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Are Western Corporations Knowingly Profiting from China’s Uyghur Organ Harvesting?

CJ Werleman examines the role of western businesses in China’s persecution of its Muslim minority.

Members of the Uyghur community protest in front of Parliament House in Adelaide in 2018
Are Western Corporations Knowingly Profiting from China’s Uyghur Organ Harvesting?

CJ Werleman examines the role of western businesses in China’s persecution of its Muslim minority.

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The evidence that China is harvesting and selling forcibly removed organs from executed political prisoners to satisfy global demand for transplants is convincing.

Essentially, “Muslims are being slaughtered on demand,” says Ms. Ali, a Chinese woman who witnessed Beijing’s live organ harvesting programme at the Department of Liver Transplantation, Tianjin Taida Hospital, in 2006. Her claims have been corroborated by Enver Tohti, a former oncology surgeon in Xinjiang, who carried out the first case of live organ harvesting in 1995 when he was ordered to remove the kidneys and liver from a Uyghur Muslim prisoner who had been made unconscious from a deliberately botched execution.

Last year, a UK panel of lawyers and human rights activists published a report concluding that “China continues to kill prisoners of conscience for organ transplants”, with murdered members of the respective Uyghur Muslim and Falun Gong communities “being used as a bank of organs” and providing the bulk of the estimated 69,300 illegal organ transplants in the country per year.

“The conclusion shows that very many people have died indescribably hideous deaths for no reason,” Sir Geoffrey Nice, the tribunal’s chairman, said. Many were “cut open while still alive for their kidneys, livers, hearts, lungs, cornea and skin to be removed and turned into commodities for sale.”

Similar claims have also been documented in investigations by research organisations and human rights groups.

These crimes are made even more ghastly by the fact that more than two dozen western companies are reportedly profiting from them by supplying China with the materials, drugs, technology and technical know how to develop its organ transplantation enterprise.

Details of Western complicity are laid bare in a new report published by the Institute to Research the Crimes of Communism (IRCC).

“We have concluded that western companies sell transplant products to China, with China extremely dependent on them, especially when it comes to organ perfusion products,” Pavel Porubiak, a senior analyst at IRCC, said. “So western companies indirectly profit from organ harvesting… which also means they profit from organ harvesting of Uyghurs.”

While the report is awaiting peer review by an academic journal, it has been examined by Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting (DAFOH) – a group that was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016 for its decade-long efforts to raise awareness of the proliferation of unethical organ harvesting, with a particular focus on China.

“Illegal organ harvesting is a criminal activity, legally punishable by law, and companies from democratic countries do supply (possibly unknowingly and indirectly) the criminals with the tools they use to make money out of it,” the IRCC observes. “The organ harvesting in this case is quite similar to contract killing, except that the agreement is made with China, instead of directly with the killer, but you don’t know the name of the victim – you just know that the killer will find a ‘suitable donor’ for you.”

According to the report’s authors, more than 28 western corporations might unwittingly or knowingly be profiting from China’s illegal organ harvesting programme across all levels of the transplantation logistics and supply chain, including organ preservation, immunosuppressive drugs, transplant diagnostic, medical robotics, transplant diagnostics and other services and products.

Deploying a scoping study methodology, the IRCC used a variety of internet keyword searches to locate and identify corporations that could be operating in the organ transplant space or could be directly benefiting from it. It then researched their respective product offerings to determine whether or not they would be useful for transplantation and whether their products were being sold to China, while calculating what revenues were being derived from the sales of these products.

The methodology used for the report identified a number of companies that could be operating in this space: OrganOx (UK), Bridge to Life (UK), XVIVO Perfusion (Sweden), Lifeline Scientific (USA/China), Organ Recovery Systems (USA), Organ Assist (Netherlands), Waters Medical Systems (USA), Organ Transport Systems (USA), Astellas (Japan), Novartis (Switzerland), Pfizer (USA), Roche (Switzerland), Veloxis Pharm (Japan/Denmark), Sanofi (France), One Lambda (USA), Abott Laboratories (USA), Danaher (USA), Hologic (USA), Intuitive Surgical (USA), Cryolife (USA), Thermo Fisher Scientific (USA), Bio-Rad Laboratories, INC. (USA), Qiagen NV (Netherlands), Becton Dickinson and Company (USA), Immucor (USA), BioMerieux S.A. (France), Illumina (USA), and Affymetrix (USA).

The reports authors contacted every company listed to comment on the allegations, but only one has so far replied.

In the case of the Swiss multinational pharmaceutical company Roche Holding AG, a 2013 University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business paper, Roche’s Clinical Trials With Organs From Prisoners: Does Profit Trump Morality, detailed how the company conducted clinical trials with organs taken from executed prisoners. Franz Humer, its chief executive officer, praised China for its “openness” towards organ transplantation in comparison to other countries where such practices attract greater scrutiny or scorn.

In 2010, Roche was given two “Shame Awards” from the Swiss-based corporate responsibility watchdog Berne Declaration and Greenpeace. In 2018, it derived 7.9% of its total revenue from China, equating to more than $5 billion. 

A spokesperson for Roche told Byline Times: “Within our abilities and area of responsibility, we are taking steps to combat organ trafficking and increase the amount of voluntary and live donations. Roche has been conducting a dialogue with Chinese authorities for years and advocates an organ transplantation practice that is ethically sound and in line with international guidelines. We significantly contributed to a debate leading to changes in Chinese law that took effect in 2007 and which forbid transplant tourism. Further new legislation in 2009 introduced diagnostic criteria for establishing death and additional rules on organ donations.”

That a report published in the BMC Medical Ethics journal reveals an effort by Beijing to cover up its harvesting of body parts from Uyghur Muslims by falsifying its organ donation data suggests that the Chinese Government has something to hide. 

Western corporations who are knowingly profiting from this should be named, shamed and pressured into examining and then changing their business practices.

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