era” for the Chinese transplantation system – some felt that this was a victory for China’s attempts to sweep an enormous crime under the rug and be accepted into the global transplantation community.

An investigation before the congress by Epoch Times found at least a dozen deeply problematic Chinese co-authors, presenters and panelists. This was brought to the attention of the TTS.

One example is Shen Zhongyang, the architect behind the booming transplantation center at the Tianjin First Central Hospital, which was heavily criticized by TTS for its extremely short waiting periods for organs – periods investigators say are impossible unless you have a pool of live “donors” standing by to be harvested on demand.

Tibell said that from what Epoch Times presented, Shen’s presence as co-author of an article is “remarkable,” and she expressed curiosity at the rationale behind it.

Another case is that of prominent liver surgeon Zheng Shusen, who chairs a Party-run organization dedicated to vilifying Falun Gong. He has also published a paper showing the ability to source livers within 24 hours, something experts say is practically impossible without a pool of live donors, on standby for execution. Zheng, unlike Shen, was present at the session, but TTS seemed to have attempted to replace him as speaker and later distanced themselves from him.

Tibell said that Zheng’s case “sounds very troubling.”

“It brings to the fore the fact that the current guidelines on interactions with China is completely focused on the professional role in transplantation. A revision of the guidelines should discuss how to deal with a situation like this,” Tibell said.

She is wary of TTS taking up the non-professional roles that doctors and participants in their conferences may have and suggests it would only be suitable where there are grave aberrations from the norm, such as in the case of Zheng Shusen.

Though the conference program committee made a detailed review of papers before they were presented, Tibell acknowledged: “If people lie to our face, it gets difficult.”

She wouldn’t comment on whether she thinks a Chinese surgeon who is part of a secret system that investigators call a crime against humanity would find it difficult to lie to the TTS.

“I don’t like to speculate on what it’s like to live under a dictatorship,” she said.

Israeli transplant surgeon and previously a member of TTS’s Ethics Committee Dr. Jacob Lavee chose to boycott the conference. Tibell says she respects his position, but that obviously TTS as an organization judged otherwise.

“Only afterwards, perhaps in several years time, will we know if this contributed to a positive development, or if it contributed to increased acceptance [of the Chinese transplantation system],” she says.

Tibell was unable to appear at the conference due to the opening of the New Karolinska Hospital she is involved in.

When asked if she would have attended if circumstances had permitted, Tibell was silent for a long time before answering.

“I would have had to consider it very carefully, just given the choice of location. Will I have contributed to positive change by attending, or will I have contributed to increased acceptance for practices I find unacceptable?”

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Dr. Ming Yingzi, a controversial Chinese transplant doctor is shown in the center performing a surgery in an undated photograph. (Third Xiangya Hospital)Dr. Ming Yingzi, a controversial Chinese transplant doctor is shown in the center performing a surgery in an undated photograph. (Third Xiangya Hospital)

HONG KONG—Two key leaders in international organ transplantation have for several years been involved in an undisclosed, cooperative relationship with Chinese transplantation centers, raising questions about whether the two Australian doctors have failed to make public a potential conflict of interest, according to recently uncovered documents.

Dr. Jeremy Chapman and Dr. Philip O’Connell, both based at Westmead Hospital in Sydney, Australia, are respectively the former (2008-2010) and current (2014-present) presidents of The Transplantation Society (TTS), the international body representing the profession.

Their close research relationships in China occurred while the two played decisive roles in determining how the international transplantation community would respond to disturbing evidence that Chinese hospitals have been engaged in the large-scale killing of prisoners of conscience, whose organs are harvested for profit, according to independent researchers.

(L) Dr. Philip O'Connell who is the current president of The Transplantation Society. (University of Sydney) (R)

(L) Dr. Philip O’Connell who is the current president of The Transplantation Society. (University of Sydney) (R) Dr. Jeremy Chapman, former president of The Transplantation Society. (Minghui.org)

Chapman is also the chair of the scientific program for TTS’s major biennial conference, held this year in Hong Kong from Aug. 18. The program has been criticized for including numerous doctors with histories of abusive practice in China, which critics say whitewashes China’s record.

Undisclosed Partnership

Since 2005, Westmead Hospital, a teaching hospital of Sydney Medical School, has had a relationship with The Third Xiangya Hospital, affiliated with Central South University in Changsha, Hunan, in central China. The earliest contact involved a visiting professorship for a key Westmead researcher; it continued in 2008 with a joint declaration in research standards. In 2012, Chapman and O’Connell attended a forum at The Second Xiangya Hospital, affiliated with the same Chinese university.

In November 2013, after attending a forum promoting China’s transplant system reforms, O’Connell and Chapman signed a “letter of intent” between Westmead and The Third Xiangya Hospital of Central South University, for both parties to “regularly conduct academic exchange conferences, engage in personnel exchange visits, and undertake advanced study and remote education in medical treatment, surgical demonstrations, and medical consultation,” according to a report on the hospital’s website.

Dr. Philip O’Connell (L), Dr. Jeremy Chapman (C) and hospital president Dr. Chen Fangping (R) signing a letter of intent at The Third Xiangya Hospital in Changsha, China in November 2013. (The Third Xiangya Hospital of Central South University)

In 2014, the relationship got closer, with O’Connell, then president of TTS, traveling to participate in a xenotransplantation conference on Oct. 16, followed by a delegation of 14 specialists from The Third Xiangya Hospital visiting Westmead from Oct. 27 to 30. Xenotransplantation refers to transplanting cells or tissues between different species, typically from animals to humans.

A meeting at Westmead included Chapman and Chen Fangping, president of Third Xiangya, signing another pact, this time a “supplementary agreement” to the 2013 letter of intent. It included “selecting a team of nurses and management staff to visit Westmead for advanced study,” and “other content” aimed at “deepening cooperation” between the parties. A photograph of Chapman shaking hands with Chen is highlighted in a report on the hospital website.

Dr. Chapman of Westmead and Dr. Chen of The Third Xiangya Hospital shake hands after signing a “supplementary agreement” of cooperation in 2014. (The Third Xiangya Hospital of Central South University)

Among those who received the guests was a fellow Chinese researcher, Dr. Shounan Yi, whose presence provides a clue to the substance of the relationship between the two institutions.

Xenotransplantation

Since 2004, research on xenotransplantation has been restricted in Australia by a moratorium.

But Yi, a senior research fellow at Westmead and a protege of O’Connell, has been able by virtue of the relationship with Third Xiangya to perform research that is restricted in Australia.

The first contact between Yi Shounan and Third Xiangya took place in May 2005, when Yi took a position as a visiting professor there, according to a history of the hospital (he held the same post again in 2012). Wayne Hawthorne, a professor at Westmead, joined him a month later for three days of meetings.

Yi continued to research and publish on xenotransplantation over the years, including a number of joint publications with O’Connell and Hawthorne, as well as with Prof. Wang Wei, the resident xenotransplantation expert at Third Xiangya.

In 2011, during a stint there, Yi published research that it appears could not have been performed at the time in Australia due to ethics rules: the injection of pig islet cells into 22 patients with diabetes, a potentially lucrative treatment. The experimental procedure involves placing in the host, islets from the pancreas of pig fetuses, which then produce insulin and regulate blood glucose.

“This is a gigantic market,” wrote Sina Finance, a major Chinese web portal, in a May 2016 story. “Even if there were 10,000 cases a year, that would mean a billion RMB in income.”

Yi is quoted in the article, commenting on recent research: “This makes us see hope for a breakthrough in industrialization of xenotransplantation in China.”

But in Yi’s impressive list of publications, this particular study is nowhere to be found. (Yi also holds a 2010 patent, with Wang Wei of Xiangya, on a related medical technique.) Yi did not immediately respond to an email enquiring as to the reason for the absence.

The Westmead-Xiangya connection is not noted in any of O’Connell’s publications on xenotransplantation either. Chapman has published four papers on transplantation issues in China (1, 2, 3, 4), some of which are broadly supportive of the official views of reform there, and the relationship with Xiangya is not disclosed.

Chapman and O’Connell did not immediately respond to an email with a series of questions about the connections between Westmead and Third Xiangya.

Conflict of Interest Suspicions

The coincidence of the failure to disclose these relationships, involving potentially profitable research that could not be done in Australia, and the apathetic, sometimes hostile stance of TTS figures to evidence of widespread transplant abuse in China, has troubled observers.

The complex web of relationships, joint research projects, and grip-n-grins between Westmead and Xiangya Third doctors was pieced together by Arne Schwarz, an independent researcher based in Germany who provided the material in a dossier to a number of journalists.

Schwarz is responsible for the research behind pharmaceutical company Roche receiving a “Hall of Shame” award in 2010 for its clinical trials in China, and has followed transplant abuse in China for many years.

Arne Schwarz, an independent researcher of organ trafficking, attends a conference in Germany in September 2012. Schwarz uncovered the undisclosed evidence of cooperation between leading surgeons and a Chinese hospital. (Jason Wang/The Epoch Times)

He said that he began looking into potential conflicts of interest involving TTS leadership this June.

His curiosity was piqued by a dismissive remark made by Chapman following the publication of a nearly 700-page report on organ transplant abuse in China by independent researchers. The formidable report contained over 2,000 footnotes, over 90 percent traceable back to hospital websites in China, and marshaled evidence indicating that the country’s transplant system operates at a scale far larger than previously understood.

The report now stands as the single largest collection of information on China’s transplant industry. Its researchers—David Kilgour, David Matas, and Ethan Gutmann—concluded that somewhere between 60,000 and 100,000 transplants are likely conducted in China annually; they believe that most of these organs come from practitioners of Falun Gong, a persecuted spiritual practice.

Chapman, however, in an interview with The Globe and Mail, dismissed the sources in the report as “all Falun Gong.”

The Third Xiangya Hospital, affiliated with Central South University, in Changsha, Hunan Province. (hns5j.com)

When he read Chapman’s quote, “I couldn’t believe my eyes,” Schwarz said. He then became curious as to whether there was more than met the eye to Chapman’s relationship with China. So he began searching, and discovered the previously unknown set of relationships and interests.

The material was only discoverable through targeted Chinese-language queries; none of it had been reported previously in English, and it is not mentioned on Westmead’s website.

A number of Chapman’s colleagues were previously unaware of, and surprised by, the information. “That cooperation was never disclosed to The Transplantation Society’s Ethics Committee,” said Dr. Jacob Lavee, an outgoing member of the committee who is critical of what he considers the Society’s lax stance toward transplant abuse in China.

“Present and past presidents of The Transplantation Society have significant influence on how the international transplantation community deals with the unethical transplantation system in China,” Schwarz wrote in an email.

(L-R) David Matas, David Kilgour, and Ethan Gutmann, researchers of organ transplantation abuse in China, speak about their recent report in Ottawa, Canada, in June 2016. (Jonathan Ren/NTD Television)

He added: “If their judgement of the Chinese transplant practices is biased by vested interests in China, it can’t be trusted any longer.”

As Schwarz kept tugging on the ball of yarn, he found more and more that seemed questionable: the undisclosed meetings, promises of cooperation, joint research projects, and patents in potentially lucrative clinical procedures.

“Wow,” he wrote, recalling his thinking. “I understood why Chapman was so furious about the Kilgour-Matas-Gutmann report.”

In some ways, however, xenotransplantation research is only a sideshow to some of the more serious goings-on at Third Xiangya.

7 Transplants in a Day

Changsha is a relatively underdeveloped city in China, but it boasts three top grade hospitals—Xiangya, Second Xiangya, and Third Xiangya—all of them affiliated with Central South University.

Third Xiangya is a highly industrious transplant center.

In 2001—a year of “rapid development” in China’s organ transplant industry, according to Third Xiangya’s website—authorities invested 100 million RMB (about $15 million) in constructing a 150-bed transplant center there, which quickly became the best in the province. Statistics show that the number of death row prisoners—the official source for transplantation organs—was in a decline while all this investment and development took place, indicating that organ sources should have been less, not more, abundant.

Seven organs transplants at Third Xiangya Hospital on a special day when Huang Jiefu showed up for an anniversary ceremony!

— Arne Schwarz, independendent transplant researcher

Third Xiangya quickly became a “national research base” for transplant technology and performs large numbers of solid organ transplants (kidney, heart, lung, liver, intestines), according to its website. According to research by the World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong, the facility once performed seven transplants in a single day, when Huang Jiefu, China’s top transplant official, was visiting. This information has since been purged from the hospital’s website.

“Seven organs transplants at Third Xiangya Hospital on a special day when Huang Jiefu showed up for an anniversary ceremony!” an incredulous Schwarz declared. “How is this possible without a bank of living donors?”

Ye Qifa, the deputy director of Third Xiangya and the executive director of China’s national organ procurement network, will be presenting at TTS’s Congress in Hong Kong on Aug. 18.

Alongside this, there are particular doctors at Xiangya who have engaged in questionable conduct, according to records online.

A Dubious Record

Perhaps the most prominent doctor is Dr. Ming Yingzi, a transplant surgeon at Third Xiangya who is hailed as a rising star in the transplant profession by Chinese reports. According to a highly flattering 2014 biography of her on the hospital’s website, Ming’s team has performed around 1,000 solid organ transplants over the years. She “carries on her back a heavy icebox, fetching organs from everywhere,” the article says.

Given the realities of organ transplantation in China, almost all of these organs likely came from prisoners of conscience, who were killed for on-demand transplantation surgery. 

When she visited Taiwan in 2009, a large meeting of transplant recipients she had serviced was convened, where she was hailed as a “savior.” She’s personally performed 500 kidney transplants and 200 liver transplants, her profile says.

Dr. Ming Yingzi, a controversial Chinese transplant doctor is shown in the center performing a surgery in an undated photograph. (Third Xiangya Hospital)

But she is also the subject of a lengthy prosecution in China for allegedly misappropriating 150,000 yuan ($22,000) paid by a patient for a kidney. Her lawyer in court acknowledged that she indeed received the money, that it was for a kidney, and that no receipt was produced, according to a local journalist. She says that she then gave the money to either the Red Cross, or a local Organ Procurement Organization.

“She’s been changing her story,” said Jiang Jiasong, the lawyer for the plaintiff, in a telephone interview. “She’s never produced any evidence. … I asked her which organ procurement organization she gave the money to, and she refused to answer.”

It is likely that none of this was clear to O’Connell and Chapman. Ming’s biography on the Xiangya website provides what is almost certainly an apocryphal account of an interaction between the three. It says that when the two Australians were leaving Changsha in 2014, both of them gave her the “thumbs up” and made the remark: “Your achievements are astounding! We hope that you’ll become a leader in China’s new generation of organ transplant doctors!”

Westmead has been quiet about the relationship, brokered by Chapman and O’Connell, between it and Xiangya, and there is no mention of it on its website.

When asked for copies of the agreements between the institutions, and comment on the appropriateness of the relationship, Emma Spillett, senior corporate communications specialist at Westmead, part of the Western Sydney Local Health District, said “Thanks for your enquiry. We will get back to you ASAP.”

Three hours later she wrote back: “Western Sydney Local Health District will not be commenting on this matter.”

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Former Canadian minister David Kilgour speaks to reporters in Ottawa on June 24, 2016 about the updated report organ harvesting in China that he wrote with David Matas and Ethan Gutmann. (Jonathan Ren/Epoch Times)Former Canadian minister David Kilgour speaks to reporters in Ottawa on June 24, 2016 about the updated report organ harvesting in China that he wrote with David Matas and Ethan Gutmann. (Jonathan Ren/Epoch Times)

A decade ago, two Canadians released a report on illicit organ harvesting in China so shocking that many struggled to believe it.

Since then, the investigation has continued and they’ve now updated their findings in a report that details the industry that has sprung up in China around the harvesting of human organs.

David Kilgour, a former Secretary of State and federal Member of Parliament and international human rights lawyer David Matas released their initial report in July 2006. This Friday, June 24, the two returned to Ottawa with investigative journalist and author Ethan Gutmann, to release updated research that puts transplant volumes at up to 1.5 million in China.

Matas

Canadian international human rights lawyer David Matas speaks to reporters in Ottawa on June 24, 2016 about the updated report on organ harvesting in China that he wrote with David Kilgour and Ethan Gutmann. (Jonathan Ren/Epoch Times)

The source of those organs is not explained officially and the Chinese regime claims only 10,000 to 20,000 transplants take place annually rather than the up to 100,000 estimated in the updated 817-page report.

That new figure is based on primary source research from thousands of documents “indicating that the scale of organ transplants is much larger than previously perceived by a large factor,” said Kilgour.

What’s more, despite several reports and extensive investigation into the issue, there is still no stop to the practice.

“For the last 15 years, as you all know, across China there has been regime-sanctioned pillaging and trafficking in the vital organs of prisoners of conscience, overwhelmingly from practitioners of Falun Gong, but also Tibetans, Uyghurs, and some house Christians, to fund an immensely profitable but despicable commerce with wealthy Chinese patients and organ tourists,” Kilgour said.

Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a spiritual meditation practice that was first introduced to the public in China in1992, and became immensely popular within a short span of time, with government estimates putting the number of adherents between 70 to 100 million. The immense popularity of this traditional practice became a source of concern for then-leader of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Jiang Zemin, who launched a campaign of persecution against the practice in 1999, and, according to undercover investigators getting confirmation from an official, directly gave the order to use the adherents for their organs.

A Billion Dollar Industry

The profits generated from the selling of the organs is in the billions of dollars. Matas said the estimates are now even higher with updated figures on the volume of transplants involved each year.

Gutmann

Investigative journalist Ethan Gutmann speaks to reporters in Ottawa on June 24, 2016 about the updated report on organ harvesting in China that he wrote with Canadians David Matas and David Kilgour. (Jonathan Ren/Epoch Times)

“What’s more, the prices have gone up over time partly because of inflation, and partly because there’s more of a cover-up and there’s enough of a focus that [the Chinese regime] feel they can charge a premium for doing this undercover work,” said Matas.

“If you just use the old figures, you’re dealing with $6 billion to $10 billion a year. If you put in the escalation because of the coverup, it’s $12 billion and beyond, it’s huge. The hospitals themselves say this is our number one money-maker, this is something that is basically keeping those hospitals going.”

Ethan Gutmann, whose 2014 book “The Slaughter” is the culmination of seven years of research and investigation into China’s forced organ removal from prisoners of conscience, gave an insight on the estimation of the number of transplants done each year in China’s hospitals.

“Back in 2013 if I was giving a talk with one of the Davids [Matas or Kilgour] or by myself to a college audience or Amnesty International audience in Europe, I’d ask them to Google ‘Shenzhen organ transplant centre.’ This is what would come up: An ad, in English, that is advertising for the transplant centre, for foreigners to come to China. It said ‘we’re the best at heart transplants and lung transplants,’” Gutmann said.

“This establishes that China openly advertised that they had organs on the web. They supposedly banned all organ tours after the [initial] Kilgour-Matas report and forbid it. But of course they hadn’t. They were continuing to advertise, just in a more discreet way.”

Investigations from different sources, including online advertisement and internal communications at the hospital, show that the hospital had 500 to 700 beds devoted just for transplants, and they had 100 percent to 131 percent occupancy rates, with the hospital claiming that at times they had to put patients into hotels due to lack of space.

Gutmann said that puts the estimates of the number of transplants at this hospital alone at a minimum of 5,000 transplant a year. Another major hospital, the People’s Liberation Army’s 309 hospital in Beijing, is similarly estimated to perform about 4,000 transplants a year. Taking into account that there are 146 hospitals certified by the Chinese Ministry of Health to do transplants, and looking at their capabilities and other pieces of information, the report’s authors said they were able to estimate the annual rate of transplants in China.

The Update

Besides the update on the volume of transplants involved, the updated report focuses on several other areas.

The report looks at the CCP’s coverup of the forced organ harvesting and the regime’s attempts to hide individual hospital transplant figures. The report also explores the driving factors behind the volumes, the structure the regime has built around organ harvesting, the culpable individuals, and the CCP’s claims of recent transplant reforms. As well, the report addresses plastination, which involves the replacement of bodily fluids with polymers in a corpse for display at exhibitions.

“There is compelling evidence that practitioners of Falun Gong are killed for both plastination and organ sourcing. The evidence supporting each abuse is also evidence in support of the other abuse,” said Matas.

A Supply Problem

The problem with transplant abuse in China cannot be solved by stopping the flow of people traveling there for organs, said Matas. “We could end transplant tourism into China entirely and organ transplant abuse in China could still continue.”

However, other nations are obligated to do what they can to avoid complicity in that abuse, he said.

Matas gives the example of how King Leopold II of Belgium at the turn of the 20th century was engaged in slavery in the Congo and how that came to light by investigations conducted by Edmund Morel, a shipping line clerk.

Kilgour Matas Gutmann

(L-R)Canadian human rights lawyer David Matas, former Canadian secretary of state for Asia-Pacific David Kilgour, and American investigative journalist and author Ethan Gutmann take part in a press conference on the release of their update report on organ harvesting in China in Ottawa on June 24, 2016. (Jonathan Ren/NTD Television)

Morel had noticed that the goods coming to the Congo were guns, ammunition, and explosives, which went to the state or its agents, but the goods that left Congo were ivory and rubber, of much higher value than the goods sent in. He concluded that the ivory and rubber were not purchased in exchange of good being shipped in, but rather the people producing the goods in the Congo were providing slave labour.

“The conclusion was noteworthy because it was made without an eye witness evidence of slavery. It came just from shipping records. His work was initially met with official denials, yet it was accurate,” Matas said.

At first, many were worried about offending Belgium by pressing the issue, but the British government eventually commissioned their consul in Congo to conduct an independent investigation into the issue, and the consul confirmed the existence of slavery in Congo after travelling there.

Matas said that discrepancy between the value of traded goods is very similar to discrepancy between the volume of transplants and the available donors.

“The China discrepancy today points as much to a human rights violation as the Belgium discrepancy did yesterday. The need for a [Canadian] government or inter-governmental independent investigation is as great.”

Kilgour and Matas have both requested visas to China to further investigate the issue in person, but their requests have been denied.

Canada Should ‘Walk the Walk’

Matas said Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi’s lashing out at a Canadian journalist in a joint press conference with Canadian foreign minister Stephane Dion in Ottawa earlier in June is an opportunity for Canada to press China about the organ harvesting practice.

“There’s been some criticism of Stephane Dion for saying nothing. I consider that an opportunity because if the Chinese minister of foreign affairs can do that publicly in Canada, then the Canadian minister of foreign affairs and the Canadian Prime Minister can do that publicly in China. That’s what should happen,” Matas said.

“I would like to see our Canadian leaders going to China and saying publicly to the journalists: Why aren’t you reporting on this?”

In addition to raising this issue with the Chinese regime, Canada should take its own initiatives in the area, Matas said, which include legislation, resolutions, and conducting investigations into the issue.

He cites the U.S. House of Representatives passing a unanimous resolution condemning harvesting of organs from Falun Gong practitioners in mid June.

“We need to get the [Canadian] government engaged, not just in talking politely to China, but doing their own work on this file,” Matas said.

Kilgour said he was pleased that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed dissatisfaction with Chinese foreign minister’s conduct in Canada, and noted that a Nanos poll commissioned by the Globe and Mail shows that 76 percent of Canadians have a negative view of the Chinese government.

“If [Chinese] President Xi [Jinping] wants to turn that around, the best way he can do it is to stop this organ pillaging, trafficking immediately. He has no connection with Jiang Zemin, who did this, and [Xi] can stop it, but he should do it now. He shouldn’t wait another two years.”

Gutmann, a U.S. citizen who lives in London, said he knows Canada as a beacon of human rights in the world, and it’s time for Canada “to walk the walk.” He said Canada should follow examples of countries like Taiwan, Israel, and Spain who have made it illegal for their citizens to get organ transplants in China.

“They [countries with legislation] are not really going to pay a price and nobody else has paid a price. Taiwan hasn’t paid a price for passing organ harvesting laws; Israel hasn’t paid a price; I don’t believe Spain has. There’s a reason for that, because [the Chinese regime] know they’re guilty, Everybody knows this. This is a huge embarrassment, they are trying to cover it up.”

With reporting by Pam McLennan

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(Hard to Believe film stills)(Hard to Believe film stills)

It is difficult to secure a human heart for transplantation. The donor is usually brain dead and on life support, and the donor and recipient must share matching blood and tissue types to prevent rejection.

So Jacob Lavee, a heart transplant surgeon at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Aviv University,  found it hard to believe when a patient in his hospital department in Israel said that he was due in China in a fortnight, on a specific date, for a heart transplant.

“I looked at him and I said: ‘Do you listen to yourself? How can they schedule a heart transplant ahead of time two weeks?’” Dr. Lavee responded.

That was in 2005. Dr. Lavee recounts the episode in the documentary “Hard to Believe,” the first sustained examination of why the Chinese communist regime’s practice of harvesting the organs of prisoners of conscience—what researchers call a mass murder of at least tens of thousands of victims—is not more widely known.

The documentary, which features interviews with medical professionals, practitioners of the persecuted Chinese spiritual discipline Falun Gong, a United States congressman, and others, is now broadcasting on PBS stations across the country.

The film was released on DVD on Sept. 29, and will be made available digitally in the United States for one week only.

The Good Doctor

For some time Dr. Lavee was aware that Israelis frequented China for kidney transplants—but he always presumed that poor Chinese villagers were the donors. This is itself a highly problematic ethical scenario—but humans can live with one kidney.

Dr. Jacob Lavee. (Screen shot/Hard to Believe)

Dr. Jacob Lavee. (Screenshot/Hard to Believe)

Heart donations are an entirely different matter. China was known for using organs from executed criminals, but Dr. Lavee noted that the transplant and execution numbers didn’t tally up.

After doing some research into the source of organ donors in China, he stumbled upon a report written by a Canadian human rights lawyer and a former politician, who investigated allegations of organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience in China—specifically, practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline which has been persecuted in its homeland since 1999.

“The new information makes absolute sense,” Dr. Lavee says in the documentary, having become one of the key players in the narrative through his own efforts to limit Israel’s involvement in the activity.

The documentary explores how and why researchers believe it’s clear that mass harvesting of Falun Gong prisoners takes place in China, and seeks to understand why more attention isn’t being paid to the matter—why it’s so “hard to believe,” in the words of Louisa Greve, a vice president of the National Endowment for Democracy, who appears briefly in the film.

Tracing a Blood-soaked Trail

One answer can be found simply in the nature of the alleged crime: that the government of China catalogs and extracts organs from its own citizens in a systematic and brutally efficient manner for sale to wealthy Chinese and transplant tourists.

The victims of this organ harvesting trade include Uyghurs, and maybe even Tibetans, though most extensive harvesting was carried out against Falun Gong.

On July 20, 1999, former Communist Party leader Jiang Zemin launched a sweeping national persecution of Falun Gong, a traditional Chinese meditation exercise that incorporates teachings of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance.

At once, over 70 million Chinese citizens became targets for brutal torture and grinding forced labor. Nearly 3,900 Falun Gong practitioners have been tortured and beaten to death, and hundreds of thousands more remain in forced detention, according to Falun Gong statistics and human rights researchers.

Allegations that the Chinese regime was profiting from organs harvested from live Falun Gong practitioners surfaced in March 2006 after the wife of a transplant surgeon involved in harvesting, and a Chinese journalist, went public with details of the macabre affair.

Canadians David Matas and David Kilgour looked into the allegations and tried to disprove them. After considering 33 types of possible proof or disproof, including numerous anonymous calls into China, cross-checking of official transplant numbers, and adopting a simple logical rubric, they concluded in the first ever report on organ harvesting in China that the allegations are true. The Kilgour-Matas report estimated over 40,000 Falun Gong practitioners were killed for their organs.

Former Canadian MP David Kilgour (L) and international human rights lawyer David Matas testified on their seven-year investigation into illegal organ harvesting in China at the human rights subcommittee on Feb. 5, 2013. (Matthew Little/The Epoch Times)

Former Canadian MP David Kilgour (L) and international human rights lawyer David Matas testified on their seven-year investigation into illegal organ harvesting in China at the human rights subcommittee on Feb. 5, 2013. (Matthew Little/The Epoch Times)

Author Ethan Gutmann witnessed first-hand the suppression of Falun Gong in Beijing in 1999, and started his own investigation into organ harvesting in 2006. In his 2014 book, “The Slaughter,” Gutmann traced the history of the Chinese regime’s organ harvesting practice from the crude 1990s experiments in the Chinese frontier province of Xinjiang, to the organ profiling of live Falun Gong practitioners under the guise of “health checks” in present-day China. Gutmann estimates that about 65,000 Falun Gong were harvested from 2000 to 2008.

This year, the film “Human Harvest” won a prestigious Peabody award for its exploration of the issue, providing perhaps the most prominent acknowledgment of the organ crimes in China to date.

Murder Mystery

The producers of “Hard to Believe” wanted to present a murder mystery-style narrative that invites watchers to ask why a human rights lawyer, or an Israeli doctor, have come to such jarring conclusions about a mass murder for commercial gain, led by the Chinese state, over the last decade.

Gutmann was initially skeptical about whether that route would be the most impactful, but was ultimately persuaded. Director Ken Stone and co-producer Irene Silber were “sincere in asking the question I couldn’t answer during the writing process,” Gutmann told Epoch Times in a telephone interview.

Author Ethan Gutmann. (Screen shot/Hard to Believe)

Author Ethan Gutmann. (Screen shot/Hard to Believe)

“‘Hard to Believe’ is the first film that spends more time on the investigators themselves, showing that they are essentially reasonable, objective individuals, with no hidden agenda,” Gutmann said. “It’s a thinking man’s film on organ harvesting.”

The Usual Suspects

The trick was to “keep it simple,” Stone told Epoch Times in a telephone interview. “Focus on the people tied to the issue.”

Hard to Believe director Ken Stone. (Provided by Kay Rubacek)

Hard to Believe director Ken Stone. (Courtesy of Kay Rubacek)

“If you tell small stories, interesting stories about the people, it eliminates the issue” of the film coming across as a work of advocacy, added Stone, an Emmy Award-winning director and a former television reporter now based in Minnesota.

Of all the stories featured, Stone found the interview with former transplant surgeon Enver Tohti the most compelling. Tohti, a native Uyghur from the west China province of Xinjiang who now drives a bus in London, confessed in recent years to have carried out live organ harvesting in the summer of 1995 on the orders of his immediate superior.

The stories of Ethan Gutmann, Falun Gong practitioners, and Enver Tohti are easily relatable to an American television viewing audience because they are familiar archetypes—the hard-charging, truth-seeking, skeptical journalist, the human rights lawyer, the victims of a brutal persecution, and “Doctor Zero,” the first surgeon they could find who engaged in the practice, Ken Stone explained in a video interview of the producers.

“Part of the story is Epoch Times, Ethan Gutmann’s works, David Matas, Jacob Lavee,” Stone said.

This Newspaper’s Role

Epoch Times was the first news publication to cover the organ harvesting issue when it was made public in March 2006, and has since been closely following developments on the issue.

“Hard to Believe” features interviews with Stephen Gregory, the publisher of the U.S. English-language Epoch Times, an independent newspaper headquartered in New York. It also features Matthew Robertson, Epoch Times lead China reporter who was awarded the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award from the Society of Professional Journalists for his coverage of the organ harvesting in 2013.

“We’ve done stories about a reporter who is writing for a paper that most Americans have never heard of but who has written extensively about this, and has even been recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists,” Stone said, in a video interview conducted with the producers of the film.

“The organ harvesting story is the story of Falun Gong,” said Gregory in the documentary. “Falun Gong is the most sensitive issue for the Chinese regime. No one in the mainstream press that have offices inside China are covering it inside China.”

In an interview with Epoch Times, Gregory said: “We reported the organ harvesting allegations first and are the go-to source on the issue of organ harvesting.”

Negotiating the Bends

Like many others, director Ken Stone was skeptical of the Chinese regime’s organ crimes when he first learnt of it from co-producer Irene Silber in early 2014.

After doing some research, however, Stone felt that there was a story worth telling, and decided to start production just when the World Transplant Congress was being held in San Francisco in July 2014.

Kay Rubacek, principal at Swoop Films. (Provided by Kay Rubacek)

Kay Rubacek, principal at Swoop Films. (Courtesy of Kay Rubacek)

Being able to attend the Congress—the largest international event in the field of organ transplantation—was a crucial step for the documentary because the producers were able to meet and interview several key persons for the film, said Kay Rubacek, principal at Swoop Films, which distributes the film.

During production, Rubacek was primarily involved in research and securing interviews, and helped to smooth out the production process by acting as the connection between interviewer and interviewee.

Rubacek, for example, was a troubleshooter keeping the lines of communication open between interviewees and producers for weeks, getting reluctant witnesses to agree to participate.

No small amount of work was put into crafting the documentary’s haunting, pulsing, piano-driven theme by Dafydd Cooksey.

“It’s ominous, foreboding, and there’s a tension in the knowledge being revealed,” said Cooksey, who worked on the score for 12-14 hours a day for a month to produce a score worthy of a murder mystery. “There is something happening, and here’s proof of it happening.”

Dafydd Cooksey, the documentary's sound producer. (Courtesy of Dafydd Cooksey)

Dafydd Cooksey, the documentary’s sound producer. (Courtesy of Dafydd Cooksey)

Cooksey, who also recorded the on-location sound and post-production work, said that the most affecting part of the documentary was from the former surgeon Enver Tohti, who commented on the live organ harvest he participated in.

“As a surgeon, Tohti’s natural instinct is to save lives, but he was told to remove the liver and kidneys of a person who was shot but not dead,” Cooksey said. “What moved me was how years later Tohti showed remorse for doing it: he’d say a prayer for the guy at the mosque or church, or light a candle in a temple.”

Director Ken Stone interviews Enver Tohti, a former organ transplant doctor in the easternmost Chinese province of Xinjiang. (Provided by Kay Rubacek)

Director Ken Stone interviews Enver Tohti, a former organ transplant doctor from the easternmost Chinese province of Xinjiang. (Courtesy of Kay Rubacek)

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