Tribunal Investigates Allegations of Forced Organ Harvesting in China

Jane Werrell
By Jane Werrell
December 9, 2018UK
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LONDON—An independent peoples’ tribunal is examining evidence showing how the Chinese state is targeting innocent prisoners of conscience and forcibly carving out their internal organs for transplants and profit.

Three days of public hearings began on Dec. 8 in the heart of London’s legal district, in which witnesses from across the globe gave their testimonies on the disturbing practice of forced organ harvesting.

Chaired by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, the people’s tribunal will, in his words, be looking at the evidence of forced organ harvesting in China afresh—with no assumptions.

Further hearings are scheduled to take place early next year, followed by a report of the findings.

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The Tribunal Panel (L-R) American historian Professor Arthur Waldron, Malaysian lawyer Andrew Khoo, Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery Martin Elliott, Sir Geoffrey Nice QC (Chair), businessman Nicholas Vetch, Iranian human rights lawyer Shadi Sadr, American lawyer Regina Paulose, in London on Dec. 8, 2018. (Justin Palmer)

Emotional and Painful

The atmosphere during the Dec. 8 hearing in Holborn was serious, and for some, emotional, and painful.

Among the witnesses who testified to Sir Geoffrey and a panel of six experts, were three Chinese refugees who allegedly fled from persecution in China. All refugees spoke separately of being detained in China for their faith in Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline that has been brutally suppressed in China for over 19 years.

Torture methods described by the refugees included electrocution, sexual harassment, forced feeding, and starvation.

But they all spoke of having physical examinations, too. Feng Hollis, who was arrested in 2005, said that at the time she wondered why she was given a medical test after being tortured in prison.

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The Tribunal Panel (L-R) American historian Professor Arthur Waldron, Malaysian lawyer Andrew Khoo, Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery Martin Elliott, Sir Geoffrey Nice QC (Chair), businessman Nicholas Vetch, Iranian human rights lawyer Shadi Sadr, American lawyer Regina Paulose, in London on Dec. 8, 2018. (Justin Palmer)
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Witness Dai Ying recounts at the peoples’ tribunal how she was tortured, in London on Dec. 8, 2018. (Justin Palmer)

In a press briefing before the hearings, executive director of the International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China (ETAC), Susie Hughes, said an increase in transplant activity in China coincided with the repression of Falun Gong.

“During the 2000s, analysis of various sources of emerging evidence led to the conclusion that people who practiced Falun Gong were being killed to provide the organs fuelling China’s transplant boom,” she said.

Research from human rights lawyer David Matas, a witness on Dec. 8, has found that transplants from voluntary donors and death-row prisoners are far from the total number of transplants taking place in China.

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Susie Hughes (R), executive director of the International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China, talks at the press briefing with Heather Draper (L), Professor of Bioethics at the University of Warwick, London, Dec. 8, 2018. (Justin Palmer)
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Hamid Sabi, counsel to the tribunal, on the first day of public hearings in London on Dec. 8, 2018. (Justin Palmer)

Main Supply of Organs Linked to Falun Gong

Investigations by Matas, Nobel Peace Prize nominee Ethan Gutmann, and former Canadian Secretary of State (Asia-Pacific) David Kilgour, indicate that the main supply of harvested organs are from adherents of Falun Gong, while Uyghurs, Tibetan Buddhists, and some house Christians have also been victimized.

While it is difficult to give estimated numbers, the trio’s 2016 report (pdf) into the public records of 712 hospitals in China that carry out liver and kidney transplants suggests that the numbers of organ transplantations in China are exponentially higher than the “official statistics” of around 10,000 (recently increasing to up to 20,000 per year).

“The purpose of this [tribunal] is to let the public know what has happened to the victims,” said Hamid Sabi, legal counsel to the China Tribunal. “In this particular case, how terrible it is for them to be exposed to this sort of torture and eventually pillage of their organs through the most horrible way.”

Pioneered by Lord Russell’s tribunal examining war crimes in Vietnam, people’s tribunals are often set up by victims of a serious crime, when international bodies are not willing to investigate the issue.

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(L-R) Counsel to the people’s tribunal Hamid Sabi, Chair Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, and Heather Draper, Professor of Bioethics at the University of Warwick in London on Dec. 8, 2018. (Justin Palmer)

While it does not have legal authority, it does serve as an evidence-based record, and can give pressure to international organisations as well as raise awareness to the public.

One of the main challenges in collecting evidence is that the victim usually dies in the process of forced organ harvesting, with their corpses cremated, and the witness to the crime, the doctor, is usually the perpetrator, therefore unlikely to come forward.

Lawyer David Matas
Lawyer David Matas gives evidence at the people’s tribunal in De Vere Grand Connaught Rooms in London on Dec. 8, 2018. (Justin Palmer)

“It’s dispiriting to see the number of doctors involved. This of course was the Nazi experience, there was a lot of medical abuse in the Nazi period,” said Matas in an interview after giving his evidence.

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