China’s gruesome organ harvest. The whole world isn’t watching. Why not?

Ethan Gutmann
Bangkok

The jeepney driver sizes us up the minute we climb in. My research assistant
is a healthy, young Israeli dude, so I must be the one with the money. He addresses
his broken English to me: “Girl?”
No. No girls. Take us to the …

“Ladyboy? Kickboxer?”

No. No ladyboy, no kickboxer, thanks. I may be a paunchy, sweaty, middle-aged
white guy, but I’m here to–well, actually, I am on my way to meet a Chinese
woman in a back alley. She is going to tell me intimate stories of humiliation,
torture, and abuse. And the truly shameful part is that after 50 or so interviews
with refugees from Chinese labor camps, I won’t even be listening that closely.
I’m in Bangkok because practitioners of Falun Gong, the Buddhist revival movement
outlawed by Beijing, tend to head south when they escape from China. Those without
passports make their way through Burma on motorcycles and back roads. Some have
been questioned by U.N. case workers, but few have been interviewed by the press,
even though, emerging from Chinese labor camps, they are eager, even desperate,
to tell their stories. With the back-alley Chinese woman, I intend to direct
my questions away from what she’ll want to talk about–persecution and spirituality–to
something she will barely remember, a seemingly innocuous part of her experience:
a needle jab, some poking around the abdomen, an X-ray, a urine sample–medical
tests consistent with assessment of prisoners for organ harvesting.

My line of inquiry began in a Montreal community center over a year ago, listening
to a heavy-set middle-aged Chinese man named Wang Xiaohua, a soft-spoken ordinary
guy except for the purple discoloration that extends down his forehead.

He recalled a scene: About 20 male Falun Gong practitioners were standing before
the empty winter fields, flanked by two armed escorts. Instead of leading them
out to dig up rocks and spread fertilizer, the police had rounded them up for
some sort of excursion. It almost felt like a holiday. Wang had never seen most
of the prisoners’ faces before. Here in Yunnan Forced Labor Camp No. 2, Falun
Gong detainees were carefully kept to a minority in each cell so that the hardened
criminals could work them over.

Practitioners of Falun Gong were forbidden to communicate openly. Yet as the
guards motioned for them to begin walking, Wang felt the group fall into step
like a gentle migrating herd. He looked down at the red earth, streaked with
straw and human waste, to the barren mountains on the horizon. Whatever lay
ahead, Wang knew they were not afraid.

After 20 minutes, he saw a large gleaming structure in the distance–maybe
it was a hospital, Wang thought. The summer of 2001 had been brutal in South
China. After he’d worked for months in the burning sun, Wang’s shaved head had
become deeply infected. Perhaps it was getting a little better. Or perhaps he
had just become used to it; lately he only noticed the warm, rancid stench of
his rotting scalp when he woke up.

Wang broke the silence, asking one of the police guards if that was the camp
hospital ahead. The guard responded evenly: “You know, we care so much
about you. So we are taking you to get a physical. Look how well the party treats
you. Normally, this kind of thing never happens in a labor camp.”

Inside the facility, the practitioners lined up and, one by one, had a large
blood sample drawn. Then a urine sample, electrocardiogram, abdominal X-ray,
and eye exam. When Wang pointed to his head, the doctor mumbled something about
it being normal and motioned for the next patient. Walking back to camp, the
prisoners felt relieved, even a tad cocky, about the whole thing. In spite of
all the torture they had endured and the brutal conditions, even the government
would be forced to see that practitioners of Falun Gong were healthy.

They never did learn the results of any of those medical tests, Wang says,
a little smile suddenly breaking through. He can’t help it. He survived.

I spoke with Wang in 2007, just one out of over 100 interviews for a book on
the clash between Falun Gong and the Chinese state. Wang’s story is not new.
Two prominent Canadian human rights attorneys, David Kilgour and David Matas,
outlined his case and many others in their “Report into Allegations of
Organ Harvesting of Falun Gong Practitioners in China,” published and posted
on the web in 2006.

By interviewing Wang, I was tipping my hat to the extensive research already
done by others. I was not expecting to see Wang’s pattern repeated as my interviews
progressed, nor did I expect to find that organ harvesting had spread beyond
Falun Gong. I was wrong.

Falun Gong became wildly popular in China during the late 1990s. For various
reasons–perhaps because the membership of this movement was larger than that
of the Chinese Communist party (and intersected with it), or because the legacy
of Tiananmen was unresolved, or because 70 million people suddenly seemed to
be looking for a way into heaven (other than money)–the party decided to eliminate
it. In 1998, the party quietly canceled the business licenses of people who
practiced Falun Gong. In 1999 came mass arrests, seizure of assets, and torture.
Then, starting in 2000, as the movement responded by becoming more openly activist,
demonstrating at Tiananmen and hijacking television signals on the mainland,
the death toll started to climb, reaching approximately 3,000 confirmed deaths
by torture, execution, and neglect by 2005.

At any given time, 100,000 Falun Gong practitioners were said to be somewhere
in the Chinese penal system. Like most numbers coming out of China, these were
crude estimates, further rendered unreliable by the chatter of claim and counterclaim.
But one point is beyond dispute: The repression of Falun Gong spun out of control.
Arrests, sentencing, and whatever took place in the detention centers, psychiatric
institutions, and labor camps were not following any established legal procedure
or restraint. As an act of passive resistance, or simply to avoid trouble for
their families, many Falun Gong began withholding their names from the police,
identifying themselves simply as “practitioner” or “Dafa disciple.”
When asked for their home province, they would say “the universe.”
For these, the nameless ones, whose families had no way of tracing them or agitating
on their behalf, there may be no records at all.

In early 2006, the first charges of large-scale harvesting–surgical removal
of organs while the prisoners were still alive, though of course the procedure
killed them–of Falun Gong emerged from Northeast China. The charges set off
a quiet storm in the human rights community. Yet the charge was not far-fetched.

Harry Wu, a Chinese dissident who established the Laogai Foundation, had already
produced reams of evidence that the state, after executing criminals formally
sentenced to death, was selling their kidneys, livers, corneas, and other body
parts to Chinese and foreigners, anyone who could pay the price. The practice
started in the mid-1980s. By the mid-1990s, with the use of anti-tissue-rejection
drugs pioneered by China, the business had progressed. Mobile organ-harvesting
vans run by the armed services were routinely parked just outside the killing
grounds to ensure that the military hospitals got first pick. This wasn’t top
secret. I spoke with a former Chinese police officer, a simple man from the
countryside, who said that, as a favor to a condemned man’s friend, he had popped
open the back of such a van and unzipped the body bag. The corpse’s chest had
been picked clean.

Taiwanese doctors who arranged for patients to receive transplants on the mainland
claim that there was no oversight of the system, no central Chinese database
of organs and medical histories of donors, no red tape to diminish medical profits.
So the real question was, at $62,000 for a fresh kidney, why would Chinese hospitals
waste any body they could get their hands on?

Yet what initially drew most fire from skeptics was the claim that organs were
being harvested from people before they died. For all the Falun Gong theatrics,
this claim was not so outlandish either. Any medical expert knows that a recipient
is far less likely to reject a live organ; and any transplant dealer will confirm
that buyers will pay more for one. Until recently, high volume Chinese transplant
centers openly advertised the use of live donors on their websites.

It helps that brain death is not legally recognized in China; only when the
heart stops beating is the patient actually considered dead. That means doctors
can shoot a prisoner in the head, as it were, surgically, then remove the organs
before the heart stops beating. Or they can administer anesthesia, remove the
organs, and when the operation is nearing completion introduce a heart-stopping
drug–the latest method.

Either way, the prisoner has been executed, and harvesting is just fun along
the way. In fact, according to doctors I have spoken to recently, all well versed
in current mainland practices, live-organ harvesting of death-row prisoners
in the course of execution is routine.

The real problem was that the charges came from Falun Gong–always the unplanned
child of the dissident community. Unlike the Tiananmen student leaders and other
Chinese prisoners of conscience who had settled into Western exile, Falun Gong
marched to a distinctly Chinese drum. With its roots in a spiritual tradition
from the Chinese heartland, Falun Gong would never have built a version of the
Statue of Liberty and paraded it around for CNN. Indeed, to Western observers,
Falun Gong public relations carried some of the uncouthness of Communist party
culture: a perception that practitioners tended to exaggerate, to create torture
tableaux straight out of a Cultural Revolution opera, to spout slogans rather
than facts.

For various reasons, some valid, some shameful, the credibility of persecuted
refugees has often been doubted in the West. In 1939, a British Foreign Office
official, politely speaking for the majority, described the Jews as not, perhaps,
entirely reliable witnesses. During the Great Leap Forward, emaciated refugees
from the mainland poured into Hong Kong, yammering about deserted villages and
cannibalism. Sober Western journalists ignored these accounts as subjective
and biased.

The yammering of a spiritual revivalist apparently counts for even less than
the testimony of a peasant or a Jew. Thus, when Falun Gong unveiled a doctor’s
wife who claimed that her husband, a surgeon, had removed thousands of corneas
from practitioners in a Northeastern Chinese hospital named Sujiatun, the charge
met with guarded skepticism from the dissident community and almost complete
silence from the Western press (with the exception of this magazine and National
Review).

As Falun Gong committees kicked into full investigative mode, the Canadian
lawyers Kilgour and Matas compiled the accumulating evidence in their report.
It included transcripts of recorded phone calls in which Chinese doctors confirmed
that their organ donors were young, healthy, and practiced Falun Gong; written
testimony from the mainland of practitioners’ experiences in detention; an explosion
in organ transplant activity coinciding with a rise in the Falun Gong incarceration
rate, with international customers waiting as little as a week for a tissue
match (in most countries, patients waited over a year). Finally, Kilgour and
Matas compared the execution rate in China (essentially constant, according
to Amnesty International) and the number of transplants. It left a discrepancy
of 41,500 unexplained cases over a five-year span.

This report has never been refuted point by point, yet the vast majority of
human rights activists have kept their distance. Since Falun Gong’s claims were
suspect, their allies’ assertions were suspect.

Transplant doctors who claimed to have Falun Gong organ donors in the basement?
They were just saying what potential organ recipients wanted to hear. Written
testimony from practitioners? They’d been prepped by activists. The rise in
organ transplant activity? Maybe just better reporting. The discrepancy between
executions and transplants? As a respected human rights scholar asked me, why
did Kilgour and Matas use Amnesty International’s estimate of the number of
executions in China to suggest the execution rate had stayed constant for 10
years? Even Amnesty acknowledges their numbers might represent a gross understatement.
There might be no discrepancy at all.

Finally, why had no real witness, a doctor or nurse who had actually operated
on Falun Gong practitioners, come forward? Without such proof (although such
an individual’s credibility can always be savaged, even with supporting documents),
human rights advocates argued there was no reason to take the story seriously.
There certainly were not sufficient grounds for President Bush to mention organ
harvesting in his human rights speech on the eve of the Beijing Olympics.

The critics had hinted at legitimate points of discussion. But so had the Chinese
government: Fresh off the confession in 2005 that organs were being harvested
from ordinary death-row prisoners, and after issuing their predictable denials
of harvesting organs from Falun Gong, Beijing suddenly passed a law in July
2006 forbidding the sale of organs without the consent of the donor.

Three things happened. The organ supply tightened. Prices doubled. And transplants
continued. So unless there has been a dramatic cultural shift since 2004, when
a Chinese report found that only 1.5 percent of transplanted kidneys were donated
by relatives, the organs being sold must still come from somewhere. Let’s assume
it’s prisoners–that’s what Taiwanese doctors think–and theorize that the new
law was a signal: Get your consent forms and stop harvesting from Falun Gong.
For now.

And the critics had one thing exactly right: Precision is an illusion. No taped
conversation with a mainland doctor is unimpeachable. All witnesses from China
have mixed motives, always. And, again, no numbers from China, even the one
in the last paragraph, can be considered definitive.

Indeed, the entire investigation must be understood to be still at an early,
even primitive, stage. We do not really know the scale of what is happening
yet. Think of 1820, when a handful of doctors, scientists, and amateur fossil
hunters were trying to make sense of scattered suggestive evidence and a disjointed
pile of bones. Twenty-two years would pass before an English paleontologist
so much as coined the term “dinosaur”–“terrible lizard”–and the modern study
of these extinct creatures got seriously under way. Those of us researching
the harvesting of organs from involuntary donors in China are like the early
dinosaur hunters. We don’t work in close consultation with each other. We are
still waiting for even one doctor who has harvested organs from living prisoners
of conscience to emerge from the mainland.

Until that happens, it is true, we don’t even have dinosaur bones. But we do
have tracks. Here are some that I’ve found.

Qu Yangyao, an articulate Chinese professional, holds three master’s degrees.
She is also the earliest refugee to describe an “organs only” medical examination.
Qu escaped to Sydney last year. While a prisoner in China in June 2000, she
refused to “transform”–to sign a statement rejecting Falun Gong–and was eventually
transferred to a labor camp. Qu’s health was fairly good, though she had lost
some weight from hunger strikes. Given Qu’s status and education, there were
reasons to keep her healthy. The Chinese police wanted to avoid deaths in custody–less
paperwork, fewer questions. At least, so Qu assumed.

Qu was 35 years old when the police escorted her and two other practitioners
into a hospital. Qu distinctly remembers the drawing of a large volume of blood,
then a chest X-ray, and probing. “I wasn’t sure what it was about. They just
touch you in different places . . . abdomen, liver.” She doesn’t remember giving
a urine sample at that time, but the doctor did shine a light in her eyes, examining
her corneas.

Did the doctor then ask her to trace the movement of his light with her eyes,
or check her peripheral vision? No. He just checked her corneas, skipping any
test involving brain function. And that was it: no hammer on the knee, no feeling
for lymph nodes, no examination of ears or mouth or genitals–the doctor checked
her retail organs and nothing else.

I may have felt a silent chill run up my spine at points in our interview,
but Qu, like many educated subjects, seemed initially unaware of the potential
implications of what she was telling me. Many prisoners preserve a kind of “it
can’t happen here” sensibility. “I’m too important to be wiped out”
is the survivor’s mantra. In the majority of the interviews presented here,
my subjects, though aware of the organ harvesting issue, had no clear idea of
my line of questioning or the “right” answers.

Falun Gong practitioners are forbidden to lie. That doesn’t mean they never
do. In the course of my interviews I’ve heard a few distortions. Not because
people have been “prepped,” but because they’ve suffered trauma. Deliberate
distortions, though, are exceedingly rare. The best way to guard against false
testimony is to rely on extended sit-down interviews.

In all, I interviewed 15 Falun Gong refugees from labor camps or extended detention
who had experienced something inexplicable in a medical setting. My research
assistant, Leeshai Lemish, interviewed Dai Ying in Norway, bringing our total
to 16. If that number seems low, consider the difficulty of survival and escape.
Even so, just over half of the subjects can be ruled out as serious candidates
for organ harvesting: too old, too physically damaged from hard labor, or too
emaciated from hunger strikes. Some were simply too shaky in their recall of
specific procedures to be much help to us. Some were the subjects of drug tests.
Some received seemingly normal, comprehensive physicals, though even such people
sometimes offered valuable clues.

For example, Lin Jie, a woman in her early 60s living in Sydney, reported that
in May 2001, while she was incarcerated in the Chongqing Yong Chaun Women’s
Jail, over 100 Falun Gong women were examined “all over the body, very
detailed. And they asked about our medical history.” Fine. Yet Lin found
herself wondering why “one police per practitioner” escorted the women
through the physical, as if they were dangerous criminals. Practitioners of
Falun Gong are many things–intense, moralistic, single-minded–but they are
strictly nonviolent. Clearly someone in the Chinese security system was nervous.

Or take Jing Tian, a female refugee in her 40s, now in Bangkok. In March 2002,
the Shenyang Detention Center gave a comprehensive physical to all the practitioners.
Jing watched the procedure carefully and saw nothing unusual. Then, in September,
the authorities started expensive blood tests (these would cost about $300 per
subject in the West). Jing observed that they were drawing enough blood to fill
up eight test tubes per practitioner, enough for advanced diagnostics or tissue
matching. Jia Xiarong, a middle-aged female prisoner who came from a family
of well-connected officials, told Jing outright: “They are doing this because
some aging official needs an organ.”

But Jing sensed something else in the air that fall, something more substantial:
Prisoners were arriving in the middle of the night and disappearing before dawn.
There were transports to “hospital civil defense structures” with
names like Sujiatun and Yida, and practitioners with no names, only numbers.

It was not a good time to be an angry young practitioner, according to a refugee
in her 30s recently arrived in Hong Kong. She has family in China, so let’s
call her Jiansheng Chen. Back in 2002, Chen noticed another pattern. When the
blood tests started, she said, “before signing a statement [renouncing Falun
Gong] the practitioners were all given physicals. After they signed, they wouldn’t
get a physical again.”

Chen was a “nontransformable”–with an edge. Not only did she refuse to renounce
Falun Gong, but she shouted down anyone who did. Chen was getting medication
three times a day (possibly sedatives), so drug-testing can’t be ruled out.
Yet as her resistance dragged on, the police said: “If you don’t transform,
we’ll send you away. The path you have chosen is the path of death.” For eight
days efforts were made to persuade Chen to renounce Falun Gong or gain her submission
by torture. Suddenly the guards ordered her to write a suicide note. Chen mocked
them: “I’m not dead. So why should I sign a death certificate?”

The director brought in a group of military police doctors wearing white uniforms,
male and female. The labor camp police were “very frightened” at this point,
according to Chen. They kept repeating: “If you still won’t transform, what
waits for you is a path to death.”

Chen was blindfolded. Then she heard a familiar policewoman’s voice asking
the doctors to leave for a minute. When they were alone, the policewoman began
pleading with her: “Chen, your life is going to be taken away. I’m not kidding
you. We’ve been here together all this time, we’ve made at least some sort of
connection by now. I can’t bear to see this–a living person in front of my
eyes about to be wiped out.”

Chen stayed silent. She didn’t trust the policewoman–why should she? In the
last eight days, she had been hung from the ceiling. She had been burned with
electric batons. She had drunk her own urine. So, the latest nice-nice trick
was unconvincing. Then Chen noticed something dripping on her hand–the policewoman’s
tears. Chen allowed that she would think about transforming. “That’s all I need,”
the policewoman said. After a protracted argument with the doctors, the police
left.

Practitioners like to talk about altering the behavior of police and security
personnel through the power of their own belief. It’s a favorite trope. Just
as a prisoner of war is duty bound to attempt escape, a Falun Gong practitioner
is required by his moral code to try to save sentient beings. In this spiritual
calculus, the policeman who uses torture destroys himself, not the practitioner.
If the practitioner can alter the policeman’s behavior, by moral example or
supernatural means, there’s some natural pride, even if the practitioner still
gets tortured.

But practitioners vary. Chen did not tell her story with composure. She screamed
it out cathartically, in a single note of abrasive, consuming fury. It’s also
relevant that Chen is not just stubborn, impossible, but young, attractive,
and charismatic. She gave her account of the policewoman without braggadocio,
only abject, shrieking shame at having finally signed a transformation statement.
The policewoman had met a fellow warrior–her tears are plausible.

Dai Ying is a 50-year-old female refugee living in Sweden. As 2003 began, 180
Falun Gong were tested in Sanshui labor camp. The usual our-party-especially-cares-for-you
speech was followed by X-rays, the drawing of massive blood samples, cardiograms,
urine tests, and then probes: “They had us lie on [our] stomachs and examined
our kidneys. They tapped on them and ask[ed] us if that hurt.”

And that was it–organs only, hold the corneas–a fact that Dai, almost blind
from torture at the time, remembers vividly. Corneas are relatively small-ticket
items, worth perhaps $30,000 each. By 2003, Chinese doctors had mastered the
liver transplant, worth about $115,000 from a foreign customer.

To meet the demand, a new source of supply was needed. Fang Siyi is a 40-year-old
female refugee in Bangkok. Incarcerated from 2002 to 2005, Fang was examined
repeatedly and then, in 2003, picked out for special testing in the Jilin detention
center in Northeast China.

Fang had never seen the doctors before: “Upon arriving here, they changed into
labor camp uniforms. But what struck me is that they seemed to be military doctors.”
Twelve prisoners had been selected.

Fang estimates that eight were Falun Gong. How did she know? “For Falun Gong,
they called them, Little Faluns.” Who were the other four? “[The staff] would
say, Here comes another one of those Eastern Lightning.”

Eastern Lightning are Christians–fringy, out-there Chinese Christians to us,
incurable, nontransformable deviants to the party. Jing, too, remembers Eastern
Lightning being given blood tests in 2002, but Fang remembers the Jilin exam
as far more focused: “The additional examinations would just be blood tests,
electro-cardiograms, and X-rays, nothing else. It was Falun Gong practitioners
and Christians.”

Compassion fatigue seeping in? I’ll keep this short.

“Masanjia Confidential” has family in China, so prudence dictates
mentioning only that she’s about 40 and is in Bangkok. Her experience takes
us into what I call the “Late Harvest Era” of 2005, when many practitioners
seem to have been whisked off to wham-bam organ exams and then promptly disappeared.
When I asked her if anyone in Masanjia Labor Camp actually received medical
treatment, she responded without missing a beat: “If people came in on
a stretcher, they were given cursory treatment. In good health, a comprehensive
exam. .??.??. They needed healthy people, young people. If you were an auntie
in your 60s or 70s they wouldn’t pay attention to you.”

Were there military personnel present at the physicals? “They didn’t need them.
Masanjia is very close to Sujiatun [hospital]–a pretty quick drive. If they
needed someone they could just tie them up and send them over. … Usually they
were taken at night.”

In 2007, Yu Xinhui, free after five years in Guangdong prison, signed himself,
his wife, and their infant son up for a foreign trip with a Chinese tour group.
Upon arriving in Bangkok, they fled to the YMCA and applied for U.N. refugee
status. Yu is in his 30s, the picture of robust health. While in prison, he
was tested repeatedly, finally graduating to an “organs-only” exam
under military supervision in 2005.

Yu makes a good show of indulging my questions, but to him it was never a big
mystery: “There was common knowledge of organ harvesting in the prison.
.??.??. Even before you die, your organs are already reserved.” Criminal
prisoners would taunt the practitioners: “If you don’t do what we say we’ll
torture you to death and sell your organs.” That sounds like a stupid game,
but everyone knew there was a real list: Prisoners and practitioners alike would
be taken away on an annual schedule. Yu knew which month the buses would arrive
and where they would park in the courtyard. He gave me a tour of the exact spot
on Google Earth.

When Falun Gong’s claims about organ harvesting surfaced in March 2006, Yu
still languished in prison, incommunicado. So it’s all the more interesting
that he vividly remembers a large, panicky deportation of prisoners (perhaps
400 people, including practitioners) in May 2006. “It was terrifying,”
Yu says. “Even I was terrified.” The timing is consistent: With all
the bad publicity, mainland doctors were hinting at a close-of-business sale
on organs at exactly this time.

By 2007, the consensus was that the Chinese government had shut down Falun
Gong harvesting to avoid any embarrassing new disclosures before the Olympics.
So my final case must be viewed as borderline, a comprehensive medical exam
followed by … well, judge for yourself.

Liu Guifu is a 48-year-old woman recently arrived in Bangkok. She got a soup-to-nuts
physical–really a series of them–in Beijing Women’s Labor Camp in 2007.

She remembers her exams pretty well. She was given three urine tests in a single
month. She was told to drink fluids and refrain from urinating until she got
to the hospital. Was this testing for diabetes or drugs? It can’t be ruled out.
But neither can kidney-function assessment. And three major blood samples were
drawn in the same month, at a cost of about $1,000. Was the labor camp concerned
about Liu’s health?

Or the health of a particular organ? Perhaps an organ that was being tissue-matched
with a high-ranking cadre or a rich foreign customer?

The critical fact is that Liu was both a member of a nontransformed Falun Gong
brigade with a history of being used for organs. She was useless, the closest
approximation we have to a nameless practitioner, one of the ones who never
gave their names or provinces to the authorities and so lost their meager social
protections.

There were certainly hundreds, perhaps thousands, of practitioners identified
by numbers only. I’ve heard that number two hundred and something was a talented
young female artist with nice skin, but I don’t really know. None of them made
it out of China alive.

None of them likely will. Tibetan sources estimate that 5,000 protesters disappeared
in this year’s crackdown. Many have been sent to Qinghai, a potential center
of organ harvesting. But that’s speculative.

Both the Taiwanese doctors who investigate organ harvesting and those who arrange
transplants for their Taiwanese patients agree on one point: The closing ceremony
of the Olympics made it once again open season for harvesting.

Some in the human rights community will read that last assertion with skepticism.
Until there is countervailing evidence, however, I’ll bet on bargain-basement
prices for organs in China. I confess, I feel a touch of burnout myself at this
thought. It’s an occupational hazard.

It’s why I told that one-night-in-Bangkok joke to get you to read beyond the
first paragraph. Yet what’s really laughable is the foot-dragging, formalistic,
faintly embarrassed response of so many to the murder of prisoners of conscience
for the purpose of harvesting their organs. That’s an evil crime.

Washington faces its own imperatives: The riptide of Chinese financial power
is strong. Those in government do not want to hear about Falun Gong and genocide
at a time of financial crisis, with China holding large numbers of U.S. bonds.
So the story continues to founder under the lead weight of American political
and journalistic apathy. At least the Europeans have given it some air. They
can afford to. They aren’t the leader of the free world.

It will be argued–quietly, of course–that America has no point of easy leverage,
no ability to undo what has been done, no silver bullet that can change the
Chinese regime. Perhaps not, but we could ban

Americans from getting organ transplants in China. We could boycott Chinese
medical conferences. Sever medical ties. Embargo surgical equipment. And refuse
to hold any diplomatic summits until the Chinese put in place an explicit, comprehensive
database of every organ donor in China.

We may have to live with the Chinese Communist party, for now. For that matter,
we can console ourselves that there are no bones, for now. There will be none
until the party falls and the Chinese people begin to sift through the graves
and ashes.

We are all allowed a touch of compassion fatigue–it’s understandable. But
make no mistake: There are terrible lizards. And now that the Olympic Games
are over, and the cameras have turned away, they roam the earth again.

Ethan Gutmann, an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies,
wishes to thank the Earhart Foundation and the Wallenberg family of Sweden for
research support.

The Weekly Standard, 11/24/2008, Volume 014, Issue 10

Posting date: 07/Sep/2009
Original article date: 24/Nov/2008
Category: Media Report

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