08/09/2006, 00.00
CHINA
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Harry Wu questions Falun Gong's claims about organ transplants

Well-known human rights activist Harry Wu confirms organs taken from prisoners are sold, but questions the spiritual movement's figures.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – There is no evidence that Falun Gong members are executed en masse to harvest their organs, this according to Harry Wu, a prominent US-based campaigner for human rights in China and an expert on Laogai (Re-education through Labour) camps.

Mr Wu, who spent 19 years in Laogai camps, has uncovered evidence that establishes that for quite some time Chinese prisoners have been used to supply organ banks and executed on demand for needy transplant patients.

His doubts are not over the practice but over the alleged spike in transplants and organs sale purportedly carried out at the expense of the Falun Gong.

Back in March the Falun Gong claimed that 6,000 of its practitioners had been sent to a secret concentration camp in Sujiatun district (Shenyang, Liaoning), and that at least 4,500 were killed to harvest their hearts, kidneys, corneas and skin (see Epoch Times, March and April 2006).

For Mr Wu, the Falun Gong's claims are not corroborate by photos, documents or detailed information but are based on the testimony of few witnesses, neither of whom had first-hand information.

"I tried several times to see the witnesses, but they said no," he explained. "Even today, I don't know their names."

The two witnesses, who are now in the West, have refused to meet international agencies to provide more detailed information. Since they claim to have knowledge about thousands of people whose lives may be in danger it would be essential they be more open.

Mr Wu said he sent his own investigators but they failed to find the concentration camp or corroborate the claims of forced organ removals.

US State Department said its officials visited the area several times in April and found no evidence to support allegations that a site in northeast China was used as a concentration camp to jail Falun Gong practitioners or as a facility to harvest thousands of organs.

Claims appear even shakier when considering where the organs allegedly sold, which, according to the witnesses, is mainly Thailand but also in other regions of the world. But there is no evidence of this trade in thousands of organs, according to Mr. Wu, who noted that in Thailand the law does not even permit organ donations, unless they are between immediate family members. And if the claims were correct, this "would mean 1,500 persons per year or at least 120 persons per month whose organs were removed".

"This would be impossible to accomplish in an environment such as Sujiatun," for it lacks the necessary medical facilities and where 2,000 corneas could not be removed in less than two years.

David Matas, an international human rights lawyer who co-authored an independent report which supports the Falun Gong claims, countered Mr Wu's argument that it would be impossible to remove the corneas from 2,000 people in such a short time span.

"The process of removing the eyes takes only 20 minutes," he said, adding that one surgeon could remove corneas from 2,000 bodies in just 83 days.

According to Mr Wu, whose statement appears online at www.cicus.org, Falun Gong's claim that they are victims of an Auschwitz-like camp runs the risk of being treated as "political propaganda." Still, in his opinion, the "Chinese Communist government is an evil regime that commits many atrocities, including the persecution of the Falun Gong." (PB)

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