Human Organs: Another Chinese Export
By Nancy Morgan
November 21, 2006
Flashback: This article was first published
in Human Events, July
2000. Nothing has changed since then.
"They told me my kidney came from
an executed prisoner because you get them fresh that way. From the taking of the
kidney, it is only a few hours to get it transplanted in me."
So said one of six prisoners recovering
from a transplant operation at Huaxi University of Medical Sciences in Chengdu,
China, whose comments were secretly recorded on videotape in 1994 by Chinese dissident
and former political prisoner Harry Wu.
Five other patients in the room
had also received a "fresh" kidney that day. It is unlikely that it was a mere coincidence
that, one the same day, the Chinese government carried out a mass execution only
10 miles away.
The People's Republic of China (PRC)
has long used mass executions for political and criminal justice purposes, but now
it appears that there is another purpose to mass executions: to bring in revenue
for the Chinese government through the harvesting and sale of the organs from executed
In Zhengzhou City, a hospital worker
who had many times extracted organs at execution sites, told Wu, "A shot in his
head, blow away his brain, and the guy is brain dead. He has no more thinking, ceases
to be a human being, just a thing, and we use the waste."
T. Kumar of Amnesty International
USA testified on the organ harvesting at a 1998 hearing before the House Government
reform and Oversight Committee. "Amnesty International reported on this practice
in 1993 and called at that time for the Chinese government to ban the use of organs
from executed prisoners without their free and informed consent," said Kumar. "However
the use of organs from this source continues in China, reportedly on a widespread
This is particularly troubling because,
in China, the death penalty is applied to a much broader set of crimes than in Western
nations. "In China," Kumar testified, "there are about 68 offences punishable by
death, including reselling value-added tax receipts, theft, burglary, hooliganism,
seriously disrupting public order, pimping, trafficking of women, taking of bribes,
corruption, forgery and tax evasion."
Ninety percent of the organs used
for transplant in China, Kumar said, come "from executed prisoners."
The use of prisoners' organs for
transplant raises the obvious issue of donor consent. If ordinary, law-abiding Chinese
are not free to decide their own destiny when they are alive, is it credible that
Chinese prisoners are free to determine the destiny of their organs when they are
On paper, the Chinese have covered
themselves on this issue. A 1984 Chinese government document smuggled out of the
country by Wu outlined the "Official Administrative Regulations" for collecting
organs from executed prisoners. One regulation stipulates that organ harvesting
can be done only "with the consent of the prisoner or his family, or in cases where
the body is uncollected."
Wu points out, however, that poor
prisoners in China are often executed far from their home territories, where it
is impossible for their families to collect their bodies.
Yet, Gao Pei Qi, the onetime deputy
chief of the Public Security Bureau in Shenzhen, China, told the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee in 1995, "In the 10 years that I worked for the Public Security
Bureau, I never saw or heard anything to suggest that death row prisoners were asked
for consent before donating organs. Nor was the family asked. In fact, more
often than not, the prisoners family would be held under house arrest while the
executions were taking place. Only by agreeing to pay the autorities for the urn
would they be able to collect the ashes."
In 1994, posing as a businessman
seeking a kidney for a relative, Wu took a hidden video camera to an organ-marketing
firm in Hong Kong. In a room complete ith sales brochures, a saleswoman assured
Wu that "all organs [for sale] are from brain dead people and have been donated
At First University hospital in
Chengdu, Wu videotaped a Chinese doctor making a sales pitch to someone he thought
was a prospective organ buyer. "The quality of our kidneys is better than in America,"
said the doctor, "because we can remove the kidneys fast and at the appropriate
time. Basically, as soon as we know the donor is brain dead, we can ge at the kidney
with a minimum of fuss and we can guarantee several kidneys in one month. The distance
between where we remove the kidney and the transplant is short. we can do it in,
oh, less than 10 hours. In America, it takes more than 20 hours."
According to Wu, there are 90 hospitals
in China capable of performing kidney and cornea transplants. The going price for
kidneys [in the 1990s] was $30,000 with indications that the price has increased
dramatically in recent years. "Several hospitals are now doing more complicated
(and far more lucrative) liver transplant procedures."
On January 9, 2000, the South China Morning Post reported, "Organs from executed prisoners
are being offered for up to $300,000 each to Hong Kong liver transplant patients
who travel to a mainland hospital."
A reporter from the paper, inquiring
about the possibility of a liver transplant for a friend, was told by a doctor at
Sun Yat Sen University of Medical Sciences in Chengdu, "The organs are of good quality
as they come from young prisoners."
The doctor went on to say, "I cannot
make it too clear....if you miss this chance [before Lunar New Year], you may have
to wait until Labor Day. Some prisoners have been sentenced earlier. We will have
some organs this month. of course we have to match the patients blood type, but
no need to worry, there will be lots."
At a hospital in Guangzhou, a doctor
told a Morning Post reporter, "A liver transplant can be easily arranged, and consent
is not an issue. There is no provision in mainand law for prisoners to give consent
to donate organs."
What happened to the 1984 "consent"
regulations smuggled out by Wu? Apparently there have never been any provisions
made for their enforcement.
In October, 1997, ABC's "Prime Time
Live" aired a segment, titled "Blood Money," that utilized videotape of two Chinese
nationals in New York attempting to sell human organs to Wu. The Chinese nationals
were arrested for allegedly violating a U.S. law that prohibits organ selling, but
prosecutors eventually dropped the charges.
The overall response to Chinese
organ harvesting has been tepid. The 1999 State Department "Country Report on Human
Rights Practices in China" does acknowledge that "credible reports have alleged
that organs from some executed prisoners were removed, sold and transplanted" and
that "there have been credible reports in the past that patients from abroad had
undergone transplant operations on the mainland, using organs removed from executed
In June of 2000, Harry Wu and Nancy
Morgan compiled video footage obtained secretly by Wu during a series of four clandestine
trips to China. The resulting documentary, entitled "Communist Charity", proved
beyond a shadow of a doubt that China was indeed engaging in mass executions, with
the organs being harvested on site in unmarked white vans before being driven to
a nearby hospital where up to ten harvested organs were then transplanted into waiting
patients. A Chinese doctor, currently residing in Germany, was interviewed
actually confessing to harvesting the kidney of a patient the night before the execution.
This documentary was sent to all
members of Congress, to no avail. At that time the administrations' main priority
regarding China was to get the PRC's Permanent Normal Trade Relations status approved
by the Republican Congress.
According to a report this month
in China Daily, after years of denial, China has finally acknowledged this open
secret. Deputy Health Minister Huang Jiefu stated, "Apart from a small portion of
traffic victims, most of the organs from cadavers are from executed prisoners."
At a conference in Boston, Chinese
transplant doctor, Dr. Zhonghue Chen, admitted that Chinese doctors had transplanted
8,102 kidneys, 3,741 livers and 80 hearts in 2005 alone.
The elephant in the closet can no
longer be ignored. Democrats claim to be champions of human rights. Now that they've
taken over the levers of government it will be interesting to see if their compassion
extends to acknowledging and addressing this massive violation of human rights and