Organ Harvesting In China And The Many Questions To Be Answered
Swiss City bans exhibition
Skinless Cadavers Exhibited in Birmingham Pose Questions about Ethics, Human Rights and Human Dignity
Article 16-1-1, alinéa 2, of the French Civil code asks for the remains of deceased persons to be treated with respect, dignity and decency: an exhibition of cadavers aiming at making money doesn’t respect this requirement. French Appeal Judges noted that using these dead bodies to make money was one of the objectives.
So why is Britain not taking the same action?
Why is Britain allowing the bodies of unknown Chinese citizens – who may have been victims of torure, human rights violations, persecution or organ theft – to be tunred into a travelling circus?
August 2nd 2018 – Letter to The Times
Speech by Lord Alton of Liverpool for Organ Harvesting meeting Tuesday October 16th, 2018: House of Commons, Room 14, 2.00pm
“Why is Britain allowing the bodies of unknown Chinese citizens – who may have been victims of torture, human rights violations, persecution or organ theft – to be turned into a travelling circus? “
On August 2nd, The Times newspaper published a letter from me and Professor Jo Martin, President of the Royal College of Pathologists, along with 53 other signatories, in which we said that the Real Bodies exhibition “denigrates both science and society.” We pointed out that in other jurisdictions such as France and Israel the commercial exploitation of human remain would be prohibited by law.
I was appalled by the complacency of parliamentary replies when I raised this issue in the House.
The Foreign Office Minister and new envoy for religious minorities,Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, said that no other Government Department had asked the Foreign office“to make formal representations to the Chinese authorities” – and they had “no evidence”that the exhibition “contained the cadavers of Chinese political or religious prisoners.”
Why were the FCO waiting for other Departments? Meanwhile, the Government Law Officer, Lord Keen, complacently told me it wasn’t his concern and that it was a matter for the Coroner.
The Exhibition’s organisers say they do not know who these poor people are – whose platinated remains are now part of a grotesque carnival of horrors. Simply saying you have “no evidence” is hardly worthy of Ministers of the Crown.
I will come back to the question of evidence and identity in a moment.
As a former Liverpool Member of the House of Commons, in our letter to The Times, I also drew attention to the Alder Hey scandal in which organs of children had been retained without the consent of their families and said that the bodies being used in this exhibition provide the potential for an even bigger scandal.
I was involved in the debates which led to the Human Tissue Act of 2004 – and which came out of the Alder Hey scandal – and I am currently working with Marie Rimmer MP, Member of Parliament for St. Helens, to develop an amendment to that Act prohibiting such commercial exploitation of human cadavers to happen again.
But I have other reasons for raising this issue – and they concern questions involving, human dignity, and human rights. They take us into the territory of abductions, disappearances, torture, ethnic cleansing, genocide and executions.
These bodies have their origins in China where we are well aware of the plight of dissenters and believers. Read the most recent edition of The Sunday Times if you doubt me.
Last week I tabled a Question in the House about the plight of the 1 million Uighurs that the BBC say have been taken to re-education camps. I have previously tabled questions about Protestant churches that have been bulldozed and Catholic bishops who have been imprisoned and about the arrest and disappearance of lawyers who have challenged everything from the one child policy to abuse of power. Think about Falun Gong or about the treatment of Tibetan Buddhists.
So, when considering the concerns that surround the Real Bodies exhibition, we need to address many disturbing and unanswered questions.
Real Bodies the exhibition, which was recently on display at the NEC, is run by American company Imagine Exhibitions.
However, all the corpses which have been on display are owned by Chinese company the Dalian Hoffen Biotechnology Co (DHB for short), which is located in Dalian, China. And it is the connection with Dalian Hoffen Biotechnology Co which has led to growing concern about sourcing of the corpses which are trafficked around the world for a commercial exhibition.
The connection with Dalian is particularly troubling because the Dalian district of North West China, and specially Dalian’s PSB (Public Security Bureau – which is the local police and prison system), known for human rights violations; organ transplant activity; and the persecution of Falun Gong.
During the Real Bodies exhibition, the NEC stated that all bodies on display were ‘unclaimed bodies’ which had been donated legally. The connection with the PSB and unclaimed bodies used in the exhibitions had long been suspected, and in 2012, the Chairman of the Dalian Hoffen Biotechnology Co,Sui Hongjin, admitted that “Dozens of corpses came from Public Security. They were procured by the Public Security Bureau.”This statement caused alarm, and calls for the circumstances surrounding the sourcing of the bodies to be further investigated.
When researching the Dalian Hoffen Biotechnology Co, you see very quickly that they have connections with multiple organisations and companies around the world. One such company is Premier Exhibitions, another American exhibition company who, based on their connection with the Dalian Hoffen Biotechnology Co, was investigated by US Congress in 2008. The investigation concluded that Premier Exhibitions were unable to provide evidence of where the bodies had come from. And forced an international disclaimer on all current and future Premier Exhibitions stating,“Premier relies solely on the representations of its Chinese partners and cannot independently verify that they do not belong to persons executed while incarcerated in Chinese prisons”
During the investigation, Premier admitted “that it could not prove that the bodies were not those of prisoners who might have been tortured or executed”.The ruling also stated that“the exhibit cannot obtain new bodies without documentation proving the individual’s identity, cause of death and consent for the body to be displayed”
Shortly after the conclusion of this investigation in 2008, in 2009, Imagine Exhibitions was formed by Tom Zeller, CEO of Imagine Exhibitions. Tom Zellar’s involvement and connection with the Dalian Hoffen Biotechnology Co, also poses unanswered questions – after all, he worked for Premier Exhibitions between 1999 – 2009. The most significant issue for me is that that Imagine Exhibitions, as a newly formed company, was exempt from the 2008 ruling that a public disclaimer must be displayed raising the question on the sourcing of the corpses on display.
Right up until the 2008 hearing, Premier Exhibitions had always maintained, as Imagine Exhibitions does now, that all bodies had been sourced legally. However, as recently as April 2018, Tom Zellar went on the record to state that “the bodies were “absolutely from China”but added that there was “no documentation” “to prove their identities or to show they had agreed in life to donate their corpses in death.”
It is the lack of consent and documentation, which is deeply troubling – and should have troubled the UK Government, who, in answer to parliamentary questions from me, said that they would not intervene.
The 2004 Human Tissue Act governs licences connected to the display and use of human corpses and remains. Prior consent for bodies to be used for research, display or education is one of the founding principles of the 2004 Human Tissue Act. However, current regulations mean there is a huge disparity between regulations for bodies coming from with the UK and outside the UK. This makes absolutely no sense and it is dilatory, on the part of Government, to decline to rectify this.
Current legislation means the HTA currently have no means to ensure prior consent is a condition for bodies brought in from countries. It is this lack of a condition of consent which has allowed for unclaimed bodies to be trafficked into and out of the UK for a commercial exhibition. That brings shame on our country and action must be taken to remedy this.
In China, the term “unclaimed bodies” can be interpreted in multiple ways.
Firstly, this can be a term for people who have died in hospitals with no known next of kin – but equally it can be a term for prisoners of conscience who have, while suffering detention and imprisonment, refused to provide their real identities through fear of repercussions for their family and friends.
The climate in China and the well documented cases of human rights violations is why we are here today: once again discussing organ harvesting and transplant practices in China. Multiple investigations, from different sources, have concluded that large scale unexplained organ transplant activity has taken place and continues to do so. In these investigations the PSB, has been documented as being a key element between the prison and labour camps and hospitals performing organ transplants.
The fact the PSB has been directly linked to the Dalian Hoffen Biotechnology Co and the ongoing persecution of House Christians, Uighurs Muslims, Tibetans and Falun Gong practitioners leads to some of the unanswered questions – with potentially grave implications – that I have laid before you today.
Let me conclude and summarise.
The exhibition presenters, Imagine Exhibitions, have confirmed that the display, consisting of 20 whole human cadavers and over 200 human organs, human foetuses and body parts, are sourced from China and are presented without any consent documents and identification papers to confirm the origins of the deceased. Such exhibitions should be banned from being brought into this country without written proof of consent from the deceased.
Using human organs and tissues without consent for financial profit is the antithesis of ethical and legal practice as set out in the Declaration of Istanbul on Organ Trafficking and Transplantation and the Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs.
And the public display of the deceased, including unborn babies of varying gestation times, without confirmed consent is a gross violation of human rights, dignity and ethics, which should not be permitted on the grounds of ‘art’ or ‘education.’
This trade in human bodies is not only facilitated by the Chinese Communist regime’s extensive use of the death penalty but also by the incarceration of other ‘unwanted’ prisoners in Chinese detention facilities.
The French Civil Code asks for the remains of deceased persons to be treated with respect, dignity and decency: an exhibition of cadavers aiming at making money doesn’t respect this requirement. French Appeal Judges noted that using these dead bodies to make money was one of the objectives. Why does the United Kingdom have a lower test?
And why is Britain allowing the bodies of unknown Chinese citizens – who may have been victims of torture, human rights violations, persecution or organ theft – to be turned into a travelling circus? This has echoes of necromancy and body snatching. Our bodies are sacred vessels and even in death should be treated with respect and human dignity. Not to speak out and turn the spotlight on this issue would be a further betrayal of those whose bodies were so badly served in life and are now being denigrated in death.
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER, OPPOSITION LEADER, THE FOREIGN SECRETARY AND THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR HEALTH
20 JULY 2018
Dear Prime Minister, Mr Corbyn, Foreign Secretary Hunt and Secretary of State Hancock,
We, the undersigned believe the Real Bodies: The Exhibition showing at Birmingham’s NEC should be shut down immediately and thoroughly investigated for the following reasons: 1. The exhibition presenters, Imagine Exhibitions have confirmed that the display, consisting of 20 whole human cadavers and over 200 human organs, human foetuses and body parts, are sourced from China and are presented without any consent documents and identification papers to confirm the origins of the deceased. The CEO of Imagine admitted there is ‘no documentation’ to prove their identities or that they agreed to donate their bodies after death1.
- The non-consensual display of human remains is in violation of the Human Tissue Act (2004), as well as the spirit in which it was created. The Human Tissue Authority’s Guidance for Professionals states that ‘Removing, storing or using human tissue for Scheduled Purposes without appropriate consent’ is an offence under the Human Tissue Act (2004)2. Schedule 1 of the Act also clearly states that the ‘Purposes Requiring Consent‘ includes both ‘displays‘ (Sch. 1 para. 5), and ‘Education or training relating to human health‘ (Sch. 1 para. 9)3
Commercial operations that Import human remains should also be required to abide by these standards to ensure that trafficked human bodies are not permitted to enter, and be displayed, in the UK.
- Using human organs and tissues without consent for financial profit is the antithesis of ethical and legal practice as set out in the Declaration of Istanbul on Organ Trafficking and Transplantation and the Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs.
- The public display of the deceased, including foetuses of varying gestation times, without confirmed consent is a gross violation of human rights, dignity and ethics, which should not be permitted on the grounds of ‘art’ or ‘education.’
- The bodies and organs reportedly come from Dalian, China and were sourced from the Dalian Public Security Bureau/Police, according to the CEO of Imagine Exhibitions4.
- This trade in human bodies is not only facilitated by the Chinese Communist regime’s extensive use of the death penalty but also by the incarceration of other ‘unwanted’ prisoners in Chinese detention facilities.
- Investigative reports5 have concluded that bodies sourced from Dalian and used in plastination exhibits include prisoners of conscience detained in the vast prison/ labour camp compounds within close proximity to the Dalian plastination facility. The prisoners of conscience are primarily, but not only, practitioners of the spiritually based set of exercises Falun Gong. Dalian is an epicentre of organ transplant activity, plastination and repression of Falun Gong6. Page 2 of 3
- Plastinated body exhibitions from China have been banned in a growing number of places around the world, including in Israel7, France8, Hawaii9and various cities in the US. The Czech Republic10 changed its laws on 7th July 2017, meaning such an exhibition would no longer be allowed to enter its country without written proof consent from the deceased.
- 9. Commercial profit should not outweigh the gross violation of basic human dignity present in this exhibition.
We believe that this exhibition encroaches on our UK values and law and should be stopped. DNA tests should also be carried out so the family identifications can be made in the future.11 We also urge the Government to ensure that appropriate legislations are in place so that such exhibits cannot be freely imported into the UK.
4 Premier Exhibitions – Disclaimer
5 Bodies at an Exhibition by Ethan Gutmann, An Investigative Report on the Source of Human Cadavers Used
in the Plastination Industry in China by WOIPFG, and Der Spiegel: “Händler des Todes”
A Prague Leader Tries to Bury a Bodies Exhibition, Once and for All
Written Questions: July 24th 2018
Lord Alton of Liverpool asked:
whether they have caused inquiries to be made about the origins of the 20 unidentified skinless human bodies in an exhibition at the National Exhibition Centre and the circumstances in which these people died; what assurance they have that they are not cadavers of disappeared Chinese political and religious prisoners; and whether they are arranging for the bodies to be examined to see whether there is any remaining evidence of the removal of organs.
Monday 23 July 2018
Date due for answer
Monday 6 August 2018
what contact they have had, if any, with the Birmingham Coroner to establish what is known about the origins of the 20 skinless human bodies being exhibited at the National Exhibition Centre; and whether inquests will be opened to establish the facts involved in their deaths.
Monday 23 July 2018
Date due for answer
Monday 6 August 2018
This exhibition raises some very serious ethical questions, particularly given the persistent reports of forced organ harvesting and other unethical treatment of prisoners of conscience in China today. It would be macabre in the extreme if it was found that the bodies displayed in an exhibition in Birmingham were in fact those of Chinese prisoners. I hope this will be fully investigated and that the very highest ethical standards are applied.
Our bodies are sacred vessels and even in death should be treated with respect and human dignity.
I think back to the outrage rightly caused by the Alder Hey body parts scandal and by the use of aborted human remains being used to promote fashion and jewellery and the backlash this created.
We are made Imago Dei – in God’s image – and at the lowest level human remains should be treated with decency and respect and never used for the purposes of entertainment.
But this goes even further than previous unacceptable practices and historic necromancy and body snatching.
I recently attended a hearing in Parliament where we heard accounts of forced and fatal removal of organs of Chinese political and religious dissidents.
The doctors who have called for the Coroner to investigate the origins and cause of death of these twenty skinless bodies are right to do so.
In their open letter to Birmingham’s coroner, Dr. Louise Hunt asks the Coroner to investigate the bodies placed on show at the NEC and I too have today tabled Questions to the Government asking what they are doing to establish how these poor people died.
In this article, Dr David Nicholl, Consultant Neurologist & Honorary Senior Lecturer
City Hospital, Birmingham, poses the central argument that “The basis of consent is fundamental as to whether these exhibitions are ethical or not”. Undoubtedly, that remains the central question:
The Body Exhibition NEC says that the bodies are of Chinese origin.
And a further article in the Daily Mail reports the chief executive of Imagine Exhibitions admitting that there is no documentation to verify identities or consent to donate their bodies after death.
Due to the unethical nature of this type of exhibition, both France and Israel have banned these exhibitions;
Many believe that
1) No direct consent, either by themselves nor their immediate families, has ever been given;
2) The bodies being used may well be from people of conscience in China who have been persecuted for their beliefs – including House Christians, Tibetans, Falun Gong practitioners, and the Uyghur Muslim group in Xinjiang; and
3) The use of these bodies in such a manner is wholly unethical, immoral and frankly disturbing.
Lord Keen of Elie, the Ministry of Justice, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL9758):
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what contact they have had, if any, with the Birmingham Coroner to establish what is known about the origins of the 20 skinless human bodies being exhibited at the National Exhibition Centre; and whether inquests will be opened to establish the facts involved in their deaths. (HL9758)
Tabled on: 23 July 2018
Lord Keen of Elie:
Coroners are independent judicial office holders and as such it would be inappropriate for Ministers to intervene in or comment upon the decisions of the Birmingham and Solihull Senior Coroner.
The exhibition at the National Exhibition Centre has been licenced by the Human Tissue Authority in line with the provisions of the Human Tissue Act 2004. Responsibility for hosting the exhibition and maintaining ethical standards lies with the National Exhibition Centre.
Date and time of answer: 03 Aug 2018 at 13:07.
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL9756):
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have caused inquiries to be made about the origins of the 20 unidentified skinless human bodies in an exhibition at the National Exhibition Centre and the circumstances in which these people died; what assurance they have that they are not cadavers of disappeared Chinese political and religious prisoners; and whether they are arranging for the bodies to be examined to see whether there is any remaining evidence of the removal of organs. (HL9756)
Tabled on: 23 July 2018
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:
We have no evidence to suggest that the ‘Real Bodies’ exhibition at the National Exhibition Centre contains cadavers of Chinese political or religious prisoners. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has not been approached by any UK government department to make formal representations to the Chinese authorities.
Date and time of answer: 03 Aug 2018 at 13:01.
Letter To the Coroner: August 4th 2018
Dear Louise Hunt,
Dr.David Nicholl has kindly drawn your email to him to my attention.
I would be grateful if you would clarify whether it is your intention to seek to establish the identity of these anonymous people and how you have been able to establish that they were not dissidents, political prisoners, Tibetans, unregistered Christians, Uighhurs, Falun Gong, disappeared lawyers etc ? and whether you have made any formal request for DNA so that their identification might one day be established by relatives; and whether you looked for any evidence of the cause of death?
Could you also confirm whether you have been in touch with your French counterparts to establish on what grounds the French Courts refused to allow this exhibition of cadavers to be staged there?
I am copying this to the two Government Ministers who answered parliamentary questions about this earlier this week.
——– Original Message ——–
From: Lynne Boyle
Date: Mon, 23 Jul 2018, 09:50
To: “NICHOLL, David
Subject: Your email of 15 July 2018
The Senior Coroner has responded to your email as follows:
Further to your request for me to open inquests into the deaths of the bodies currently exhibited at the NEC, I confirm I have carried preliminary enquiries pursuant to S1(7) of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 to enable me to determine if there is any need for me to carry out an investigation under S1. I can confirm that following my preliminary investigation, which included an external examination of each body at the NEC by a forensic pathologist, I am satisfied that my duty to investigate does not arise and accordingly I will be taking no further action in respect of this matter.
HM Senior Coroner
Birmingham & Solihull Districts
The Coroner’s Court
50 Newton Street
Interview with the the anatomist Roy Glover (behind Bodies Revealed) the audio file is here
ABCs 20/20 did this very good piece
See the BMJ
And the Mail on Sunday
The UK clearly need legislative change to prohibit exhibitions that dont have consent for bodies who have died less than 100 years.
France and Czech republic have managed to block these exhibitions. Why is the UK so disgracefully indifferent?