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Preventing continuation of genocide

By David Matas


The issue of prevention of genocide arises not only before genocide occurs. It also arises while genocide is taking place. Prevention of continuation of genocide raises overlapping issues with prevention of genocide that has not occurred and may never occur.

One overlapping issue is the necessity for preventing incitement to genocide. The necessity is more immediate when genocide is occurring, when there is a direct link between the incitement and ongoing mass killings.

Denial and cover up occur in both contexts but is more difficult to address during the course of genocide. Perpetrators of genocide, by definition, remain in power while genocide is occurring. Once perpetrators are dislodged from power, their denial and cover up becomes easier to counter, because the evidence of genocide is more easily accessible. While perpetrators remain in power, part of their genocidal effort is destroying the evidence of their killings.

When perpetrators hold power and, while the genocide is occurring, geo-political considerations come into play. Perpetrators have their fellow travellers who, out of ideological conviction or business or family reasons, join with the perpetrators.

A case study

I want to address the issue of prevention of continuation of genocide by using, as a case study, China and the evidence of mass killing, for their organs for transplants, of prisoners of conscience. The evidence shows the victims to be primarily, not only, practitioners of the spiritually based set of exercises Falun Gong.  

a) The repression

Falun Gong began in 1992 with the teachings of Li Hongzhi. 1992 was a time of intellectual, spiritual and moral ferment in China because of the shift by the Communist Party from socialism to capitalism. Communist socialism had a simple moral line – from each according to his means; to each according to his needs. The disappearance of that morality left Communism in China in a moral vacuum.

Most successful of all the various teachings to fill that vacuum was Falun Gong, a blending and updating of the traditional Chinese exercise and spiritual traditions. The Communist Party originally encouraged Falun Gong because it was beneficial to health.

Falun Gong became a victim of its own success. By 1999, only seven years from its inception, it had become more popular than Communism. There were, by the Government’s own estimates, more practitioners of Falun Gong, 70 million, than members of the Communist Party, 61 million.[1]

The beliefs of Falun Gong have nothing to do with politics. Nonetheless, elements of the Party at the time saw an ideological threat from Falun Gong. The critique was that the movement was spiritual, contradicting Party values of atheism and materialism.

Former President Jiang Zemin wrote a letter to the standing members of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, April 25, 1999 which stated:

Can’t the Marxism our communists have, the materialism, atheism we believe in really win over that suit of stuff aired by Falun Gong? If that were the case, would it be a thumping joke? Our leading cadres at all levels especially high level officials should become sober now![2]

There were others in the Party who held the view that Falun Gong was harmless and should be left alone. However, the view of then President Jiang Zemin prevailed. Falun Gong was repressed without being officially banned. In China, law enforcement and the courts are directed by the Party. The Party used that direction to target Falun Gong without changing any laws.

Though the debate within the Party about suppression of Falun Gong proceeded on an ideological plane, the actual repression was at a different level – incitement to hatred which degenerated into incitement to genocide. The Party accused practitioners of Falun Gong of more or less every perverse activity imaginable including vampirism, cannibalism, bestiality, induced suicide, and forced prostitution. The Party labelled the movement an evil cult.

The Government of China set up a dedicated bureaucracy assigned the task of repressing the Falun Gong. Because it was established on the tenth day of the six month of 1999, it is called, in shorthand, the 610 office. The 610 office has representatives in every province, city, county, university, government department and government owned business in China.

Former president Jiang’s mandate to the 610 office was to eradicate Falun Gong. Here are quotes from a directive he issued June 7, 1999, three days before the establishment of the 610 office:

[The group] will study the steps, methods and measures for solving the problem of “FALUN GONG” in a unified way. All CCP [Chinese Communist Party] central departments, administrative organs, all ministries, commissions, all provinces, self governing districts, all cities directly under central government must cooperate with the group very closely. […] After the leading group dealing with “FALUN GONG” problems has established at CCCCP [Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party], it should immediately organize forces, find out the organization system nationwide of “FALUN GONG” ASAP, constitute the battling strategies, get fully prepared for the work of disintegrating [FALUN GONG], [we] should never launch a warfare without preparations. […] The major responsible comrades in all areas, all departments must solidly take the responsibilities, carry out the tasks [of crushing Falun Gong] according to the  CCCCP’s requirements with the area’s or department’s actual situations taken into consideration.[3]

On November 30, the 610 office called more than 3,000 officials to the Great Hall of the People in the capital to discuss the campaign against Falun Gong, which was then not going well.  Demonstrations were continuing to occur at Tiananmen Square. The head of the 610 office, Li Lanqing, announced the government’s new policy on the movement: “defame their reputations, bankrupt them financially and destroy them physically.”[4]

Labelling a group of people as evil and calling for their physical destruction in a state without the rule of law had a predictable effect, mass murder. What was unique about the mass murder of innocents in China was the form it took, killing the victims for their organs.

Organs for transplantation in China, before the repression of Falun Gong, had been sourced from prisoners, primarily prisoners sentenced to death, but also Uighur prisoners of conscience. With the repression of Falun Gong, that changed. Falun Gong practitioners, murdered by organ extraction, became the primary source of organs for transplants.

b) The evidence

Shortly after the repression of Falun Gong was imposed, transplantation volumes across China shot way up. Organ transplant sales became the primary source of funding for the health system, replacing the state funding withdrawn with the shift from socialism to capitalism. The state began massive building, hiring and training initiatives to increase transplantation capacity. Organs were marketed worldwide through brokers and the internet. Patients could book transplants months in advance on a fixed day for vital organs – heart, liver and lung – which meant that sources were being killed for their organs.

Practitioners of Falun Gong in detention were systematically blood-tested and organ examined to provide a data bank of information about who would be compatible with arriving patients and could be killed on order.  Investigator callers pretended to be relatives of patients who needed transplants and requested organs of Falun Gong on the basis that the organs would be healthy. Hospitals openly admitted to these callers that the hospitals had organs of Falun Gong for sale.

Current estimates are that China is performing around 100,000 transplants a year. The evidence indicates that the source of most of these organs is Falun Gong.[5] Some of the various touring bodies exhibits have sourced their bodies from China and have manifested the sourcing problems identified here with the sourcing of organs for transplants. Many of the recommendations made here apply equally to those bodies exhibits.

 c) The Chinese Government response

The evidence about the mass killing of Falun Gong for their organs is compelling and mostly drawn from official Chinese sources. The Government of China denies it, by insults and bafflegab, by propaganda without evidence. It engages in cover up, systematically removing or blocking access to data sources researchers cite.

The Government/Party continues to incite against Falun Gong both in China and abroad. It uses its economic and political global clout to shut off inquiries, protests, and requests for investigation. It engages in pretence of reforms in its organ transplant system both denying abuse, when it comes to prisoners of conscience, and claiming it has ceased, when it comes to criminal prisoners sentenced to death. In a world in which there are Holocaust deniers, one can expect the mass killing of prisoners of conscience in China would be denied.

In any case, this is the problem we now face. There is compelling evidence not only that there has been mass murder of practitioners of Falun Gong in China, but that this mass murder is ongoing, that it is happening today. What is one to do? I have twenty remedies to propose, directed to the Government of China, to the protection of victims abroad, to health professionals, to patients and to foreign governments and parliaments.

 The remedies

 (a) China

1) Pursuing an investigation

The Government of China should be asked to co-operate with an international, independent investigation into the sources of its organs for transplantation. The European Union Parliament,[6] the United States House of Representatives,[7] the United Nations Committee against Torture,[8] and the United Kingdom Conservative Party Human Rights Commission[9] have all already requested such an investigation.

2) Condemnation

The killing in China of prisoners of conscience, primarily Falun Gong, for their organs should be publicly condemned. The European Union Parliament, the United States House of Representatives and the United Kingdom Conservative Party Human Rights Commission have already issued such a condemnation. As well the EU Parliament has asked all its member states also to issue such a condemnation.

3) Requiring transparency

China should be asked to manifest transparency, accountability, traceability and openness to scrutiny of its sources of organs for transplantation. The World Health Organization Guiding Principles on Human Cell, Tissue and Organ Transplantation of 2008 already require, in general, such transparency.[10]

(b) Protecting victims abroad

4) Combatting incitement

Incitement to hatred and genocide against Falun Gong should be prosecuted under local incitement laws. There was such an attempt in Canada, the police recommending a prosecution against Chinese consular officials in Calgary for attempting to incite hatred against people who practice Falun Gong.[11] The Attorney General of Alberta regrettably stopped the prosecution without good reason.

5) Combatting discrimination

Discrimination against Falun Gong, including that spurred by Chinese officials abroad, should not be tolerated. Again there is a Canadian example, a Falun Gong practitioner expelled from a Chinese seniors association at the insistence of the Chinese embassy, which funded the organization. The practitioner won a judgment against the association from the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal.[12]

(c) Health professionals

6) Research

Transplant professionals abroad should not collaborate in research with transplant professionals in China unless the sourcing of organs for research is proper beyond a reasonable doubt. The Transplantation Society, a global organization of transplant professionals, already has a policy to that effect.[13]

7) Publication

No journal should publish transplant research from any researcher unless the sourcing of organs for research which is being written up is proper beyond a reasonable doubt. Liver International recently withdrew a previously published article about transplantation in China based on this standard.[14]

8) Training

No health institution should train transplant professionals unless the trainees commit to use their training consistently with international transplant ethics. Doctors Danovitch, Shapiro, and Lavee, in a 2011 article, wrote:

Training of Chinese transplant professionals by the international community must be conditioned on commitments that trainees will not engage, directly or indirectly, in the use of organs from executed prisoners.[15]

9) Presentation

No conference should allow presentation of transplantation research unless the sourcing of organs for research which is being presented up is proper beyond a reasonable doubt. For its biennial Congress in San Francisco in 2014, The Transplantation Society rejected 35 proposals from China of papers for presentation based on this standard.[16]

10) Defend against attempts to whitewash

The Chinese Government actively engages in attempts to insert itself into international transplant events in order to present its current manner of transplantation as internationally acceptable. This happened with The Transplantation Society Congress in Hong Kong in 2016 as well as the Vatican Summit in February this year. Chinese state news media reported that the holding of The Transplantation Congress in Hong Kong demonstrated that China’s transplant system “had global backing”.[17] Chinese officials used the Vatican summit as a platform to claim that they had mended their ways.[18] Hosts need to be aware of and defend themselves against these attempts.

(d) Patients


11) Patients should be counselled against transplant tourism. They should be made aware that transplant tourism into China occurs in secrecy. Documentation about treatment in China is unavailable, making aftercare more complicated. Patients should be told that sources may be killed for their organs.[19]

12) Referrals

Professionals should not refer patients abroad for transplantation unless the professional is satisfied beyond doubt that the sourcing of organs is proper.

13) Medical records

Health professionals should have the right to withhold medical records from patients who wish to travel abroad for transplant tourism.

14) Prescribing medication

Health professionals should have the right to refuse prescription of medication in preparation for transplant tourism.

15) Deferring care

Health professionals should have the right to defer care of returning to transplant tourist to another professional and should advise patients before they head off that this will happen.

(e) Foreign states

16) Criminalization

States should enact legislation making organ trafficking an extra-territorial offence. The offence should include transplant tourism. Jurisdiction should be asserted over nationals, permanent residents and visitors. The Council of Europe has opened for signature a treaty to that effect, obligating states to assert jurisdiction over nationals who engage in organ trafficking abroad.[20]

17) Advertising

Advertising of organ transplantation abroad should be prohibited. An example of such a prohibition can be found in Taiwan which penalizes media for hosting such advertising.[21]

18) Brokerage

Transplant brokerage is a form of organ trafficking and transplant tourism and should be specifically prohibited. The Israeli transplant law is an example of a law which does so.[22]

19) Insurance

Insurers should not pay for transplantation tourism abroad or for medication either at home or abroad for transplant tourism. Israel has enacted legislation prohibiting insurance payments for costs of a transplant abroad not in conformity with Israel standards.[23]

20) Compulsory Reporting

States should require health professionals to report to the Government on transplant tourism. One example of compulsory reporting is a provision in a private member’s bill proposed to the Canadian Parliament by former Minister of Justice Irwin Cotler.[24]

Basic to medical ethics is the principle of doing no harm. That principle applies not only to prevent harm to transplant patients. It also applies to prevent harm to organ donors. It is never excusable to kill a healthy innocent person so that a sick person can live.

Addressing an ongoing genocide where the perpetrator state denies and covers up and all too many are willing to turn a blind eye presents different problems from addressing a historical genocide.  Nonetheless, even with an ongoing genocide, there are remedies available. Moreover, the very fact that the genocide is ongoing makes action urgent.

Even those who doubt or deny the evidence of genocide have no reason to refuse the remedies. The doubters and deniers cannot doubt or deny the value of putting in place precautions to prevent genocide. Whatever one’s view of the evidence of the mass killing of prisoners of conscience in China for their organs, the remedies should be adopted.

[1] “4 From Chinese Spiritual Group Are Sentenced”, The  Associated Press, Nov. 13, 1999‑from‑chinese‑spiritual‑group‑are‑sentenced.html

[2] Jiang, Zemin, Comrade, to standing members of the Political Bureau of the CCCCP, 25 Apr. 1999.

[3] Chinese Central Politburo Meeting, Directive from Comrade Jiang Zemin regarding an urgent and fast way to solve the Falun Gong problem, 7 June 1999.

[4]  This information comes from an interview with Li Baigen who attended the meeting. He was then assistant director of the Beijing Municipal Planning office. He is now resident in the United States. The US Department of State Country Report for China for 1999 refers to the meeting, but not the quote.

[5] David Matas and David Kilgour, Bloody Harvest, Seraphim Editions, 2009; Ethan Gutmann, The Slaughter, Random House, 2014, Ethan Gutmann, David Kilgour and David Matas, An Update of Bloody Harvest and The Slaughter, 2016,

[6] European Parliament resolution on organ harvesting in China

(2013/2981(RSP)) December 11, 2013, paragraph 3‑//EP//NONSGML+MOTION+P7‑RC‑2013‑0562+0+DOC+PDF+V0//EN

[7] H.Res.343 – 114th Congress (2015‑2016), 06/13/2016,‑congress/house‑resolution/343/text

[8] Concluding observations of the Committee against Torture

China, CAT/C/CHN/CO/4, 12 December 2008, paragraph 25

Committee against Torture Concluding observations on the fifth periodic report of China paragraph 50(b) CAT/C/CHN/CO/5, 3 February 2016

[9] The Darkest Moment: The Crackdown on Human Rights in China, 2013‑16, June 2016, recommendation 20

[10] Guiding Principles 10 and 11, 26 May 2008,‑en.pdf

[11] “Bloody Harvest”, January 2007, Appendix 8,

[12] Huang v. 1233065 Ontario, 2011 HRTO 825 Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, April 27, 2011

The press release:‑finds‑falun‑gong‑protected‑creed‑under‑ontarios‑human‑rights‑code

The backgrounder:‑tribunal‑finds‑falun‑gong‑protected‑creed‑under‑ontarios‑human‑rights‑code

The judgment;

[13] The Transplantation Society Ethics Committee Policy Statement ‑ Chinese Transplantation Program November 2006 and Mission Statement,‑ChineseTXProg.pdf

[14] Melissa Davey, “Medical journal to retract paper after concerns organs came from executed prisoners” The Guardian, 8 February 2017,

[15]  G.M. Danovitch, M.E. Shapiro, and J. Lavee “The Use of Executed Prisoners as Sources of Organ Transplants in China Must Stop” Volume 11 pages 426 428.

[16] China Medical Tribune

See Matthew Robertson, “From Attack to Defense, China Changes Narrative on Organ Harvesting” Epoch Times, November 24, 2014,

from attack to defense china changes narrative on organ harvesting/?sidebar=hotarticle

[17] Didi Kirsten Tatlow “Chinese Claim That World Accepts Its Organ Transplant System Is Rebutted” New York Times, August 19, 2016‑hong‑kong‑organ‑transplants.html

[18] “China ‘Mending Its Ways’ on Unethical Organ Transplants, Official Says,” Reuters, February 7, 2017

[19] Policy Statement of Canadian Society of Transplantation and Canadian Society of Nephrology on Organ Trafficking and Transplant Tourism October 2010

[20] Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs‑list/‑/conventions/treaty/216

[21] Human organ transplant regulations, July 1, 2015, Article 18,

[22] Israel Transplant Law ‑ Organ Transplant Act, 2008‑israel‑transplant‑law‑organ‑transplant‑act‑2008

[23] Article 5(2)

[24] Bill C‑561 December 6, 2013,

David Matas is a lawyer in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada practising international human rights, immigration and refugee law. He has produced eleven different books including Justice Delayed: Nazi War Criminals in Canada 1987; Bloody Words: Hate and Free Speech, 2000; and Bloody Harvest: the Killing of Falun Gong for their Organs with David Kilgour in November 2009. He was part of the Canadian delegation to the United Nations Conference on an International Criminal Court in Rome in 1998.  He is a member of the Order of Canada.


For more stories, read Café Dissensus Everyday, the blog of Café Dissensus Magazine.

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