The preview of the film was chilling, the research that followed was depressing and the second viewing at the festival was saddening. In all, it was several evenings well spent.
Released in 2014, the multiple-award-winning film presents a disturbing picture of the world’s favourite trade partner: China. It also raises serious questions about our collective complicity – a turning of the eyes away from a program of mass murder within China’s health-care system, where the organs of thousands of prisoners of conscience are harvested every year and sold to “transplant tourists.”
While the world’s developed countries have years-long wait times for patients needing a new liver, kidneys, corneas or a heart, for $30,000 and up you can get replacement parts in China in a couple of weeks. China has no functioning organ-donor registration system, but somehow they can find you a tissue match, from a living donor, within a few days.
As the movie points out, the unwilling donors are pulled from a prison system that houses tens of thousands of mostly Falun Gong religious practitioners. Uighurs, other Muslims, Christians and criminals bound for execution round out the roster, but the overwhelming harvest is of Falun Gong believers.
It’s a billion-dollar industry that could not exist on this scale in any other country without global attention and outrage. But because it’s China, trade delegations turn a blind eye while they look for more profits in the world’s second largest economy.
The movie follows a report compiled in 2006-07 by former Canadian member of Parliament and secretary of state David Kilgour, and David Matas, a respected immigration and human rights lawyer. Their efforts won them a Nobel Peace Prize nomination in 2010, and the ongoing enmity of China.
One question immediately comes to mind on seeing the film: why hasn’t the world heard about this?
I like to think of myself as reasonably informed, but I had no idea this gruesome industry existed in China and I doubt many others in general society were that much ahead of me.
And why have there been no international sanctions for what is by any definition a crime against humanity?
In 2009, Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj introduced a private member’s bill that would make it illegal for Canadians to get a transplant abroad if the organ was taken from an unwilling donor. I couldn’t find any evidence that bill ever passed.
Should such a law ever pass, a Canadian discovered to have travelled to buy a kidney or a heart could be prosecuted as a participant in a murder.
Kilgour and Matas say we should go further. They want the names of all the doctors and nurses in all the hospitals in China who annually kill thousands of people in order to sell their organs so we can prosecute them in an international court.
It’s no less a crime against humanity than the Holocaust, and indeed, Matas and Kilgour draw parallels. First, you demonize and dehumanize the victims, as was done in pre-war Europe, or in inter-tribal conflicts in Africa and the Middle East. Then you have people simply remain silent about the atrocities.
Even Wrzesnewskyj, who has proposed and supported a wide variety of human rights causes over the years, particularly in the Ukraine, trod lightly on the Chinese tiger’s tail.
He said that although Canadians benefit from trade with China, and that we want even more trade in the future, “it does not exonerate us for addressing the issue of organ transplantation in the People’s Republic of China.”
Well, yes, but. …
He warned against “trusting a country that would engage in this sort of horrific crime against its own people.”
Do you feel warned?
If it was any country other than China, such a program of mass-murder-for-profit would result in global trade sanctions, if not military invasion.
Now that you know about this, a share of the responsibility falls on you.
Greg Neiman is a freelance editor, columnist and blogger living in Red Deer, Alta.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.