By Trevor Stammers, Director of the Centre for Bioethics and Emerging Technologies
As a response to an alleged carnage akin to the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide, the press coverage of the 80 minute summary judgment of the China Tribunal delivered in London last week has been somewhat muted. True, one subheading stated “ Very many people have died indescribably hideous deaths for no reason,” says tribunal chair, Sir Geoffrey Nice ” whilst another, rather more boldly declared British government ‘ignored' Chinese organ harvesting, Tribunal rules’, but that was basically it. Nothing on the BBC headlines webpage at all. The story of ‘gondola making sisters challenging tradition’ was in the top ten video stories but nothing about the Tribunal’s declaration of mass murder of thousands of Chinese prisoners (though to be fair, there was a separate lead video story about China’s transformation camps which was chilling enough).
The refusal of the British Government to acknowledge the implications of the evidence (148)* that convinced the Tribunal that China, despite its repeated denials over the past decade, is still systematically killing prisoners of conscience (and particularity Falun Gong practitioners) seems completely indefensible. Sir Geoffrey Nice painstakingly outlined over a dozen areas of direct and indirect evidence which convinced the Tribunal panel unanimously to make its judgment. The most powerful evidence I heard in the judgment as it was being delivered, related to the sheer scale and speed of transplantation in China and the selective blood testing of thousands of Falun Gong prisoners.
In 2013, the number of officially declared registered organ donors in China was 375,000 of whom 5,146 donated organs after their death. This conversion rate however is 140 times greater than in the USA where a pool of 140 million donors resulted in only 10, 824 donations (114). Even the number of declared donations sounds far too low given that the 146 hospitals in China known to be carrying out transplants have a capacity for transplantation of 5,775 beds (116). This works out at less than one transplant per bed per year on the official 2013 figures, yet Zhu Jiye, a surgeon in just one hospital claimed it had carried out 4000 liver and kidney transplants in 2013 (111). That hospital alone must then have transplanted around 80% of the declared eligible donated organs if such organs were the only source of supply. Another deeply troubling line of evidence is the short waiting times for organs. Waiting times in China were recorded by the tribunal as much shorter than anywhere else in the world, often only a matter of two weeks. By way of comparison the average wait in the UK for a kidney is 2-3 years. Where are the appropriately matched organs coming from in such a short time? (121).
The medical examination and selective blood testing of the Falun Gong in China suggests an answer to this question. Falun Gong practitioners neither smoke nor drink alcohol, they exercise regularly and as such their organs are more likely than average to be in optimal condition for donation. The widespread imprisonment of the Falun Gong is well-documented. Many witnesses to the Tribunal stated that such prisoners were ‘systematically subjected to blood tests and organ examinations’ (72). One expert witness questioned “Why would Falun Gong practitioners receive specific medical examinations ….while at the same time being subjected to ….torture? He postulated them as part of the building of a systematic database of potential organ donors (73).
In his concluding sentence, Sir Geoffrey indicated that public bodies, such as educational establishments, who interact with China in any substantial way ‘should now recognise that they are to the extent revealed above, interacting with a criminal state’. (205). Should we not as a University, declare our part in such recognition?
*These numbers refer to the relevant paragraphs in the Summary Judgement document.