A bipartisan group of US lawmakers have introduced a bill they say will hold communist officials in China accountable for state sanctioned organ harvesting.
Republicans Senator Tom Cotton and Congressman Chris Smith along with Democrat Congressman Tom Suozzi announced on Dec. 17 the Stop Forced Organ Harvesting Act.
In a joint statement, the lawmakers said the act aims to prevent the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from harvesting organs from prisoners of conscience.
“There is growing evidence that the Chinese Communist Party has and continues to harvest organs from prisoners and members of Chinese religious groups,” said Cotton.
“This bill will identify and punish CCP members involved in forced organ harvesting. It’s past time to hold Beijing accountable for these heinous acts,” he said.
According to an international tribunal held in London, Chinese doctors harvest organs from detainees in prison camps — sometimes while the ‘donors’ are still alive — for sale in a market worth $1 billion a year, said the lawmakers in their statement.
The so-called China Tribunal was chaired by former international war crimes prosecutor Sir Geoffrey Nice QC. In its findings delivered in June last year, the tribunal found that “forced organ harvesting has been committed for years throughout China on a significant scale,” targeting religious and ethnic minorities including Falun Gong practitioners and Uyghurs. Tibetans and select House Christians are also believed to be targeted.
The tribunal found that Falun Gong practitioners were the main target of the state-sanctioned forced organ harvesting. Large numbers of Chinese who adhere to the Buddha-school meditation practice have been subjected to harsh persecution by the communist state since 1999. Researchers say since that date they have observed a large increase in the number of transplants carried out in China.
Claims by Beijing that China’s transplant industry sources organs through voluntary donors was refuted by the tribunal.
“Organ harvesting is a barbaric, inhumane and egregious act of global significance as transnational human trafficking gangs, terrorist organizations, profiteers and even governments — China’s communist regime in particular — kill innocent people and sell their organs for profit,” said Congressman Smith.
“The bill will help shed more light on these horrific activities, enable the naming of names of the vicious perpetrators and ultimately help put an end this gruesome human rights abuse,” he said.
Congressman Suozzi said that forced organ harvesting has no place in our world. “Members of the Chinese Communist Party must be held accountable for these unspeakable actions,” he said.
The lawmakers’ act prohibits the export of organ transplant surgery devices to entities responsible for forced organ harvesting. It also sanctions foreign officials and entities that engage in or otherwise support forced organ harvesting.
The act will further authorize the US government to deny or revoke passports for illegal organ purchasers and mandates annual reporting on forced organ harvesting in foreign countries; this would include the US State Department identifying foreign officials and entities responsible for forced organ harvesting.
The act also mandates an annual report on US institutions that train organ transplant surgeons affiliated with foreign entities involved in forced organ harvesting.
‘Now it is time to act’
Commenting on the news of the act, Benedict Rogers, co-founder and deputy chair of the UK Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, said that it’s very welcome and long overdue.
“Reports of forced organ harvesting have been circulating for over a decade, there have been several parliamentary inquiries around the world that have exposed this, and the China Tribunal has come to a very conclusive and persuasive legal judgment,” Rogers told LiCAS.news.
“Now it is time to act. I hope the US Congress passes this legislation, and I urge other countries to follow swiftly,” he said.
The first credible report on state sanctioned forced organ harvesting in China was published in 2006 by former Canadian cabinet minister David Kilgour and Canadian human rights lawyer David Matas. Ten years after its release the two Canadians joined Ethan Gutmann, an American investigative reporter and China analyst, to provide an 680-page report released in mid-2016. The report found that organ harvesting in China was much worse than previously thought with “the organ transplantation volume [being] far larger than official Chinese government statistics indicate [with] the source for most of the massive volume of organs for transplants is the killing of innocents.”
Gutmann told LiCAS.news what he thought about the news of the act’s introduction.
“It’s fine that the US takes the lead, but ultimately the ban on contact with the Chinese transplant industry must be airtight, encompassing the entire world,” said Gutmann who was nominated for the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for exposing Chinese human rights violations, including illegal organ harvesting.
“There are Chinese transplant surgeons travelling to Western conferences and universities. Let’s name them and force them to cancel their reservations. It’s time to bring down the Magnitsky Act,” he said.
“By my estimate, 68 men and women, in their late-20s, in the prime of life, are being selected for harvesting every day. That’s the minimum number,” he said. “We can’t wait for an annual report. Congress needs to expose what we know about the logistics of Beijing’s organ harvesting program as soon as possible.”