Chinese officials continue to harvest organs from imprisoned Falun Gong practitioners as they lie on operating tables with little pain relief, Canadian human rights lawyer David Matas will tell a conference in Perth today.
Mr Matas, who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 in recognition of his joint investigation into live organ harvesting in China, will address an international victimology conference to raise awareness of the issue. China’s government has denied harvesting organs from prisoners while also claiming the practice had stopped, Mr Matas said.
The practice of Falun Gong, a spiritual exercise and meditation regimen, gained tens of millions of Chinese followers in the late 1990s but was viewed by the Communist Party as a threat because of its size and independence. Practitioners were subjected to human rights violations and some were imprisoned.
In 2006, Mr Matas and former Canadian MP David Kilgour launched an investigation after a woman claimed as many as 4000 Falun Gong practitioners had been killed for their organs at a hospital where she worked. She said her husband had removed the corneas from 2000 living practitioners at the same hospital. A Chinese doctor backed the woman’s account a week later.
A report by Mr Matas and Mr Kilgour of their investigation found “the regrettable conclusion that the allegations are true”.
Mr Matas said prisoners whose organs were removed were not given anaesthetic but were provided with a muscle relaxant and blood thinner. Their bodies were then cremated.
“As far as I can tell, it’s still going on,” Mr Matas told The Australian.
Mr Matas said accounts of systemic blood testing and organ examinations of Falun Gong and non-Falun Gong prisoners, which were cited as significant evidence of the initial claims, were still being heard.
“China doesn’t publish statistics; what they say is that it’s never happened and it has stopped, in terms of sourcing organs from prisoners,” he said.
“As far as we can tell, people who are coming out of prison in China today, they still talk about blood testing and in some ways it seems to be getting worse because in some provinces in China now they’re not just blood testing and examining Falun Gong practitioners in detention, they’re examining them in their homes and off the street.”
Mr Matas said the Chinese government’s “lapses of accountability” were of significant concern.
Philip O’Connell, a professor of clinical medicine at the University of Sydney and president of the global society for transplant medical staff, The Transplantation Society, said China had ceased organ harvesting of Falun Gong prisoners.
“The Chinese government acknowledged that organs were being used from executed prisoners,” he said.
Professor O’Connell said organs initially were available for sale to foreign and local buyers, but then were limited to within China after advocacy against the practice.