Bringing Light to the Darkness of Human Trafficking (Trafficking in Persons)

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A CHINESE DOCTOR who performed an organ harvesting operation in the 1990s was among the panel of experts who gave evidence at a Dáil committee today.

The Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence heard evidence from experts including David Matas and Ethan Gutmann, who have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for their work investigating organ harvesting in China.

They made a series of recommendations at committee today, including to urge the government to ban ‘organ tourism’ – where citizens travel abroad to receive an organ transplant.

Such bans are already in place in Israel, Taiwan, Italy and Spain. He said that these countries did so out of a sense of “integrity, a highly-developed sense of tragedy, a historical wisdom to know that the big players, [such as] the US the UK, may not interfere in a world tragedy.”

“If you’re going to act, this is the critical moment, this is the critical time,” Gutmann told the committee today.

The committee also heard strong evidence from Dr Enver Tohti, who gave an account of how he was led to perform organ harvesting on a civilian in China.

“Everytime I give this account it seems like a confession,” he said, before beginning.

“‘How do the most respected people in society turn into murderers?’ This is the most-asked question to me.”

He said to understand that, you have to understand Chinese society where, he told committee members, you become a “fully-programmed member of society, ready to fulfil the task ahead without asking questions”.

He compared it to George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984: “…but in real-world”.

Dr Tohti said at the beginning of his career as a hospital physician, he noticed several children with scars on their bodies caused by “organ harvesting”.

enver tohti

In 1995, he said that two chief surgeons told him to assemble a team “for the largest possible surgery” the following morning.

They were brought to a site outside the hospital, and told wait for the gunshots, he told the committee.

After gunshots were heard, we rushed in. An armed officer directed us to the far-right corner, where I can see a civilian-clothed man lying on the ground with a single bullet wound to his right chest.
My chief surgeons ordered and guided me to extract the liver and the two kidneys. The man was alive. He tried to resist my scalpel cut but [was] too weak to avoid my action.
There was bleeding. He was still alive.

Dr Tohti said that at the time, he thought he was carrying out his duty to “eliminate the enemy of the state”.

Organ donations in China are limited as many people believe they will be reincarnated after death and so feel the need to keep a complete body.

Consistently high demand has created incentives for forced donations and illegal sales, with rights groups long-condemning the harvesting of organs from executed prisoners.

Gutmann estimated at committee today that the industry is worth $8-9 billion, and that there are “60,000 transplants to 100,000 transplants per year”.

China says it banned the practice from the beginning of this year.

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