A global collective of doctors, known as the Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting (DAFOH), won the Mother Teresa Memorial Award on Sunday for investigation into and findings related to illegal organ retrieval from prisoners of conscience in China.
In June this year, DAFOH’s findings were backed by an independent people’s tribunal called China’s Tribunal, which established that there were “elements of genocide” in the organ harvesting programme in China based on the statement of witnesses. “There is a systematic wipeout of Falun Gong practitioners by the Chinese government. They are being killed, mostly for their liver and kidneys, but also for heart, lung and eyes,” said Dr Torsten Trey, executive director of DAFOH.
Trey, a US-based physician, who began the organisation after the first witness accounts of illegal organ harvesting came from China in 2006. The organisation has over 200 doctors attached globally, who worked to collect evidence into the illegal organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners.
Falun Gong, a spiritual religious practice, had an estimated population of 70-100 million in 1992. Beginning in the 1990s, the Communist Party perceived the group as a threat and began cracking down on it.
The DAFOH has alleged that thousands of arrested Falun Gong practitioners have been killed for their organs.
According to the DAFOH, China has emerged as a hub of organ transplants. While official government data records 10,000 to 15,000 organ transplants, according to DAFOH the actual estimates are over 60,000 based on data analysis. “The normal waiting period is two weeks for an organ. If a recipient pays $10,000, the waiting period could be just two days,” Trey said.
He added, “We came across a hospital in China that conducts 2,000 liver transplants a year. Those figures are not possible, especially in a country with low organ donation rate.”
China attracts organ recipients from Korea, Japan, and Middle Eastern countries.
Trey also spoke about the lack of support from the UN due to the powerful position that China held and its influence over smaller countries. “But we are getting support from the international community. In the last five years, three million signatories have petitioned for investigation into the genocide,” he said.
He added that illegal harvesting cases had popped up across the country. “There is also a rise in the number of transplant surgeons,” Trey told The Indian Express. However, he said, there was still a major problem of detained Falun Gong practitioners who were unaccounted for. “It is difficult to trace them and find whether they were killed for organs. Their families don’t know where they are,” he added.
Abraham Mathai, founder chairman of Harmony Foundation that organised the Mother Teresa Memorial Award on Sunday, said laws needed to become stringent in India as well to curb the practice of illegal organ donation and trafficking.