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The first time, I heard China was harvesting organs for profit from minorities (like the Uyghurs and Falun Gong), I brushed it aside as another conspiracy theory. If China was guilty, Xi Jinping would be evil incarnate, far worse than genocidal maniacs like Hitler and Genghis Khan. The world made the mistake of initially turning a blind eye to Hitler’s atrocities. We are not likely to let history repeat itself, right?
Anyway, a few years went by, but the story just wouldn’t go away. Take the documentary appended below. It’s from a few doctors’ viewpoints and builds a case that’s hard to refute. The eyewitness account (at 23:30) of a young girl’s heart and kidneys being harvested without anesthesia is especially harrowing (the original video by a Chinese doctor is linked here). Be warned. It’s not for the squeamish.
The doctors in this documentary are based in the West. The alarm bells began ringing for them when they were informed by their patients (prospective recipients on organ transplant waiting lists) that they were traveling to China for a transplant that had been scheduled for them.
Organs become available for transplant when a would-be donor is unexpectedly killed, say in a road accident so the ‘wait-time is usually a year and more. The only way you can schedule a transplant is if you know it’s going to happen. This means the organ donors weren’t dying in accidents. They had to be healthy individuals whose organs were being harvested for these patients who were willing to pay the asking price, which is huge money. Once a transplant is scheduled, the involuntary donor is picked up, and his organs extracted. basically killing the ‘donor’ in the process.
Another Chinese doctor investigated this from a different angle. He found that liver transplants increased from 78 in 1999 (the year the Chinese began cracking down on Falun Gong) to 14,085 in 2006. The world organ transplant increase is just 3–5% a year. Where did China find all these fresh organs?
In 2005, Huang Jiefu, the Deputy Minister of China’s Ministry of Health admitted at WHO regional conference in the Philippines that the organs came from mainly death row inmates. So the good doctors did some more investigation and found the numbers didn’t match. According to Chinese official sources, there are 10,000 organ transplants every year. But only 165 Chinese prisoners were executed between July 2013 and September 2014.
China then changed its story and said the organs came from voluntary donors. The doctors checked and found the number of registered donors in China is just a few hundred as against 120 million in the US. The average wait time for a kidney or liver is 2–3 years in the US. Even former Vice President of the US, Dick Cheney had to wait two years to get a heart.
The average wait time in China is two weeks!
Another official chart states that 1150 liver transplants were emergency transplants done within 72 hours max (the recipient’s liver was on the edge of collapse).
Where did the donors for these emergency transplants come from?
All the evidence points to forcible organ harvesting from imprisoned minorities, which means it’s sanctioned by the Chinese government.
So how did China reach this place?
That’s what I attempt to figure out in the rest of this article.
Sneak Attack in the mountains
In recent times, we in India had been having a good equation with China, based mainly on commerce. India had opened up its market to Chinese investment. For instance, the top-selling phones in India are Chinese phones, made in India at factories built by the Chinese. Indian students were even enrolling in Chinese medical colleges to become doctors. It was a mutually beneficial relationship. So what happened next was totally unexpected.
In May 2020, out of the blue, China attacked India at the spectacularly scenic Pangong Tso on the Ladakh border in the Himalayas.
20 Indian soldiers were killed (it took China another eight months to admit its soldiers too were killed). This caused a huge anti-Chinese sentiment in India, with people voluntarily boycotting Chinese products. The Indian government also joined the party banning all imports from China and dozens of Chinese apps, including the wildly popular TikTok on security grounds. Anyway, the ten-month border standoff ended with the Chinese abruptly pulling back its forces at the border.
China finds a new God
During the peace dialogues with the Chinese, one strange disconnect stood out. The Chinese seemed surprised that India was linking its commercial ties with the border issue. They just couldn’t comprehend that India was willing to sacrifice billions in commerce over a border clash.
Only money is sacrosanct to the Chinese.
As a senior Indian diplomat put it, “Normalcy and a border dispute cannot run parallelly as Beijing wants. China has not told India why it attempted to change the status quo at Pangong Tso in May 2020 and why it withdrew 10 months later.”
The Capitalist Communist
During the communist revolution, Mao Zedong's communist revolution crippled the Chinese economy and also wiped out all traces of the Chinese culture. The economy eventually began to recover when Deng Xiaoping opened up China to capitalism, starting with privatizing farming in 1982 (after 20 years of collective farming and 40 million famine deaths). The Chinese economy picked up gradually and it became a market economy by the end of the 1990s. China’s integration with the world economy was complete when it officially joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.
What’s more, the Chinese reinvented their culture around a new god. Money.
If you can make money and accept the diktats of the Chinese Communist Party, an ordinary Chinese citizen could now aspire for a decent life.
The non-existence of Ethics
However, there was one huge problem in this reinvented China. The concept of ethics doesn't exist in this culture. I was watching the news a few days ago, and heard Xi Jinping say China would never indulge in hegemony. This while China is literally doing exactly that in the South China Seas.
If you lie to achieve your goal, you are considered a smart person in China. So we have China joining the WTO making multiple promises, and not keeping a single one. We have Xi Jinping standing beside Barack Obama, and lying through his teeth on the White House lawn as he says the new man-made islands in the South China Seas will not be used for military purposes.
The takeout is how China outsmarted the West.
This lack of ethics has seeped its way deep down into the Chinese psyche. The Chinese people see this and accept it as normal. Sure, petty criminals and thieves are executed in large numbers. But I think this comment back in 2013 by the Chinese Oscar-winning director, Chloe Zhao, says it all.
The comment seems to have hit a raw nerve as Chloe Zhao got cancelled in China when it surfaced.
Kill the planet, kill fish, kill animals, kill humans… for money
Worshiping money and having no ethics is a deadly combination. It naturally follows that everything is fair game for the Chinese to exploit in the name of money.
Kill the planet by excessive exploitation and pollution. Done.
Kill the fish in the oceans by excessive fishing. Done.
Kill all animals to satiate the Chinese taste for exotic foods. Done.
Kill Chinese minorities to harvest their organs. Done.
So why is the world silent?
The above documentary is but just one of many investigations about organ harvesting in China. The website, Doctors against Forced Organ Harvesting (DAFOH), has pooled together a lot of evidence on the issue. Like this book called ‘Bloody Harvest’ which has extensive research into the matter.
The timidity of the world in confronting China led a group of human rights activists to set up an Independent Tribunal to look into the ‘Forced Organ Harvesting from Prisoners of Conscience in China.’ The presentation of the tribunal’s findings by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC and Martin Elliott is quite a damning exposition.
So how many people have been killed for this organ harvesting business? According to Professor Maria Fiatarone Singh, it’s around 60,000–100,000 a year, and as it’s been going on at this pace for nearly two decades, that would make it 2,000,000 killed so far, and counting. These ‘donors’ are from the persecuted minorities, the Falun Gong, the Tibetans, house Christians, and now the Uyghurs.
There are many more videos on the net, which almost certainly confirm the forced organ harvesting is happening in China. So why does the world close its eyes to all this evidence, and carry on with business as usual with China? I can think of four reasons and none of them makes us look good.
The desire to live
If your organs are failing and your clock is ticking down, you too may be willing to accept whatever organ comes your way, with no questions asked. That way, the Israeli government made an astute move by tackling it financially. They enacted a law banning insurance companies from paying for organ transplants being done in China. Problem solved.
That still doesn’t take away from the fact that those who had their transplants in China have to live with the knowledge that some poor Chinese person was sacrificed so they could live. I wouldn’t like to be in their shoes.
What if the donors are criminals
If we are told that the donors are criminals who were anyway going to be executed, then it becomes a bit more palatable for us to swallow what’s going on in China. The problem is the definition of criminal in China includes prisoners of conscience like the Falun Gong, who are guilty of no crime except their beliefs. Though China agreed to stop using organs from executed criminals, the practice may still be going on.
Addiction to cheap products
Being a bit of a nerd, I tend to replace my cheap Android phone with another cheap Android every two years to try out the latest tech. The thing is the value-for-money phones in India are all Chinese. So though I had ethical issues with China, I began considering Chinese phones once their soldiers retreated from the Indian border. The clincher was the phone I bought was ‘Made in India.’The truth is greed got the better of me. I knew deep down even ‘Made-in-India’ phones had key components that were made in China.
Unfortunately, my reasoning is being replicated across the world, and not just at the consumer level. Say an Indian enterprise wants a certain raw material. China can supply it and their rates can’t be matched but the Indian government has banned imports from China. However, the Chinese are willing to route the transaction through a third country, say Vietnam. The cost difference is in millions which could be the difference between sink or swim for that Indian enterprise. So they close the deal. Even though I don’t agree with their decision, I understand it.
The good news is things are changing. The world is facing up to the fact that Xinjiang cotton is cheap is because the Chinese use free slave labor. So international boycotts are starting to happen.
If these involuntary organ donors were not Chinese, but healthy Westerners, just a couple of ‘scheduled’ transplants would have been enough to cause a huge public outcry and bring down the wrath of the law upon all concerned.
So why is there no similar outrage when Chinese ‘donors’ are involved?
Is it because these are just Chinese people in a distant land with a huge population. People may not say it out loud, but are they thinking, “You can’t equate a Chinese life with a non-Chinese life, can you?”
Stop doing business with China
If there’s a restaurant chain that serves tiger meat, we would not have anything to do with them. Because if we support them in any way, the blood of those tigers would be on our hands too. The same logic applies to China. If we do business with them in any way, our hands too will have blood on them.
Nothing else will work. Banning organ transplants from China will definitely not work. Desperate patients who know they will die without an organ transplant will find their way to China. The business has been going on for over two decades and there will be well-established channels of communication to keep the forcible organ harvesting operation going ahead at full steam.
The only way to stop this bloody business is for us to stop buying anything Chinese at an individual level.
It will help if, at a macro level, the world also imposes economic sanctions on China. Like they did on Iran for its nuclear weapons programs, and earlier on South Africa for its refusal to abandon apartheid. We should do the same to China for their twin, state-sanctioned crimes of forcible organ harvesting and slave labor.
China might technically be able to withstand such economic sanctions by continuing to do business with countries within its sphere of influence like North Korea, Iran, etc. But the loss of the huge consumer markets of the West would hit China in its Achilles heel. The West is where the money is.
Without money, the immense Chinese industrial machine will crank to a halt. Unemployment will soar. Crime will rise. Having tasted the fruits of a market economy, it’s highly unlikely China will risk going into isolation like North Korea. What’s more likely to happen is a change in leadership of the Communist Party, and some concessions from the incoming new leaders.
Is a global boycott of China viable?
If there’s demand for Chinese products, economical sanctions won’t work. So reducing demand for Chinese products is critical. However, $4 trillion of manufacturing currently happens in China. That’s 30% of global manufacturing and equal to US, Germany and Japan put together.
Things are changing. Japan set up a $2 billion fund to help Japanese manufacturers moving out of China. They join a horde of manufacturers leaving China, including giants like Apple and Samsung. So yes, the process has started and the world’s manufacturing scene will look very different in five years.
The pain of giving up our cheap Chinese addiction
The whole world is addicted to cheap Chinese products. Weaning ourselves of them isn’t going to be easy. Chinese products and raw materials have become an irreplaceable part of most of the economies in the world. Removing them would cause price hikes of many products, shortages of others. For instance, the toy market in India is dominated by Chinese products. Removing China from the equation would drastically reduce choice for customers on one hand and cause serious price hikes.
Multiply that effect across a whole variety of consumer and industrial products, and we are talking of shortages and price hikes across almost all industries, and it applies to almost every country that deals with China.
Any government making such decisions would find it hard to explain to its citizens why prices are rising and things aren’t available. I wouldn’t like to try convincing a poor Indian laborer to pay a huge premium for a mobile phone just to avoid the ‘Made-in-China’ tag.
Think about it. If you are an iPhone user, would you pay 50% extra for an iPhone made in the US that’s identical to the made-in-China model?
There’s no easy answer.
Outlawing all things Chinese would communicate strongly that if we buy Chinese, we will have the blood of innocents on our hands. We still won’t like the higher price tag but it might make it a bit easier to swallow.