Claims Of China's Organ Harvesting Of Prisoners Remains A Controversy

Chinese authorities insist the practice of organ harvesting hasn't gone on for years, but the statistics suggest otherwise. junrong/

China is notoriously shady about releasing official statistics about the number of executions and the number of organ transplantations they carry out. However, numerous investigations by journalists and NGOs have shown that their statistics don’t add up. One major report, The Bloody Harvest/The Slaughter, has stated the rate of executions and the number of organs taken from executed prisoners remains “a state secret,” adding “we are convinced that transplant volume is substantially higher than the official figure.” Another study, published in January 2019, carried out a forensic analysis of data about organ donation between 2010 and 2018. They found a "systematic falsification and manipulation of official organ transplant dataset" and concluded China's claims of reform are highly questionable.

A protest against forced organ harvesting in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, 2011. lasse-san/Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

China is fast becoming the world leader of organ transplants in terms of the number of operations – over 1 million transplants since 2000 – but there are still relatively few voluntary organ donations in the country. For cultural reasons, Chinese people are typically reluctant to donate their organs after death. So, where are the organs coming from?

“The Chinese governments claim they do around 10,000 each year, let’s say, but that seems very unrealistic when you look at factors like bed capacities of hospitals and the amount of resources they put into transplants. That ‘official’ quota can essentially be met by a couple of hospitals, and there are over 200 hospitals doing transplants,” Sarah Cook, Senior Research Analyst for East Asia at Freedom House, told IFLScience.

“When you look at a self-reporting on a local level and individual hospitals saying how many transplants they did, you get an estimate in the 60,000 to 100,000 range.”

The Falun Gong

The Falun Gong has consistently taken the brunt of organ exploitation, although other marginalized minority groups, such as Muslim Uyghurs and Tibetan Buddhists, have also fallen victim.

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