organ harvesting

The Death Penalty in China as a State Sponsored Human Rights Abuse

In the past couple of decades, there has been a global shift away from use of the death penalty.1 Many nations around the world are beginning to realize that the death penalty is not only an outdated means of punishment, but also a violation of international human rights standards. The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, for example, states that individuals may not be deprived of life. Capital punishment appears to directly violate this provision.

Harry Wu Writes to US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher regarding Tibet and Organ Harvesting


I am writing to express my concern regarding your stance on the Falun Gong organ harvesting issue and the dismissal of Mr. Ngapo Jigme from his position at Radio Free Asia. I have always appreciated your political stance towards the Chinese Communist Party. However, I feel morally obligated to share my views with you on these two particular issues.

First of all, I fully support the right of the Falun Gong followers to practice their religion, express their political views, and strongly condemn the Chinese Communist Party’s brutal persecutions against them. However, after more than a decade of close observations, I have found that the Falun Gong is problematic in many instances, including on the issue of organ harvesting.

Organs Ban Could Take Decades

China acknowledges that there are ethical problems with the use of organs from executed prisoners.

China's plans to ban the use of organs harvested from executed prisoners could lead to a stronger culture of donation in the wider population, although the reform could take two decades to implement, according to a former top doctor.

Beijing will set up a national organ donation network in early 2013, according to health officials, while phasing out the use of organs from executed prisoners for transplants.

Spotlight on the LRF Archive: Organ Harvesting

Another look into LRF's Archive:

On June 18, 1996, Dr. Qian Xiaojiang testified in front of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, detailing his participation in organ extraction from prisoners in China.  During the 80s, Dr. Qian worked as a physician at the Bangpu Medical Institute in Bangpu, Anhui Province. At the time, organ transplantation was in its infancy in China: the surgery itself was extremely risky, and because of traditional Chinese conceptions of the body, virtually no Chinese willingly donated organs.  Qian found out about the hospital's first successful kidney transplant surgery from his medical school roommate, who happened to be the son of the hospital's director of the Urological Department.

The kidney, of course, belonged to an executed prisoner.

Dr. Qian moved to Shanghai and worked in clinical immunology at the Shanghai No. 2 Medical University, where he studied transplant rejection and organ failure.  Dr. Qian testified that approximately 20 kidney transplant procedures took place every year, and nearly all organs came from executed prisoners. And in China, doctors are not required to test if prisoners are brain-dead before beginning organ extraction: in one case in the spring of 1987, doctors "could feel tremblings and pulses in [the prisoner's] limbs.  Everything from that prisoner, kidneys, spleen, heart, and corneas were extracted. [A colleague, Dr. Shao Ming] used the word, 'Empty.'"

Dr. Qian concluded that in China, kidney transplant surgeries using prisoners' organs are an "open secret." "In China," he said, "whenever a patient needs a kidney, the first reaction, no matter whether it is the surgeon, the nurse, or the patient himself, is: 'wait for the guy to be shot.'"

Dr. Qian's full testimony will be available in the LRF digital archive when it launches this fall.