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Media silence on forced organ-harvesting in China is denounced
Chinese protesters in Vancouver warn of illegal practices in China Pic: Shutterstock

27 Sep 2021 / human rights Print

Silence on forced organ-harvesting is denounced

An international webinar on forced organ-harvesting by Chinese authorities has been told that western media are being manipulated by the Chinese Communist Party.

China uses ‘sharp power’ to supress reports on the issue, the World Summit on Combating and Preventing Forced Organ Harvesting heard (17-26 September).

Medical ethics NGO, Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting (DAFOH), which organised the webinar, describes the forced harvesting of organs from the living as a violation of medical ethics and basic human rights, but also as an atrocity against humankind.

Systematic killing

“The systematic killing of people to harvest their organs on an industrial scope is a crime that is unprecedented. and should not have a place in the 21st century,” the campaigners say.

Speakers said that the failure of mainstream media to report on China’s profit-based forced organ-harvesting has had a negative impact on the dissemination of information and knowledge to the public, and on the credibility of probes into this human-rights violation.

Experts, parliamentarians and journalists from across the globe spoke at the summit, which heard that systematic organ-harvesting was a politically motivated act, targeting religious groups and minorities – such as Falun Gong practitioners, Uyghurs, Tibetans, Muslims, and Christians in China.

DAFOH director Dr Torsten Trey said: “Forced organ-harvesting from living people is an unfathomable, unspeakable disgrace to humankind.”

He said that a self-propelling, profit-driven, organ-harvesting infrastructure potentially turned organ recipients into accomplices, as their demand for transplant surgery could fuel transplant abuse.

Journalist ­­­­Hataru Nomura told the summit that a movement to create a parliamentary alliance on the issue had finally been created in Japan.

Crime

While there is public interest in forced organ-harvesting, the impact has been minimal, leading one Japanese politician to describe it as a “blasphemy on the history of journalism for the mainstream media not to report on a crime of this magnitude”. 

Nomura explained that the Japanese media had a strong sense of reticence towards China, and a sense of atonement for the damage that Japan had inflicted on China.

“The reality is that the Japanese media, academia and educational circles have widely fostered a phobia of China; they do not report on the bad aspects of China,” he said.

This is even though Falun Gong practitioners have been appealing for help for the victims of organ-harvesting.

“But the message has not spread at all,” he said, even though it is estimated that as many as 100,000 people are killed for their organs every year.

The Japanese media believe that “the spirit you do not approach will not curse you”, he said.

“I believe this cowardly nature of the media is the biggest reason why the issue of organ-harvesting has not spread to the outside world,” he said.

The webinar heard calls for a boycott movement against Chinese goods, and a halt to visitor visas for Chinese people.

Dr Chang Chin-Hwa of the National Taiwan University told the webinar that the June 2019 conclusion of an independent tribunal in London – unanimously confirming that the killing of detainees in China for organ transplants was continuing – had received very unsatisfactory media coverage. 

Robust legal conclusion

“The real, critical point is that the finding of the tribunal is a robust legal conclusion, in response to the allegation of a serious human-rights violation, that has led to the deaths of thousands of prisoners of conscience for more than 20 years,” she said.

News headlines presented the findings as exposing Chinese Communist Party (CCP) lies, she said, significantly downplaying the severity of the crime.

This is not just ‘occasional negligence’, because other examples suggest it is intentional, with biased or problematic media reporting, the academic said.

“Is it apathy or ignorance, or is there something else?” Dr Chang asked.

The professor suggested that the lure of China’s immense market was being exchanged for control of business, technology, entertainment and academic sectors, as well as media companies.

“Any media company that has been connected to the Chinese market is possibly subjected to the CCP’s authoritarian control,” the academic said, describing this as an exercise of ‘sharp power’.

“One direct way is to purchase advertorial inserts in influential international newspapers and magazines, with big payments,” she added.

Watchdog

This accounts for mainstream media’s lack of interest in CCP human-rights violations, she warned, despite their role as a monitor of power, and watchdog for the public.

The CCP’s media outlets should be treated as agents of the Chinese Government, rather than free and independent entities, she said.

Cuban journalist Zoe Valdes said that the removal of organs from imprisoned Chinese dissidents was an atrocious, cruel and barbaric practice, typical of the worst crimes of the Middle Ages, because it placed ideology above the full rights of humankind to life and liberty.

“We must denounce these inhuman practices that sink and hide in the swamp of ‘disciplinary corrections’,” she said.

Witness Jiang Li spoke from the US of her family’s experience as Falun Gong practitioners in China. Her father was kidnapped and detained after his livelihood was taken away.

The family were eventually called to view their father’s body in a freezer, and were told they could only look at his head.

On touching the body, the family found that it was still warm, but were told by plain-clothes police that the death certificate had been issued, and the body would be cremated.

A digital camera with photos of their father’s scarred body was also seized, she said.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland