UK patients should be banned from travelling to China for transplant surgery, the government has been told, before an inquiry into allegations of forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience. The Guardian reports that the call has so far been backed by 40 MPs from all parties before the next session of the independent China Tribunal, which is investigating claims that detainees are being targeted by the regime. China dismisses the allegations as malicious rumours and insists that it adheres to international medical standards that require organ donations to be made by consent and without any financial charges.
The China Tribunal, chaired by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC who was formerly a prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, has been taking evidence about alleged mispractices from medical experts, human rights investigators and others. The report says it will hold a second round of hearings on 6 and 7 April in London. Its final judgment will be published on 13 June. China has been asked to participate but has declined to do so.
In an interim judgment released last December, the tribunal said: “In China forced-organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience has been practised for a substantial period of time involving a very substantial number of victims … It is beyond doubt on the evidence presently received that forced harvesting of organs has happened on a substantial scale by state-supported or approved organisations and individuals.”
Among those killed, the report says it has been alleged, are members of religious minorities such as Falun Gong, Tibetans, Uighur Muslims and some Christian sects. In 2014, China announced that it would stop removing organs for transplantation from executed prisoners.
It is not clear how many UK citizens have travelled to China for transplants, the report says. Waiting times for operations are said to be far shorter than in the west. One inquiry suggested that a liver transplant could be arranged privately at a Chinese hospital for $100,000.
Mark Field, the Foreign Office minister, acknowledged that there was a growing body of research, much of which was “very worrying” but he believed relatively few people in the UK chose to travel to China for organ transplants.
Introducing a travel ban, he is quoted in the report as saying, would be difficult to police since it would be hard to establish whether people had travelled there for that purpose. Field said: “But, it is important that we make them aware that other countries may have poorer medical and ethical safeguards than the UK, and that travelling abroad for treatments, including organ transplants, carries fundamental risks.”
The Chinese embassy said in the report: “The Chinese government always follows the World Health Organisation’s guiding principles on human organ transplant, and has strengthened its management on organ transplant in recent years. On 21 March 2007, the Chinese state council enacted the regulation on human organ transplant, providing that human organ donation must be done voluntarily and gratis. We hope that the British people will not be misled by rumours.”
It cited article 7 of its regulation on human organ transplant, which says: “The donation of human organs shall be made under the principle of free will and free of charge. A citizen shall be entitled to donate or not to donate his or her human organ; and any organisation or person shall not force, cheat or entice others into donating their human organs.”
Article 8 of the regulation states: “The citizen donating his or her human organ shall have full competency in civil act … Any organisation or person shall not donate or remove any human organ of a citizen who has disagreed with the donation of any of his or her human organs while alive.”
[link url="https://www.theguardian.com/law/2019/apr/01/uk-patients-china-organ-tourism-ban"]The Guardian report[/link]