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Mark Colvin reported this story on Tuesday, November 27, 2012
MARK COLVIN: Five years ago, it was big news when a Canadian MP, David Kilgour, and human rights lawyer, David Matas, edited a book saying the Chinese organ donation was being fed by a system of executions.
They laid out evidence that people who were in prison for membership of the Falun Gong sect were being killed to order for their organs.
Tomorrow in Canberra, a Labor Senator will host a group of experts in Parliament to hear evidence that it’s still happening.
David Matas has now co-edited a new book, ‘State Organs: Transplant Abuse in China’.
I asked him, and one of the book’s essay contributors, Maria Fiatarone Singh, Professor of Medicine and Exercise and Sports Science at Sydney University, about the situation now.
DAVID MATAS: Chances are if you’re going to China for a transplant, somebody’s been killed for the organ that you’re going to get and to me that’s reprehensible; that you shouldn’t be complicit in that sort of abuse.
A healthy person should not be killed to help a sick person and I think it’s morally wrong and in my view it should also be criminal.
MARK COLVIN: It’s a huge accusation, isn’t it? Let’s break it down. First of all, how sure are you that people are being killed for their organs, rather than organs extracted from people who have been executed for their crimes?
DAVID MATAS: Well, it’s impossible to just say that people are being executed for their crimes independently from the organ transplant supply because there’s a symbiosis between the two.
The volume of organ transplants is related to the volume of executions too. To a certain extent, what’s driving the executions is the demand for organs and certainly the timing of the executions is being driven by the demand for organs and as well we can tell from the volume of people sentenced to death and then executed it’s completely insufficient to supply the organ transplant supply, because China is the world’s leading transplant supplier by volume after the United States; an estimated 10,000 a year, and they don’t have a national organ distribution system and there’s a lot of hepatitis in the system and a lot of unusable organs.
So that the organs can’t only be coming from prisoners.
MARK COLVIN: So you draw the conclusion by deduction, if you like. Is there more than circumstantial evidence? Have you got witnesses who say yes I’m a doctor and I did this?
DAVID MATAS: What we did was we had investigators calling into China, into hospitals asking the hospitals if they had organs that Falun Gong practitioners would sell on the basis that Falun Gong is an exorcised regime and Falun Gong are healthy and their organs are healthy.
And we have admissions on tape, transcribed, translated throughout China, about 15 per cent of the calls saying yes we have organs of Falun Gong practitioners for sale.
MARK COLVIN: I saw a BBC story about five or six years ago in which they did exactly that; the doctor in the hospital said, yes we can provide this for you.
DAVID MATAS: Yes, yes.
MARK COLVIN: You say you’ve got transcripts; have you got this stuff on tape?
DAVID MATAS: Yes, absolutely. And in fact the Chinese government did a documentary trying to refute our work and they interviewed some of the people we had interviewed and you know I would have thought that they might have said no this didn’t happen. But in fact they said yes it did. We got the calls and they were presented with a transcript and said yeah I remember this.
And what they ended up saying was while we fiddled with the transcripts without any recognition that we have everything on tape and what we admit having said and what they denied having said interwoven seamlessly in their own voice.
So it wasn’t a very convincing denial.
MARK COLVIN: Do you say that they just do this with Falun Gong people? That they execute Falun Gong people for kidneys or are they executing other ethnic groups or other groups?
DAVID MATAS: Well, in the first book we did, David Kilgour and I, we focused just on Falun Gong. In the second book here ‘State Organs’ we have an essay from Ethan Gutmann who’s a journalist who’s been looking into other areas and he’s concluded they’re also doing it with Tibetans and Uyghurs and a particular group of host Christians.
MARK COLVIN: Now Maria when you have worked on this subject in Australia what kind of reactions have you had?
MARIA FIATARONE SINGH: Incredulity mostly. I think when you tell people that it’s happening, even my medical colleagues, initially they can’t believe it and then sometimes the reaction is well the executed prisoner might have consented and so isn’t that okay?
And my response is, well, if you read what the Was (phonetic) show and in fact every ethics institute in the world says you cannot get informed consent from people who are incarcerated because that is considered coercive.
MARK COLVIN: But have you had pushback from the Chinese government or you think it’s from the Chinese government?
MARIA FIATARONE SINGH: Well I would say that once I actually went to David’s seminar in 2007 that he was providing to the Transplantation Society and just because I was there I was interviewed by a Epoch Times reporter, appeared in their newspaper and shortly thereafter I actually was contacted by somebody who I think later turned out to be posing as a University of Sydney postgraduate student who…
MARK COLVIN: Yeah, what happened? There were clues in the language.
MARIA FIATARONE SINGH: Basically contacted me by email and asked me why I was doing what I was doing; promoting this opposition to this cause and tried to convince me that none of it was true, tried to convince me that in fact many things that had happened in China, such as Tiananmen Square, had never happened.
His English was…
MARK COLVIN: You say that it started off in rather broken English and then it became much more fluent?
MARIA FIATARONE SINGH: Very broken English and then it gradually became very fluent and polished.
MARK COLVIN: And your conclusion from that was?
MARIA FIATARONE SINGH: Well, I had no understanding that it could happen but I was later told by my colleagues this was probably somebody who actually wasn’t a Chinese student at all.
In fact when I tried to verify what he was studying, who his mentor was, he couldn’t come up with it and ultimately, after harassing me for several months, just disappeared.
So I think that, for whatever reason, there was an attempt to sort of silence me, even though I had no power and no ability to really do anything. I’m not sure what they were afraid of but it seemed that that had happened.
MARK COLVIN: The University of Sydney’s Professor Maria Fiatarone Singh ending that interview and before her was David Matas, the Canadian human rights lawyer.