44th UPR session: Side event on Human Rights in China

44th UPR session: Side event on Human Rights in China
Photo Source: All That’s Interesting

23-01-2024 January 2024

V Sivasankar

Team UN Geneva Researcher,

Global Human Rights Defence.

In a recent side event at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), a day before China’s UPR in front of the UN, a panel of experts shed light on the alarming human rights abuses occurring in the country, particularly concerning forced organ harvesting. The event, organized by a coalition of non-governmental organizations, featured prominent figures like Dr. Katerina Lantos Swett, David Matas, Dr. Harold King, Sir Edward Mc-Cillan Scott, Lebin Ding, and Marco Respinti, who collectively presented a compelling case on the ongoing situation in China.


The event focused on the crime of illegal and forced organ harvesting in China that began in 2006 according to Marco Respinti, Director in-charge of Bitterwinter.org. Over the past 15 years, evidence on this issue has been scattered and inconsistent causing hinderances for organisations and the un UPR process to concretely address and resolve it. However, as the scale and scope of illegal organ harvesting grows rapidly, Dr. Katerina Lantos Swett emphasized the urgent need to address it, stating that the UNHRC's integrity is at stake unless it takes a serious stance on this matter. Victims of this heinous crime include religiously persecuted groups, including Uyghurs, Christians and most commonly, the Falun Gong.


Discussing the scale of this atrocity, David Matas, International Human Rights Lawyer exposed the scale of organ harvesting, citing a recent joint statement by 10 UN experts who expressed their concern as well. He also discussed and the forced imposition of medical tests on individuals from these persecuted groups in Chinese detention facilities. The quantitative data being presented by the UN, NGOs and the Chinese government all hold significant discrepancies between each other indicating that the reality would involve a much larger number of victims.


Next, Chair of Hong Kong Watch, Benedict Rogers drew attention to the barbaric crimes committed by the People's Republic of China (PRC) against various groups, including Uyghurs, Christians, Tibetans, and pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong. He poignantly stated that the ongoing forced organ harvesting that has gone unnoticed by majority of the world has to rank as one of the « most barbaric » crimes committed by the PRC. He referenced the Independent China Tribunal established in 2019 and its findings, branding forced organ harvesting and its associated crimes to be a crime against humanity under international law. Quoting the findings of the Tribunal, he stated that « Anybody who deals with the government of the people’s Republic of China should be aware that they are dealing with a criminal state ».


Wendy Rogers reminded the room that the evidence of this crime dates back nearly two decades and illustrates the widespread and systemic nature of the atrocities committed by the Chinese government. She further detailed that these crimes include murder, rape, torture and persecution on the basis of ethnic, cultural and religious identity. She emphasised the risks of complicity associated with engaging in transplant research with China since it « sanctions the murder of prisoners of conscience »


Dr. Harold King, Deputy Director of NGO DAFOH (Doctors Against Forced organ Harvesting) disclosed shocking information about a 250% increase in organ transplants in China that strikingly contrasts the global increase of 5-10%. Additionally, patients around the world have a suspiciously low waiting time of as short as 15-30 days when receiving a transplant from China. He raised concerns about the discrepancy between organ supplies and reported transplant numbers, suggesting forced organ harvesting as the sinister explanation. Presenting more quantitative data, he stated that there seem to be over 200 times more organ donors in china than in the USA and UK despite these countries having many more potential donors. After over 17 years of collecting and analysing such data, he presented his conclusion that forced organ harvesting from living people cannot be voluntary since harvesting vital organs like the heart or lungs will inevitably necessitate the death of the donor. Both Dr. King and Marco Respinti discussed an open letter co-signed by multiple NGOs on China’s denial of human rights published on the 17th of January.


Putting forth some suggestions, Dr. King urged the UN to establish a Special Rapporteur on Forced Organ Harvesting as well as the establishment of an international criminal tribunal on China to investigate these crimes. The panel collectively called for international action, including urging UN member states to condemn the Chinese government's actions, prosecuting those responsible under the UN Convention on Torture, and removing China's seat at the UNHRC. These suggestions were proposed as necessary steps towards holding the Chinese government accountable for its egregious human rights violations.


Sir Edward Mc-Cillan Scott, Lebin Ding, and Marco Respinti each added their voices to the call for justice, with Ding sharing a personal account of his father's imprisonment and the potential risks of organ harvesting faced by detained individuals. Ding recounted his fathers arrest to be a part of one of the many mass arrests and detailed that no visitors have been allowed to see him since his arrest 8 months ago. He has been sentenced for a period of 3 years and fined 15,000 yuan (2000 euros). The lucrative black market for organ harvesting in China also has military connections according to Ding who urged the CCP to release prisoners like his father.


The evidence presented by these experts paints a disturbing picture, highlighting the urgent need for the international community to address China's gross violation of human rights and take decisive action to end the horrifying practice of forced organ harvesting. As Dr. King stated, “Chinas actions reflects a disturbing ideology that a perfect world necessitates” the erasure of certain voices; including minorities such as Uyghurs and Falung Gong.