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A New Type of Trade: Organs

A Closer Look At China’s Lucrative Organ Market

In the modern world, China ranks number two in the number of transplant procedures every year, reaching 20,000 transplants in 2006 alone, some sources claiming even higher numbers. In China, the average wait time for a liver transplant is one to two weeks; in Canada, 33 months. With all of these Chinese transplants occurring, there has to be a large, constant supply of organ donors -- but there isn’t. Between 2003 and 2009, 130 Chinese citizens donated organs. Similarly, in 2010, the Chinese Red Cross set up a new program for donating organs; 37 people signed up. And with strict import and export laws regulating international trade, the question arises, where do all these organs come from?

Persecuting religious minorities has been prevalent in China for a long time, dating back to the anti-religious campaign started in 1999 by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). In China’s Xinjiang region, ethnic central Asians who are religiously Muslim are known as Uighurs. Uighurs are herded like cattle then placed into concentration camps, tortured, or outright killed. Similarly, the Falun Gong, a religious and spiritual movement in China, have been receiving the same brutal treatment from the government. However, recently, the CCP has been turning their terror into profit. The key: organ harvesting.

A demonstrator wears a mask painted with the colors of the flag of East Turkestan, home to millions of Uighur Muslims under surveillance by the Chinese government. OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images

Over 100,000 Americans are currently on an organ waitlist, and their number one supplier has become China. Even with strict trade regulations, China is able to export over 1 billion dollars of organs out every year. Countless loopholes allow an average person to purchase one from overseas, both legally, directly from the government, and illegally, through black markets. Regardless, the supplier and source are still the same. Shady record-keeping on China’s side eases the process of acquiring organs as well as providing a convenient smokescreen for their deceitful medical operations.

No Voice for Human Rights

Within two decades China has mobilized its doctors for a new type of war, a war on human rights. At least 64,000 members of Falun Gong have been killed solely for their organs since 1999, but the real number is expected to be much higher at around 1.5 million people. Many doctors and surgeons are ordered to accomplish extractions from specific patients they are given by the government, occurring either in hospitals, detention centers or ‘people's courts’ and ultimately leading to the patient dying. Similarly, Uighurs in concentration camps suffer the same gruesome fate.

On September 24, 2019, the Chinese Tribunal testified against the Chinese government in front of the United Nations Human Rights Council for taking hearts, livers, kidneys, lungs, and skin from Uighurs and the Falun Gong. This wasn’t the first time the governments’ illicit medical procedures were brought to the public’s attention. In 2006, the Falun Gong themselves shined a light on the government's actions, revealing up to 41,000 deaths related to the malpractice. Despite that, it was a massive report released in 2016 that completely unveiled the true horrors occurring. Independent journalists and researchers used medical data and hospital records from China to unearth the government’s body count. Their findings: over one million oppressed minorities. Since 2006, groups have staged massive protests in front of European capitals and embassies for China’s illicit activities. Nevertheless, the world turned a blind eye after each protest, allowing for constant violence to continue. Finally, this Tuesday, the world was given its “legal obligation” to intervene in China’s enterprise, with a statement from the tribunal regarding China as a criminal state who has committed crimes against humanity “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Falun Gong practitioners protest against organ harvesting; demonstration outside the European Parliament, 2016

The Same Problem, Halfway Across the World

Across the entire Asian continent lies India, with its own major organ trafficking problem. Instead of having government-sponsored procedures, India has a thriving black market that leeches opportunity from the economy. Instead of feeding on religious groups, India’s illegal operations tend to target the poor. Enticing job opportunities flood the market, and when a working Indian shows up for an interview they are greeted with a knock over the head or a rag drenched in chlorophyll.

A cold numbness envelopes the body, only to be followed by two sharp pains in the lower abdomen. As a victim slowly regains his blurred vision, he notices the two giant scars in place of his kidneys and liver. Thousands of lower-class Indian workers experience this as reality. Their organs are sold and trafficked overseas to buyers in Europe and the U.S., causing over 200,000 Indians to currently be waitlisted for kidney transplants.

An Indian mother lifts her shirt to reveal a large scar from when she had her kidney stolen

Indian mother lifts her shirt to reveal a gaping scar from where her kidney was stolen.

Corrupt medical practitioners are not exclusive to China, but in India, they are not abetted by the government. Instead, when performing surgeries they choose to take something extra out. In March of 2015, a doctor operating on a four-year-old girl choose to remove one of her kidneys before completing the surgery, then patched her up as if nothing was missing. Two months later, complications arose and it was revealed that she was missing one of her kidneys.

Whether the organ came from India or from China, it tends to end up in a body of a United States citizen. People in need of a transplant simply travel to their country of choice and either have their operation there or return with an extra piece of somebody in their suitcase. The end is the same in both scenarios yet the means is worlds away. In the East, there are blatant attacks on humanity sponsored by president Xi and his predecessors. Yet on the Indian subcontinent, rampant crime destroys the unfortunate working class and the ones unlucky enough to encounter a bad surgeon.

A Dim but Hopeful Light

Since 2005, India’s organ trade has been booming, and sadly both the government and police put the issue to the bottom of their agenda. It's even worse in China, where the government itself is conducting these surgeries and have no plans to stop anytime soon. But, there is still hope for both the Falun Gong and Uighurs living in China and the impoverished Indian families. The human rights abuses have finally come to the media’s attention and more importantly, the United Nation’s crossfire. The United Nations will soon be conducting a thorough search throughout China, hopefully toppling the atrocities they are committing.


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