Twenty Years of Falun Gong Persecution in China

On 16 July, Jim Shannon MP hosted a seminar ‘How the UK Might Get China to Stop Committing Crimes Against Humanity’ marking the 20th year of persecution for Falun Gong in China.

The seminar covered the background of Falun Gong, the persecution in China as well as the recent judgment by the China Tribunal and current legislation enacted to combat organ harvesting.

“Falun Gong is an ancient Buddhist practice teaching truthfulness, compassion and tolerance,” said Caroline Yates from the Falun Dafa UK Association. She explained that when Falun Gong reached about 70 million adherents in China was when Jiang Zemin gave the directive to “eradicate” the group in July 1999.

The persecution has been long and brutal. Reports of torture and death are common and estimates of 500,000 to 1,000,000 practitioners are imprisoned at any given time for their faith.

The most horrific aspect of the persecution are the reports that Falun Gong prisoners of conscience have been killed in vast numbers in order to provide organs for the burgeoning organ transplant industry run by the Chinese state.

Professor Martin Elliott, speaking on behalf of the China Tribunal, explained how a People’s Tribunal is used when other organisations fail to address important issues. In this case, the China Tribunal was asked to investigate organ harvesting of prisoners of conscience in China.

He added how the tribunal members created a ‘firewall’ of legal counsel so as to maintain their independence. Each of the seven expert members heard and read all the submissions on organ harvesting. At each step they also asked the People’s Republic of China to contribute submissions as well in order to be even-handed.

All of the information about the tribunal working method and judgement is available here

The China Tribunal reached a final judgment on 17 June and Professor Elliott read the short form conclusion:

“Forced organ harvesting has been committed for years throughout China on a significant scale and that Falun Gong practitioners have been one – and probably the main – source of organ supply. The concerted persecution and medical testing of the Uyghurs is more recent and it may be that evidence of forced organ harvesting of this group may emerge in due course. The Tribunal has had no evidence that the significant infrastructure associated with China’s transplantation industry has been dismantled and absent a satisfactory explanation as to the source of readily available organs concludes that forced organ harvesting continues till today.”

Ms Yates also covered the legislation that other countries have enacted as a response to organ harvesting in China. To date, nine European countries ratified the Council of Europe Convention Against Trafficking in Human Organs (No 216). Israel enacted the 2008 Organ Transplant Act. Spain enacted new Criminal Code Article 156. Italy enacted legislation No 235/2016. Taiwan amended the Human Organ Transplantation Act. Belgium passed the “Bill on trade in human organs on the principle of non-punishment for victims of human trafficking”. Canada has passed a third reading in the House of bill S-240 amending the Criminal Code and Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (trafficking in human organs).

All of these enactments of legislation were a direct response to the evidence of organs from prisoners of conscience being used for organ tourism in China. The Czech Republic enacted the Council of Europe treaty in March of this year. Senator Marek Hilšer was reported to have said, “It is a public secret that China’s booming transplant industry is the result of taking organs from political prisoners and the Chinese communist regime makes money from this. If we cannot directly influence these crimes, it is our moral duty to adopt legislation to combat organ transplant tourism”

Caroline Yates
Falun Dafa Association UK

On 25 July this issue was raised in the House of Lords:

Lord Collins of Highbury
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the Final Judgment and Summary of the Independent Tribunal into Forced Organ Harvesting from Prisoners of Conscience in China, published on 17 June.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con)
My Lords, I note the time and energy that the International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China has dedicated to this issue. Officials have reviewed the evidence thoroughly. While the evidence is not incontrovertible, we have consulted the World Health Organization and international partners. The evidence provided disturbing details about the mistreatment of Falun Gong practitioners, and raised worrying questions about China’s transplant system. We continue to monitor all available evidence in this regard.

Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab)
I thank the Minister for his response and welcome him back to the Dispatch Box. I am glad to see that he is still here; we hope he will still be here in September. The fact is that the tribunal’s evidence was pretty strong but the WHO is saying that the Chinese transplant system is ethical. Will the Minister take this up and say that the Government should ask the WHO to examine the tribunal’s evidence and explain why it does not think it sustains the argument that harvesting for transplants is going on?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
I know the noble Lord has raised this question before, as have others from the opposition Benches and the government Benches, including the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Collins; the ambassador and I have pressed the WHO on this very issue. The evidence that it uses is based on the self-assessment made by the country that is a signatory, and in this case that is China. The question is whether the country meets the threshold that it has signed up to; a few countries would perhaps admit that they did not. The noble Lord makes a very valid point and I assure him that I continue to press this issue directly with the WHO. We continue to press on this issue directly and bilaterally with the Chinese authorities as well.

Lord Dholakia (LD)
My Lords, is the Minister aware that government departments often make use of in-country reports, particularly on matters relating to immigration and asylum? Now that the tribunal’s report is available, will the Minister ensure that it is put on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website so that people travelling to China for medical tourism are aware of how such organs are secured? There seems to be no transparency on this matter. We have a proud tradition of respecting the human rights of individuals wherever they may be. Surely our bilateral trade arrangements should not impede that exercise.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
I will certainly take the noble Lord’s first suggestion back to the FCO. The issue of people travelling to China has been taken up before. Both I and the Minister in the other place have taken it up directly with the Home Office. We as Foreign Office Ministers have written to the Home Office to explore this issue, and my understanding is—[Interruption.] Maybe that is the Home Office calling the noble Lord, Lord Desai. My understanding is that Canada, Spain, Israel, Italy and Taiwan have now implemented schemes on the very issue of monitoring people travelling to China for transplants. That is something I wish to explore further with Home Office colleagues.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
My Lords, is the Minister aware that witnesses at last night’s inaugural meeting of the all-party parliamentary group on Uighurs expressed great concern that many of the Uighurs in detention centres—there may be as many as 1 million—along with Falun Gong practitioners and people from other minorities are being targeted through DNA tests, which they fear may then be used for the harvesting of organs?

Will the Minister respond to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Collins, about the World Health Organization, given that 34 parliamentarians wrote in April asking for a response from the WHO? As one has not been forthcoming, will he press the WHO to give that response? Will he also undertake to meet Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, who chaired the independent tribunal?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
I will, of course, be pleased to meet Sir Geoffrey Nice. The other issue, as I told the noble Lord, Lord Collins, is something that I am pressing for directly. We will follow up with the World Health Organization on this matter.

Baroness Berridge (Con)
My Lords, it seems from this inquiry that the time you have to wait for an organ transplant in China is a matter of weeks, as opposed to every other country in the world, including similarly populous countries such as India, where you wait months, if not years. Could my noble friend meet his counterpart in the Department of Health and Social Care to discuss this? Maybe the Chinese have discovered some miracle option in transplant matching that the rest of the world, including the NHS, needs to know about.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
I thank my noble friend for that useful suggestion. I am sitting next to my noble friend the Health Minister and I am sure she has made a note of this. We can probably arrange that meeting pretty quickly.