The Tianjin First Central Hospital. (mapio.net)The Tianjin First Central Hospital. (mapio.net)

A foreign patient receives a life-extending organ transplant in a Chinese hospital. Feeling grateful, he asks a hospital staff who the donor was so that he may give thanks and repayment.

But no one at the hospital—not even the transplant doctor—knows the donor’s identity.

Before his flight home, the patient is issued an official transplantation document. He finally learns the identity of his life-giver: A 30-year-old male death row convict. Coincidentally, all the other transplant patients received organs from healthy, 30-year-old executed prisoners. Only their names differed.

A correspondent who identified him or herself as having worked at the Tianjin First Central Hospital in the mid-2000s recently recounted the above episode and other oddities in a personal statement provided to New Tang Dynasty Television.

Below is a translation of the statement, edited for brevity and clarity.

***

I’m currently living in mainland China. Once, I worked at the organ transplant center in Tianjin First Central Hospital. What I’ve learned could perhaps serve as a rare warning to those who persist in persecuting Falun Gong. It’s also a cautionary tale for my fellow countrymen with a conscience.

The Communist Party Sells Human Organs

When China was welcoming large numbers of foreign organ transplant patients, I stepped into Tianjin First Central Hospital’s organ transplant center on the seventh floor. I managed to get a job at the transplant center through a recommendation.

Then, Tianjin First Central Hospital was also known as the Orient Organ Transplant Center because it handled large volumes of organ transplant patients, and was located in China. Today, this hospital is still the largest center in Asia.

The world of organ brokers is a black box — but from my contact with that world, I’ve figured out that there are a number of channels for people to learn about or get organs.

One channel is through middlemen. A well-known South Korean doctor with one of the biggest hospitals in South Korea would introduce his patients to a middleman. This middleman would then refer these patients to the Tianjin hospital.

There is no diplomatic arrangement for organ transplantation between China and South Korea. Rather, intermediaries belonging to Mafia-like syndicates cut transplant deals.

Many of the foreign transplant patients came to China looking for a liver or kidney. The bulk of these foreigners were South Koreans, while the rest came from Japan or Taiwan.

Foreign doctors are another channel for organ transplants. Because there was a shortage of transplant doctors in China, an unnamed hospital hired a South Korean doctor on high wages. This South Korean doctor told me that his peers in China held two household registration (hukou) credentials—one South Korean, and one Chinese—and that he is a legal Chinese citizen. I don’t know how much Chinese blood these dual-national South Korean doctors have on their hands.

A third channel is Chinese commercials. These ads feature famous Chinese celebrities, and serve to deceive and entice potential patients. A South Korean patient I keep in touch said that his countrymen flocked to China after watching an organ transplant advertisement starring Chinese actor Fu Biao.

On Aug. 26, 2004, Fu Biao checked into Beijing’s 309 Hospital for a check-up. The following day, he was diagnosed with liver cancer. On Sept. 2, Fu received a liver transplant at the General Hospital of the People’s Armed Police in Beijing.

The chief surgeon operating on Fu was Dr. Shen Zhongyang, a man hailed by the Chinese media as China’s “top scalpel.” Dr. Shen had headed the organ transplant research institute at the People’s Armed Police Hospital and the Orient Organ Transplant Center in Tianjin First Central Hospital.

In April 2005, Fu suffered a cancer relapse. He had a second liver transplant surgery on April 28, and was once again operated on by Dr. Shen, though this time at the Orient Organ Transplant Center.

On Aug. 30, however, Fu Biao passed away.

The following March, the organ harvesting of still-living Falun Gong practitioners in the district of Sujiatun in Shenyang City was exposed. The years between 2002 to 2005 were said to be the peak period of former Communist Party leader Jiang Zemin’s organ harvesting operation. Later, an article revealed that Dr. Shen Zhongyang conducted liver transplant experiments using live subjects, many of whom “died under experimentation.”

Afterwards, a person provided a tip on the sourcing of actor Fu Biao’s donated livers—two Falun Gong practitioners from Shandong. Dr. Shen had killed the practitioners for their organs.

Fu might have only lived a year more after his two liver transplants, his organ transplant advertisements continue to be broadcast in South Korea. Thus, South Koreans still visited China for surgery in 2006 because they didn’t know that Fu Biao was already dead.

Fu only lived a year more after his two liver transplants. But while he passed away on Aug. 30, 2005, Koreans were still going to China for surgery in 2006 because Fu’s organ transplant advertisements continue to be broadcast; unlike the Chinese, the Koreans didn’t know that Fu had died.

Those in need of a liver transplant around the world had fallen victim to the Chinese Communist Party’s enormous deception.

China Has the World’s Largest Human Organ Bank

A South Korean patient once told me that Chinese doctors learned the organ transplantation techniques from the technically superior Japanese doctors.  

When I was at the Tianjin organ transplant center, the hospital staff were familiar with a professor Zheng, a specialist in liver transplants, and a professor Song, a kidney transplant specialist. They were considered the best transplant surgeons in their respective fields, and both had learned their craft in Japan. The two professors didn’t appear to be working for just one hospital—one day they’d be performing surgery in China, and the next day they’d head off to Japan or some place else.

At the Tianjin First Central Hospital, doctors perform transplant surgery in groups of three. I’m not sure how many surgery groups there are. These doctors work night after night, while hospital translators wait with the relatives of patients in the hallways. A liver transplant can take up to 10 hours.

Why did foreigners, particularly South Koreans and Japanese, journey to China for organ transplants, I asked professor Zheng and professor Song. They told me that while they had superior transplantation skills, they weren’t able to find organ donors within a very short time frame in the aforementioned Asian countries. For instance, the waiting time for an organ in Japan or South Korea could be as long as 10 years, or five to six years at the earliest. Some patients pass away while waiting for an organ because acquiring one isn’t easy.

The professors added that everyone in their medical teams and their patients know about the organ waiting time. So many foreign patients end up traveling to China because there appears to be many Chinese organ donors.

Shocked and Distressed Patients

Most of the patients I met at Tianjin First Central Hospital were in need of either a liver or a kidney. Unless the patient suffered an organ rejection, they would be discharged after a short residency period. Under normal circumstances, patients would receive an organ in two days, while some waited anywhere from 10 days to half a month—patients said that this was too fast.

A South Korean patient had the longest waiting time of those I’d met—a whole month—and happened to be at the Tianjin transplant center when the Chinese Communist Party’s live organ harvesting scandal was being exposed.

After a spending a month in Tianjin, the hospital told the patient to travel to the city of Wuhan in central China for a transplant, and we immediately flew over. I didn’t know that an organ transplant network actually existed.

The surgery in Wuhan was very successful, and the patient and his family were very satisfied with the result. Before they returned to South Korea, the patient and his wife—a person of faith—asked who the donor was. The liver transplant had cost him a sum (around three hundred thousand to five hundred thousand yuan), the patient said, but it was the donor who allowed him to regain his health and extend his life.

“I want to know who donated the liver so I can thank the person’s family and give them money or whatever they need; I’m truly very grateful,” the patient said.  

At the time, there was no way for the hospital staff to know where the organs came from. Also, we were warned before being hired that we shouldn’t go sniffing around or indulge in loose talk with patients.

But I wanted to fulfil the South Korean patient’s last request before he left for home.

Of course, the patient didn’t know that we were prohibited from snooping around, and I shouldn’t have been asking questions, but I spoke to the patient’s transplant doctor anyway.

The doctor said: “You’re asking about the donor? Even we don’t even know who the donor is, and there’s no way to find out. Nobody can tell you anything, and no records exist.”

I relayed the doctor’s reply to the patient and his family, and they were very taken aback.

The patient said that international laws regulate the transfer of organs. By these laws, the organ donor and his family are required to sign organ transplantation documents. Without proper documentation, transplant doctors are liable for punishment. In South Korea, everyone knew who their organ donor was because the information has to be made public by law.

Back then, we hospital staff didn’t know anything about the international laws governing organ transplantation. The South Korean patient explained that without these transplantation laws, people could be killed en masse by criminals seeking to profit from their organs. (Then, an organ could be sold for about 300,000 yuan to 700,000 yuan.)

Before leaving the hospital, the South Korean patient said that the hospital needed to give them an official document that indicated that he just had surgery and the organ that he had received, as well as the donor’s personal information and signature. Without this document, the patient wouldn’t be able to board a plane.

I escorted the patient and his family to an airport. They and other organ transplant patients were made to board a special double-decker aircraft instead of a commercial plane. Finally, the organ transplant patients were issued transplantation documents which stated that they had received their organ from a 30-year-old male death row inmate. Only the names of the executed prisoner differed.

Everything was made up.

Post-transplantation Oddities

Organ transplantation is not for everyone. Some patients meet with organ rejection. Others die in surgery. And a few react very adversely after receiving the organ.

A male patient was perfectly normal before checking into Tianjin First Central Hospital. After the organ transplant surgery, however, this patient went insane—he started running around the ward naked, jumping and screaming as he went along.

There was a female patient who suddenly grew a beard after surgery. Her voice became deep and hoarse, and she started to behave like a man.

The examples I listed above are definitely not one-off incidents. During my stint at Tianjin First Central Hospital, patients behaved abnormally from time to time. Doctors told concerned family members that their loved one had developed an adverse reaction to the transplant medication.

At the time, I wasn’t aware that the organs these foreigners had spent large sums of money to purchase came from Falun Gong practitioners. Many of us were too naive, and didn’t imagine that those blinded by money had in fact been brainwashed by the Chinese Communist Party…

One after the other, angels clad in white transformed into murderous devils. Knowing that such things cannot be allowed to continue, I quit my job at Tianjin First Central Hospital.

Afterwards, I obtained information about the live organ harvesting Falun Gong practitioners through various channels. I did what I had to do, and exposed the truth to the world so that those with a conscience can free themselves from the devil’s grip.

Recently, the United States House of Representatives unanimously passed H.Res.343, a piece of legislation calling on the Chinese regime to immediately cease the harvesting and trafficking of organs obtained from Falun Gong practitioners and other prisoners of conscience.

For the past 17 years, Falun Gong practitioners—followers of truthfulness, compassion and tolerance—have been subjected to hundreds of inhumane torture methods, including the atrocity of organ harvesting. This must be stopped immediately, and shouldn’t be allowed to implicate the rest of humanity.

It is the responsibility of every Chinese person in the mainland and abroad to see that live organ harvesting is ended.

Translation by Frank Fang; editing by Larry Ong.

Read the full article here

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.”

Read the full article here