Dr. Enver Tohti, a former physician in China, remembers the day with horror. The whistleblower said his chief surgeon approached him and asked, “Do you want to do something wild?” The surgeon then took Dr. Tohti and other medical professionals to the site of a public execution, pointed to one of the criminals, and told him, “As quick as possible, remove the liver and two kidneys.”
“Then, I saw he was alive,” Dr. Tohti, who is now an Uber driver in London, recently told Vice TV.
Stories of China harvesting organs from live “donors” have proliferated for decades, but a new and credible scholarly article has exposed concrete evidence that China has engaged in the gruesome practice. Researchers Matthew P. Robertson of Australia and Jacob Lavee of Israel combed through 2,838 papers on Chinese organ transplantation published in medical journals, covering prisoner organ donations between 1980 and 2015. They published their findings on April 4 in an article titled “Execution by organ procurement: Breaching the dead donor rule in China,” in the American Journal of Transplantation, a peer-reviewed journal.
The pair looked for discrepancies between donors being declared “brain dead” and the circumstances of their medical treatment. According to the paper, in Western medicine one can only be declared brain dead after intubation and receiving the apnea test on a ventilator. In dozens of cases in China, they found that that did not take place.
“The removal of the heart during organ procurement must have been the proximate cause of the donor’s death” in cases documented in 71 papers, they wrote.
In at least one case, “intubation took place after sternal incision as surgeons examined the beating heart” of the “donor.” (Emphasis in original.) They quote an account from a 1995 journal article:
The donor was intravenously injected with heparin 3mg/kg 1h before the operation… The heartbeat was weak and the myocardium was purple. After assisted ventilation through tracheal intubation, the myocardium turned red and the heartbeat turned strong… The donor heart was extracted with an incision from the 4th intercostal sternum… This incision is a good choice for field operation where the sternum cannot be sawed open without power.
Robertson told me it is important that the media not misreport their data about live organ transplants. “It’s not that there were only 71 of this sort,” he said. “It’s 71 that we found.”
He and his co-author are almost certainly undercounting the incidences when CCP officials killed prisoners by removing their beating hearts, because they counted only those officially documented in medical journals. “We don’t know how many transplants actually end up in a medical paper,” said Robertson. “It could be one in 100; it could be one in 1,000; it could be 1 in 10.”
Hard numbers are difficult to come by, but estimates abound — and none of the numbers add up. In 2019, the China Tribunal found that Chinese physicians likely performed 60,000 to 90,000 organ transplants a year from 2000 to 2014, but the number of eligible organ donors registered in 2017 numbered only 5,146. Another estimate places the number of organs taken from Falun Gong practitioners at 41,500 over a five-year period. For his part, Robertson said once Chinese Communist Party officials perfected the process, they employed this form of organ removal “probably with all heart transplants” in the nation.
Allegations of Chinese Communist organ harvesting stretch back decades. U.S. congressional hearings on the topic go back as far as 1998. At a subsequent House hearing in 2012, representatives described how Chinese Communist Party officials ordered organs from prisoners the way others order hors d’oeuvres off a menu. “They were able to put in the order, and then the wardens at various prisons would fill that order,” said pro-life Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ). Between U.S. hearings, the United Nations broached the topic in 2006 and 2007, but to no avail.
All investigators agree that China targets prisoners for such organ donations — many of whom are imprisoned because of their faith. “The Chinese Communist Party has engaged the State in the mass killings of innocents, primarily practitioners of the spiritually-based set of exercises, Falun Gong, but also Uyghurs, Tibetans, and select House Christians, in order to obtain organs for transplants,” David Matas, a senior legal counsel for B’nai Brith Canada, told Congress in 2016.
Last June, a group of UN experts warned organ harvesting from disfavored minorities continues apace. “Forced organ harvesting in China appears to be targeting specific ethnic, linguistic or religious minorities held in detention,” they wrote. They found that Chinese officials performed blood tests and organ examinations on the prisoners (who were often held without charges) then logged the results in a database of living organ donors.
“They performed three blood tests but gave me no results,” said Falun Gong practitioner Ma Chunmei, who was imprisoned in 2002. “After I was released from the camp, one of [the Falun] practitioners, who happened to be a doctor, told me they were doing a bone marrow test to see if my kidney was a match.”
The healthy lifestyle of religious practitioners, who eschew alcohol and cigarettes, makes their unsullied organs particularly valuable for transplantation. During testing, only bad news brings good news. Falun Gong adherent Jennifer Zeng said she escaped forced organ donation in a Chinese labor camp only because she had Hepatitis C. But sometimes ill health does not spare prisoners, or the organ’s recipients, from the death penalty. A 14-year-old girl from Saudi Arabia died after she received a tainted kidney transplant from a Chinese prisoner in exchange for $200,000, according to testimony offered by a Harvard Medical School professor at a congressional hearing in 2016.
Unfortunately, the West does not have clean hands. Reports of Westerners traveling to China for illicit organ transplants proliferate. Also, “plastinated body parts from China have been sold to medical schools and universities throughout the Western world,” said Matas.
Indeed, the United States has made the problem worse by exporting medical technology to Beijing. The U.S. has sold China extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machines, which prolong the amount of time human organs can be harvested. “Before ECMO, a victim’s few salvageable organs were worth maybe $250,000,” wrote Stephen Mosher of the Population Research Institute. “Now, with ECMO, every organ can be harvested — even the skin — and the victim is easily worth two or three times as much.”
China officially denies these allegations and publicly claims it put an end to any disreputable organ donation practices in 2015. Robertson admitted that “2015 is the last year we had positive findings” for live human organ transplants in their data sample. “There are two possible explanations,” he told me. While it is possible that China kept its word, “it’s also possible that an order went out to medical journals to stop publishing this stuff, and it just happened to coincide with the 2015 ban.”
“We’re skeptical of official claims,” he said.
Such well-founded allegations illustrate that China may commit virtually any human rights abuse with impunity. Despite decades of eyewitness testimony and expert confirmation, the West has applied no meaningful sanctions to those responsible. Under Pope Francis, even the Vatican has maintained and publicly defended its cordial relations with Communist China.
These allegations also illustrate the legacy media’s perpetually favorable coverage of the People’s Republic of China. “China used to harvest organs from prisoners. Under pressure, that practice is finally ending,” The Washington Post told its readers in 2017. “China vows to battle corruption in organ harvesting,” reported the Associated Press a year earlier. But human rights attorney Hamid Sabi told the UN Human Rights Council in 2019 that forced organ harvesting in China “continues today.”
Such silence makes it all the more important for Western media outlets to cover these atrocities. “China and their advocates will do everything they can to belittle or discredit” such findings, said Andrew Bremberg, a former ambassador and now CEO of Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. “And all too often, people in the U.S. and the West will do their best to ignore” them.
But in order for such human rights abuses to end, the West must act. Thanks to Robertson and Lavee’s research, some of the doctors who took part in China’s forced organ harvesting are now known, Bremberg said. “But we don’t know all of their relationships with U.S. or other Western-based hospitals or universities, or whether they collaborate or publish with other Western academics.”
A bipartisan collection of legislators — Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Chris Coons (D-DE) and Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), Tom Suozzi (D-NY), and Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) — introduced the Stop Forced Organ Harvesting Act last March. The bill would allow U.S. officials to identify and sanction those involved in organ harvesting, including revoking their passports.
“It’s past time to hold Beijing accountable for these heinous acts,” said Sen. Cotton.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.