In 2014, the documentary Human Harvest has been released. The documentary is based on the investigative work of co-authors David Kilgour and David Matas, who published Bloody Harvest in 2009. In addition the documentary presents new information and developments on the subject of forced organ harvesting in China.
Due to restrictions on investigations that a totalitarian government imposes on international investigative delegations, evidence often cannot only be compiled from first-degree witnesses and direct sources but also must come from hints and secondary sources. A large number of significant hints can supplement the testimony principal witnesses. The latter are almost impossible to find due to the nature of live organ harvesting.
Traditionally, Chinese are reluctant to donate their organs for transplantation. Vice Health Minister Huang Jiefu admitted at a summit for transplant doctors held in Guangzhou in November 2006 that the communist government was torturing prisoners, executing them, and trafficking in their body parts. “Apart from a small portion of traffic victims, most of the organs from cadavers are from executed prisoners. … The current organ donation shortfall can’t meet demand.” (China Daily) Some experts estimate that over 90 percent of organ transplants in China come from prisoners. The Los Angeles Times reported that Chinese transplant physician Dr. Zhonghua Chen said at a conference in Boston in July 2012 that Chinese doctors had transplanted 8,102 kidneys, 3,741 livers, and 80 hearts in 2005. With a small number of freely donated organs and a constant number of executions per year, the unexplained gap between supply and demand raises the question: Where do all the organs come from?
Amnesty international estimates the number of executions is between 2,000 and 10,000 per year. This would almost match the number of transplants, but it does not explain how all death-row candidates matched the blood types and tissue factors of the recipients. In order to provide all the recipients with a transplant, the projected number of organ donors must be higher than the actual number of transplants. This lack of transparency could be explained by the allegations described in the Kilgour & Matas Report.
On Chinese transplantation center websites and in Chinese newspapers, several articles mention that organs can be provided within a short period of time. They have advertised that the waiting time for a kidney is less than 4 weeks, and in many cases only 1–2 weeks. A liver or a heart can be provided within 1–2 months. In order to match blood and tissue types, it would require a large number of donors to provide these organs. This especially applies to livers and hearts, which are necessary for survival. Again the question is: Where do all the transplanted organs come from? The allegations of a living pool of donors whose organs are harvested on demand is the most likely answer to this question.
Reports from China
On May 17, 2006, China Times printed an article entitled “Kidney Transplants Performed Twice within 48 Hours for 220,000 Yuan (US$27,440).” According to this article, on December 19, 2004, 49-year-old Xue Yanlin Fuyang in Anhui suffered from uremia and was hospitalized in Beijing Haidian Hospital’s transplant center. Nine days later, on the afternoon of Dec. 28, a physician from the Transplant Center brought kidneys from an outside source with blood type and panel reactive antibody (PRA) that matched Xue’s. At 10:10 p.m. that day, Xue was wheeled into the operating room. By 11 p.m., the chief surgeon Han Xiuwu, entered the operating room. Four hours later, Xue Yanlin was wheeled out of the operating room. Han said: “The surgery was not successful.” On the morning of Dec. 29, at 9 a.m., a B-scan examination confirmed the failure of the kidney transplant operation.
According to Xue’s husband Lu Xiaoxing, “The diseased kidney was not removed because Han was in a hurry to get back to Kunming on the same day for another operation. He said there was a kidney source there. He would bring back another kidney the next day, remove the diseased kidney, and replace it with the new kidney.” On Dec. 30, Xue underwent emergency surgery due to a heart attack. By 11 p.m. that evening, Han returned from Kunming with a new kidney and performed the kidney transplant on Xue for a second time. The two transplant operations took place within 48 hours.
Seeking the Mysterious Organ Sources of Shenyang City’s Multi-Organ Transplant Center
Located in Shenyang City, Liaoning Province, the China International Transplantation Network Assistance Center (CITNAC) advertised on their website: “If you send your personal data to this center by e-mail or fax and accept the necessary body examination in Shenyang, China, in order to assure a suitable donor, it may take only one month to receive a liver transplantation, the maximum waiting time being two months. As for the kidney transplantation, it may take one week to find a suitable donor, the maximum time being one month.”
Due to traditional Chinese values, there are very few kidneys taken from live bodies of family members for transplantation. According to the report “To Transplant or Not to Transplant” published in Modern Business Daily of Beijing on June 10, 2004, transplant surgery using kidneys from family members represents about 1.5 percent of the total number of kidney transplants.
According to the article “Organ Transplant: An Area that Needs Fast Regulations” in the 147th issue of Finance Journal in December 2005, Deputy Health Minister of China Huang Jiefu admitted for the first time at a WHO meeting held in Manila from Nov. 7 to 9 that most organs China uses for transplant come from death-row convicts.
“Twenty Organ Transplants Free of Charge” at the Hunan Provincial People’s Hospital read the April 28 edition of the Hunan Xiaoxiang Morning Herald. The advertisement was for a special hospital promotion giving away 20 free liver or kidney transplants. Patients were instructed to call the paper’s hotline to register. The hospital also advertised its promotion in other media, including the Changsha Evening Post and the Hunan Economics TV Station.
China’s Announcements to End Organ Harvesting from Executed Prisoners by January 2015
China has announced to end organ harvesting from executed prisoners, however, the 1984 provisional regulations on the use of dead bodies or organs from condemned criminals, which allow to harvest organs from executed prisoners, were not abolished. The announcement did not include to also end the organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience.
Although China has announced to replace the organ sourcing from executed prisoners through organs from the newly founded public organ donation system, a scrutiny of the new system cannot deflect concerns about the source of organs. It is questionable how a 2-3 year old organ donation system can yield more than 7,000 organ donations within one year, and how the number of registered organ donors can possibly increase by exactly 25,000 registered donors within 24 hours.
The data suggests that they follow an artificial course, where concerns remain.