This episode explores the issue of organ trafficking and transplant abuse in China, with a particular focus on its impact on minority groups. The first part of the podcast gives insight into  some of the practical aspects of Dr. Matas’ research on the rapidly growing business. We then consider the ways in which the UK and the rest of the world is implicated in these grave human rights abuses. 

Until 2015, China harvested organs from prisoners on death row. The State has adopted an official policy that all organs must come from voluntary donations. Yet research suggests that there is a large discrepancy between the official Chinese government’s statistics on organ transplant rates in China and the reality. When combined with the ongoing repression of ethnic and religious minorities by the State, this raises questions about the origins of those organs.

In the podcast, Dr. Matas explains the laborious and time-consuming research process of estimating the number of illegally transplanted organs, which that forms the backbone of his research. His research has been detrimental in providing evidence of the mismatch between official organ transplant statistics (10,000 per year) and his estimate of the number of organs transplanted (60,000-100,000 per year).

The conversation then turns to the implication of ethnic minorities play in China’s illegal business. It is estimated that a large number of organs are sourced from the mass killing of prisoners of conscience, which are held in detention camps around the country. Dr. Matas book explores the role of Falun Gong, a religious spiritual philosophy that became popular in the 1990s by filling the ideological gaps that the dismantling of communism had created. Since the early 2000s, there has been a rapid increase in the sourcing of organs from Uyghur, a Turkish minority group living in the Western province Xinjiang. However, due to a lack of attention and awareness to the issue there exist thus far no laws, either within China or internationally, which criminalise the murder of innocent people through organ transplant.

With China’s increasing involvement of global systems of trade and exchange, the atrocities committed effect the UK as well as other countries. For instance, an exhibition of plastinated bodies recently held in London has been put in connection with the illegal organ trafficking in China. Action has now been taken to fight the trade of organs, such as the drafting of a Council of Europe convention which has yet to be ratified by the UK.

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Dr David Matas is an international human rights lawyer based in Canada and co-founder of the International Coalition To End Transplant Abuse In China (ETAC). In 2009, he co-authored a book with David Kilgour titled ‘Bloody Harvest: Organ Harvesting at Falun Gong Practitioners in China’. For his human rights work he has won various awards, and was nominated for the 2010 Nobel Peace Price.