China is harvesting organs from Falun Gong members, finds expert panel

By Sonia Elks, Thomson Reuters Foundation
Members of Falun Gong or Falun Dafa, a Chinese religious spiritual practice, march to the Consulate General of the People's Republic of China in New York City, U.S., May 16, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

By Sonia Elks

LONDON, June 17 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - China is
murdering members of the Falun Gong spiritual group and
harvesting their organs for transplant, a panel of lawyers and
experts said on Monday as they invited further investigations
into a potential genocide.

Members said they had heard clear evidence forced organ
harvesting had taken place over at least 20 years in a final
judgement from the China Tribunal, an independent panel set up
by a campaign group to examine the issue.

Beijing has repeatedly denied accusations by human rights
researchers and scholars that it forcibly takes organs from
prisoners of conscience and said it stopped using organs from
executed prisoners in 2015.

But the panel said it was "satisfied" that the practice was
still taking place, with imprisoned Falun Gong members "probably
the principal source" of organs for forced harvesting.

Falun Gong is a spiritual group based around meditation that
China banned 20 years ago after 10,000 members appeared at the
central leadership compound in Beijing in silent protest.
Thousands of members have since been jailed.

It was less clear if the Uighur Muslim minority had been
victims, the tribunal found, thought it said they were
vulnerable to "being used as a bank of organs".

"The conclusion shows that very many people have died
indescribably hideous deaths for no reason," said the tribunal
chairman Sir Geoffrey Nice in the judgement.

Chinese government regulations say human organ donation must
be voluntary and without payment, said a spokesman for the
Chinese Embassy in London.

"We hope that the British people will not be misled by
rumours," said a spokesman in an emailed statement sent before
the tribunal's final judgement was released.

The China Tribunal was set up by the International Coalition
to End Transplant Abuse in China, a campaign group, charged with
examining whether crimes had been committed as a result of
China's transplant practices.

The seven-member panel found it was "beyond doubt" that
forced organ harvesting from prisoners has taken place "on a
substantial scale by state-supported or approved organisations
and individuals" in an interim judgement released in December.

The panel said its findings were "indicative" of genocide
but it had not been clear enough to make a positive ruling,
particularly since some Falun Gong prisoners had been released
and profit was also a likely motive.

It noted that it was open to governments and international
groups to investigate the issue further.

Crimes against humanity and torture have been committed
against both the Falun Gong and the Uighurs, it also found.

Campaigners and Falun Gong members welcomed the ruling.

"Organ trafficking is often overlooked in our sector but
this heinous crime needs more attention and affects us all,"
said a spokesman for the Human Trafficking Foundation.

Jennifer Zeng, a Falun Gong practitioner who told the
tribunal she had been given blood tests and medical checks while
held in detention camp, said she hoped the hoped the tribunal's
findings would prompt action.

"I hope more countries will pass laws to forbid their own
citizens from going to China to do organ transplants," she told
the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"And I do hope the international world will figure out a way
to stop the killing in China right now."
(Reporting by Sonia Elks @soniaelks; Editing by Claire Cozens.
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