We should ban organ tourism to combat China’s forced organ harvesting
Referred to as the “Squid Game Amendment” in the Commons - following the Daily Mail’s comparison of the fictional Netflix TV series with China’s real life forced organ harvesting of prisoners of conscience - the Health and Care Bill has now entered the House of Lords where I have tabled a revised version of the amendment with cross-party support.
Forced organ harvesting is the removal of a victim’s organs for the purpose of transplantation – while the victim is still alive – murdering the victim in the process. The victims are killed on demand, and according to Ethan Gutmann, an investigative researcher and author, the financial return on a body with usable organs totals between £370,000 - £550,000.
The China Tribunal concluded that, “forced organ harvesting has been committed for years throughout China on a significant scale and that Falun Gong practitioners have been one – and probably the main - source of organ supply.” And, “In regard to the Uyghurs the Tribunal had evidence of medical testing on a scale that could allow them, amongst other uses, to become an 'organ bank’.”
My amendment would make it illegal to travel abroad for organs unless there is no financial gain involved
We now know following the recent judgement from the Uyghur Tribunal, that the Chinese Government are committing Genocide against the Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang. We have heard horrifying recounts of enslavement, mass surveillance, rape, torture, forced sterilisation and forced abortion.
Sayragul Sauytbay testified how she had discovered medical files detailing Uyghur detainees’ blood types and results of liver tests while she was working at a Uyghur camp. Ethan Gutmann, spoke about his recent report on the forced organ harvesting from Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, including his witness interviews, the human organ “fast lanes” in the Urumqi and Kashgar airports and the construction of vast crematoriums throughout the region.
My amendment would make it illegal to travel abroad for organs unless there is no financial gain involved and either, appropriate documented consent, or a legitimate and ethical opt-out system in place for deemed consent. This would protect UK citizens from complicity in forced organ harvesting, as it would no longer be legal to travel to China for organs that have been forcibly harvested from prisoners of conscience.
The amendment is not country specific in its wording, it is instead targeting unethical organ tourism and unethical plastinated human body exhibitions. So, it also has the added effect of preventing involvement in black market organ trafficking globally.
An additional amendment would also mean that any cadavers imported into the UK for use in exhibitions would require the same consent documentation as cadavers sourced from within the UK. This means that commercial plastinated body exhibitions that have possession of cadavers sourced from Chinese prisons – with no consent or identity documentation, and that may be from executed prisoners of conscience - would no longer be allowed to bring these cadavers into the UK.
The government made significant efforts to improve the wording of the Human Tissue Authorities Code of Practice following my amendment to the Medicines and Medical Devices Bill, where many Lords across the House spoke with passion on the topic. However nothing was implemented in legislation to stop these unethical commercial exhibitions at the time, due to a limited scope of the previous Bill; now we have an opportunity to put this right.
The U.K. signed the Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs in 2015, but unlike a number of other countries, have not ratified it. By taking legislative action in the UK, it will also encourage other governments to do the same. In fact, Israel, Taiwan, Spain, Italy, Norway and Belgium have already passed similar legislation regarding organ trafficking. The United States is currently in the process of a bipartisan Stop Forced Organ Harvesting Bill, and France, Israel, Hawaii and the Czech Republic have also banned commercial body exhibitions.
Despite the World Health Organization’s claim that China is operating an ethical donation system - which, on a second look, one discovers is in reality China’s own self-assessment as the WHO has not carried out its own independent assessment of China’s organ transplant system - the fight against organ harvesting in China is gaining momentum globally.
Twelve United Nations Special Rapporteurs and human rights experts recently issued a joint correspondence to China. The Special Rapporteurs had, “received credible information that detainees from ethnic, linguistic or religious minorities may be forcibly subjected to blood tests and organ examinations such as ultrasound and x-rays, without their informed consent.” And that, “according to the information they had received, forced organ harvesting in China targets a number of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities such as Falun gong practitioners, Uyghurs, Tibetans, Muslims and Christians held in detention at different locations.”
My amendments are an important step for the UK in addressing human organ trafficking. They help prevent UK complicity and send a strong message to both China and internationally that the UK does not condone these crimes; an urgent and important message for both the perpetrators and the victim communities.
Lord Hunt is a Labour peer.
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