On the initiative of Senator John Madigan (DLP, Victoria), the Senate last month adopted a resolution which calls on the Australian government to “support the UN and Council of Europe initiatives to oppose the practice of organ-harvesting”, a practice which has been common in China since the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners began in 1999.
Australian governments have been largely silent on this issue, apparently fearful of offending the Chinese communist regime.
Falun Gong is a Chinese spiritual movement which includes meditational practices and the cultivation of virtue through its central tenets of truthfulness, forbearance and compassion.
Shortly before the Senate motion was carried, Canadian human rights lawyer David Kilgour spoke to parliamentarians in Canberra, outlining international initiatives to end the killing of Falun Gong practitioners in China for their organs.
Mr Kilgour, a former Cabinet minister in Canada, said there had been several investigations and reports by United Nations rapporteurs on torture.
They asked the Chinese government for an explanation of the allegations about organ-harvesting from live Falun Gong practitioners. They pointed out to the government that a full explanation would disprove the claims, but Beijing has provided “no meaningful answer”.
Mr Kilgour said: “The following two points made by the rapporteurs require answers: ‘Organ-harvesting has been inflicted on a large number of unwilling Falun Gong practitioners at a wide variety of locations for the purpose of making available organs for transplant operations. The practitioners were given injections to induce heart failure, and therefore were killed in the course of the organ-harvesting operations or immediately thereafter’.”
Further, employees of several transplant centres have indicated that they have used organs from live Falun Gong practitioners for transplants. Officials from several detention facilities have indicated that courts have been involved in approving the use of organs from Falun Gong detainees.
David Kilgour said that Beijing replied to the reports with a categorical denial. But the UN rapporteurs later said that “new reports were received about harvesting of organs from death-row prisoners and Falun Gong practitioners” and “information received that Falun Gong practitioners have been extensively subjected to torture and ill-treatment in prisons and that some of them have been used for organ transplants”.
Mr Kilgour referred to initiatives taken by many countries against organ-harvesting. These included resolutions of the UN General Assembly, and actions taken by parliaments in Israel and several other countries.
Additionally, international medical associations, including the Transplantation Society, have condemned forced organ-harvesting.
There had been important admissions from China as to the extent of the practice.
Mr Kilgour said, “In 2006, a World Medical Association resolution demanded that China stop using prisoners as organ donors, and in 2007 the Chinese Medical Association agreed to do so.”
In 2010, at a transplant conference in Madrid, China’s deputy health minister Huang Jeifu stated that between 1997 and 2008 China had performed more than 100,000 transplantations, with over 90 per cent of the organs taken from executed prisoners.
In February 2012, he admitted that the practice of organ-harvesting from prisoners continues in China today, but said that the government wants to phase it out by 2015 and build up a national donation scheme.
Mr Kilgour observed: “This will be very difficult to achieve, in part because many Chinese are unwilling to donate their organs.”
He added that, before the Chinese Communist Party abolishes organ-harvesting from executed prisoners, tens of thousands more will be killed for their organs.
“Since [David] Matas and I began our voluntary work, the number of convicted persons sentenced to death and then executed has decreased, but the number of transplants, after a slight decline, rose to earlier levels.
“Since the only other substantial sources of organs for transplants in China, apart from Falun Gong, are prisoners sentenced to death, a decrease of sourcing from that population means an increase in sourcing from Falun Gong.”
In his Senate motion, Senator Madigan highlighted the fact that the UN and the Council of Europe are planning to introduce a new binding international treaty to prevent trafficking in organs, tissues and cells, and have already issued protocols containing appropriate measures to combat the trafficking of human beings for organ removal.
The Senate resolution puts pressure on the Australian government to take a clear stand on this moral issue.