Reaction to a comment from Dr. Jeremy Chapman
07 December 2013
Dr. Jeremy Chapman, former president of The Transplantation Society, has been quoted as having made this comment about the killing of Falun Gong for their organs: “I heard your accusations that it was happening. I have seen no evidence of using any executed prisoners other than through judicial process in China. There are stories of criminal murders, which have occurred in China, individual cases. David Matas’ report does not provide evidence. You are seeing smoke and saying this fire is burning FLG victims, and you are not showing us that data. I can’t substantiate it. We are very clear that China should not use organs from executed prisoners.”
The source of the quotation is Christine Hond, Australian Epoch Times. See
My reaction is this:
It is true that The Transplantation Society has been clear that China should not use organs from prisoners and that is to their credit. Sourcing of organs from prisoners, any prisoners, is ethically wrong, according to medical ethics.
Sourcing from prisoners of conscience, including Falun Gong, is more than just a violation of medical ethics; it is a crime against humanity. Whether the crime has been committed is not or should not be a matter of indifference to the profession.
One consequence from establishing the existence of the crime would be avoidance of collaboration with criminal transplant professionals. As well, the international transplant profession, if it is established the crime has been committed, would be, I suspect, the first to want to call for prosecution of the perpetrators.
I do not read the comments of Dr. Chapman as saying that he has concluded that the killing of Falun Gong for their organs is not happening. He rather has come to no conclusion at all on the issue. He says he cannot substantiate that Falun Gong are being killed for their organs. He does not say though that he can substantiate that Falun Gong are not being killed for their organs.
Coming to no conclusion at all on the issue is a luxury I do not have. The task that I have assumed for myself is not proving that the killing of Falun Gong for their organs was and is happening, but rather coming to a conclusion one way or another, either that it was and is or was not and is not happening. I have not given myself the option of coming to no conclusion whatsoever on the issue.
The statement of Dr. Chapman confuses proof and evidence. Evidence is a fact relevant to a proposition. Proof is evidence which helps to establish the proposition. When Dr. Chapman said that he had seen “no evidence” on the killing of Falun Gong for their organs, I suspect what he really meant to say is that he had not seen any proof of the killing of Falun Gong for their organs.
There is, of course, lots of evidence relevant to the issue of killing of Falun Gong for their organs, whether that evidence establishes that killing or not. Dr. Chapman I suspect does not mean to suggest the contrary.
The distinction between evidence and proof is more than just a quibble. Dr. Chapman is, of course, not a lawyer, and I do not fault him for not reasoning as one. Yet, legally, his approach to the killing of Falun Gong for their organs is incorrect. It amounts to legal error to come to any conclusion based at looking at each point of evidence in isolation. The evidence must be looked as a whole.
When the doctor says that he has seen no evidence, meaning no proof on the killing of Falun Gong for their organs, he appears to be saying that no one piece of evidence he has seen is proof of the killing. Yet, what he should be saying, to address the issue squarely, is not whether any one piece of evidence proves that Falun Gong are being killed for their organs, but rather whether all the evidence considered together leads to that conclusion.
Going through all relevant evidence, and there is quite a pile of it, to come to an informed conclusion either one way or the other is a time consuming task, and it may be unrealistic to expect Dr. Chapman to do that. Many people, I appreciate, do not have the time to go through all the evidence relevant to the killing of Falun Gong for their organs and assess it.
The problem the issue of the killing of Falun Gong for their organs raises is not too little evidence, but rather too much. If the story of the killing of Falun Gong for their organs could be told in ten seconds, it would be an easy story to tell. Because the story though is book length, telling it is not so easy.
Dr. Chapman, I should say, has been helpful on the issue in the past. He worked with me in putting together a panel on the issue for a United Nations health conference in Melbourne Australia in August 2010.
I have discussed the issue with Dr. Chapman personally and he had asked for examples of individual cases. I provided those examples in a speech I gave at the University of Pittsburgh in March 2013. My text there set out names, dates and place of a number of victims. You can find the text of that speech at this link:
I sent the text to Dr. Chapman. He has so far not asked me for any other form of evidence. I note that he says that “There are stories of criminal murders, which have occurred in China, individual cases.” So he seems to accept that there are these cases.
Yet, it is unlikely that these cases would be isolated instances. To suggest that the only Falun Gong atrocities which occurred are ones where we know names, dates and places belies the secretive nature of the Communist Party, the Chinese prison system and the crimes. Even if there were only these cases, I would expect Dr. Chapman still to call for all those complicit in the violations to be brought to justice.
One has to consider what would be reasonably available evidence in the circumstances. There is no point in asking for evidence which would not be reasonably forthcoming.
Dr. Chapman says: “You are seeing smoke and saying this fire is burning FLG victims, and you are not showing us that data.” I assume that he does not expect the Government of China to publish statistics of Falun Gong killed for their organs. What data then does he expect to see that have not already been provided?
What can one realistically expect from Dr. Chapman? I would answer that question by reference to a different issue – slavery, a different country – Belgium, a different century – the early twentieth, and a different person – Edmund Morel, a shipping line clerk. Edmund Morel came to the conclusion that King Leopold was engaged in slavery in the Congo from looking at shipments of goods between the Congo and Belgium.
The goods to the Congo were guns, ammunition and explosives, which went to the state or its agents; no commercial goods were sent. The goods from the Congo were ivory and rubber, of much higher value than the goods sent. The locals were not allowed to use money. Edmund Morel asked, how were the ivory and rubber which were shipped to Belgium being purchased in the Congo? The answer, he concluded in research published first in 1901, was that they were not; the people producing the ivory and rubber were not being paid. They were slaves.
The conclusion was noteworthy because it was made without any eye-witness evidence of slavery. It came just from shipping records. His work was initially met with official denials. Yet, it was accurate.
Many people at the time were worried about offending Belgium by pressing the issue. The British Government nonetheless commissioned their consul in the Congo Roger Casement to conduct an independent investigation and write a report, which he did in 1904. Casement travelled throughout the Congo for three months and came back with a report which established the existence of slavery in the Congo beyond shadow of a doubt, despite, it should be said, the continuing denials of King Leopold of Belgium.
Where does this leave us today? There is as much of a discrepancy today between the volume of transplants in China and sources of organs the Government of China is prepared to admit – death penalty prisoners – as there was in the early twentieth century between the commercial value of goods being shipped into Congo and the commercial value of goods being shipped back to Belgium. The China discrepancy today points as much to a human rights violation as the Belgium discrepancy did yesterday. The need for an independent investigation is as great.
I do not expect Dr. Chapman to replicate our research, though I would be pleased if he had the time and inclination to do so. Nor do I expect him to trust our conclusions. But that does not mean that he should do nothing.
A fire ignored can turn into a conflagration. We turn a blind eye and a blocked nostril to smoke at our peril. Human rights violations, if ignored, will spread and, in time, consume us all. Smoke demands an inquiry to determine whether there is fire.
What Dr. Chapman and other transplant professionals should do is what those concerned about slavery did after the publication of the Morel research and before the Casement report – demand accountability and call for an investigation. There is more than just the Congo history to justify that course of action.
The World Health Organization, in an Assembly in May 2010 endorsed Guiding Principles on Human Cell, Tissue and Organ Transplantation. Two of these principles are traceability and transparency.
Traceability requires coding to identify tissues and cells used in transplantation. Transparency requires public access to data on processes, in particular allocation, transplant activities and outcomes for both recipients and living donors, as well as data on organization, budgets and funding. The objectives are to maximize the availability of data for scholarly study and governmental oversight and to identify risks and facilitate their correction.
For the research I and others have done, we were able to garner useful information about transplant volumes from the China Liver Transplant Registry in Hong Kong. After our research was published, the China Liver Transplant Registry shut down public access to statistical aggregate data on its site. Access is available only to those who have a Registry issued login name and password.
The Chinese health system runs four transplant registries, one each for liver, kidney, heart and lung. The other three are located in mainland China, kidney and heart in Beijing and lung in Wuxi. The data on the other three sites is also accessible only to those who have registry issued login names and passwords.
The Government of China denies sourcing organs from prisoners of conscience, but does not provide statistical information on sources of organs. It refuses to provide death penalty statistics on the basis that they are state secrets.
At the United Nations Universal Periodic Review Working Group in February 2009 Canada, Switzerland, United Kingdom, France, Austria, Italy recommended that China publish death penalty statistics. The Government of China said no to this recommendation. The same recommendation was repeated by Belgium, France, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, UK, and Italy at the United Nations Universal Periodic Review Working Group in October 2013. This time China said, we’ll see.
The connection between death penalty statistics and organ transplant abuse was made explicit by the UN rapporteur on torture, the UN rapporteur on religious intolerance and the UN Committee on Torture. All have asked China to explain the discrepancy between its volume of transplants and its volume of sources. Though China does not publish death penalty statistics, non-governmental estimates provide death penalty numbers which come nowhere near to explaining the volume of transplants which China says is sourced from death penalty prisoners.
The UN Committee against Torture in its November 2008 concluding observations of the state report of China wrote:
“… the Committee takes cognizance of the allegations presented to the Special Rapporteur on Torture who has noted that an increase in organ transplant operations coincides with ‘the beginning of the persecution of [Falun Gong practitioners]’ and who asked for ‘a full explanation of the source of organ transplants’ …. The Committee is further concerned with information received that Falun Gong practitioners have been extensively subjected to torture and ill treatment in prisons and that some of them have been used for organ transplants.
The State party should immediately conduct or commission an independent investigation of the claims that some Falun Gong practitioners have been subjected to torture and used for organ transplants and take measures, as appropriate, to ensure that those responsible for such abuses are prosecuted and punished .”
The onus does not fall on me to show that Falun Gong are being killed for their organs. I do not have to explain where China gets its organs for transplants. China does. It falls on the Government of China to explain the sourcing for their organs.
Dr. Chapman, whether he agrees with our research or not, and the transplant profession generally, should call on the Government of China
a) to respect The World Health Organization Guiding Principles on Organ Transplantation;
b) comply with the recommendation of the UN Committee against Torture to conduct or commission an independent investigation into the question whether Falun Gong are being killed for their organs;
c) accede to the requests of many states that China publish death penalty statistics; and
d) make accessible aggregate data from its four transplant registries.
David Matas is an international human rights lawyer based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He is co-author with David Kilgour of the book Bloody Harvest: The Killing of Falun Gong for their Organs, and co-editor with Torsten Trey of the book, State Organs: Transplant Abuse in China.