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Since January 1, 2015, Chinese officials have pledged that organ donations would come only from ‘voluntary civilian organ donors’. Photo: Shutterstock

China stopped harvesting organs from executed prisoners in 2015. Prove it at London inquiry, say unconvinced UK lawmakers

  • Since 2015, organs in China have been sourced only from ‘voluntary civilian donors’
  • UK lawmakers are unconvinced and want Chinese and WHO officials to attend an independent inquiry in London

Some UK lawmakers want to ban British citizens travelling to China for “transplant tourism” purposes, amid renewed concerns about the source of organs.

The cross-party group of lawmakers also called for China and the World Health Organisation (WHO) to attend an independent inquiry in London next month to disprove allegations that mass organ harvesting still happens in China.

For decades, China long relied on executed prisoners as the main source of transplant organs.

But since January 1, 2015, Chinese officials have pledged that organ donations would come only from “voluntary civilian organ donors”.

However, those assurances have not convinced some UK lawmakers.

“It is wrong that people should travel from here to China for what is almost a live organ on demand to suit themselves,” said Democratic Unionist MP Jim Shannon, who tabled the debate in Westminster on Tuesday.

Democratic Unionist MP Jim Shannon: ‘Wrong that people should travel from here to China for what is almost a live organ on demand’. Photo: Twitter

“We need to control that, structurally, as other countries have, not simply because it is the right thing to do, but also because it is necessary to protect UK citizens from unwittingly playing a role in the horrifying suffering of religious or belief groups in China.”

Shannon offered no evidence that UK citizens were travelling to China for such transplants.

But human rights groups have long accused China of stripping organs from executed prisoners and members of the Falun Gong. China banned Falun Gong in 1999, dubbing it an evil cult.

We’re really not harvesting executed prisoners’ organs for transplant any more, China insists

China insists its 2015 organ donation policy is working and has publicised its efforts to crack down on organ trafficking and black market transplant tourism.

On Sunday, Xinhua reported that organ donations in China had increased by around 20 per cent every year since the new law was enacted.

“China has developed a nationwide system of voluntary organ donation and achieved healthy and sustainable development in the area,” Xinhua quoted Huang Jiefu, director of the China National Organ Donation and Transplantation Committee, as saying.

But with 64,087 organs officially donated since 2010, and 300,000 people a year needing transplants, there is a considerable shortage of donors.

One explanation is a traditional belief in China that bodies should be buried or cremated intact.

Members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement in an organ harvesting ‘performance’. File photo: AFP

In 2016, an investigation by Canadian human rights lawyer David Matas, former Canadian Secretary of State for the Asia-Pacific region David Kilgour and investigative journalist Ethan Gutmann, claimed that China had an “industrial-scale, state-directed organ transplantation system, controlled through national policies and funding”.

Most of the organs, the report said, were harvested from Falun Gong practitioners.

Although the allegations sound far-fetched, ltaly, Spain, Israel, Canada and Taiwan have already introduced legislation banning their citizens from taking part in organ tourism.

The US House of Representatives and the European Parliament have also both passed resolutions condemning what they said was state-sanctioned organ harvesting from non-consenting prisoners of conscience.

‘Real Bodies’ in UK anatomical exhibition could be executed Chinese prisoners, says doctor

Campaigners have established an independent tribunal in London that resumes work in London in April.

Former British judge Sir Geoffrey Nice, deputy prosecutor in the war crimes case against former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, is the chairman.

Last December, Nice said it was “beyond reasonable doubt” that “forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience has been practised for a substantial period of time involving a very substantial number of victims” after hearing a number of testimonies.

“Have not the Chinese government had ample time to prove that they (the allegations) are false?” said Shannon.

“They have not done so. Would it not be a simple thing for them just to open their doors and allow the world in to investigate?

“They have not done that.”

The Geneva-based WHO, which collates global data on organ donations and works with China, says the country’s organ transplant system is in accordance with international standards, although it does have concerns about overall transparency.

Shannon said the WHO also needs to show why it believes the organ harvesting allegations to be false, and called on the Minister for Asia and the Pacific, Frank Field, who attended the debate, to invite China and WHO to attend next month’s inquiry.

Conservative MP Fiona Bruce, drawing comparison with atrocities committed by Islamic State, said in the case of alleged forced organ removal in China “there are no such victims to tell their stories. That is because no one survives. It is almost a perfect crime.”

Once banned, Chinese scientists now at heart of organ transplant conference

She urged the government to “engage in a dialogue with the Chinese government to inquire about those reports” and “if the endeavours at dialogue fail, our ministers should call for an independent UN inquiry.

“Surely, in all humanity, the time has come for that.”

Field said he did not believe there was enough evidence to make a definitive case against China but said the UK government would raise the matter in ongoing discussions with Beijing about human rights.

“Given the depth of concern reflected by all members, we will go back and try to look at things, particularly international comparators, to see how we can craft legislation that will be effective in the way that all of us would desire,” he said.

Labour MP Afzal Khan said UN special rapporteurs “have both requested that the Chinese government explain the sources of the organs and that they allow them to investigate. There has been no response”.

“There needs to be need accountability for these blatant human rights abuses,” he said.