UN urged to investigate organ harvesting in China

Falun Gong practitioners hold lit candles during a protest against what they say is the Chinese government's policy of harassment and torture of its members in China, in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, July 20, 2011. (AP)
Updated 25 September 2019

UN urged to investigate organ harvesting in China

  • Transplant recipients in China include Chinese nationals as well as overseas patients who travel to China in order to receive an organ at a substantial cost, but with a greatly reduced waiting time

LONDON: A senior lawyer called on Tuesday for the top United Nations human rights body to investigate evidence that China is murdering members of the Falun Gong spiritual group and harvesting their organs for transplant.
Hamid Sabi called for urgent action as he presented the findings of the China Tribunal, an independent panel set up to examine the issue, which concluded in June that China’s organ harvesting amounted to crimes against humanity.
Beijing has repeatedly denied accusations by human rights researchers and scholars that it forcibly takes organs from prisoners of conscience and said it stopped using organs from executed prisoners in 2015.
But Sabi, Counsel to the China Tribunal, told the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that forced organ harvesting had been committed “for years throughout China on a significant scale ... and continues today.”
The harvesting has involved “hundreds of thousands of victims,” mainly practitioners of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, he said, adding that detainees from China’s ethnic Uighur minority were also targeted.
“Victim for victim and death for death, cutting out the hearts and other organs from living, blameless, harmless, peaceable people constitutes one of the worst mass atrocities of this century,” Sabi said.
“Organ transplantation to save life is a scientific and social triumph. But killing the donor is criminal.”
Falun Gong is a spiritual group based around meditation that China banned 20 years ago after 10,000 members appeared at the central leadership compound in Beijing in silent protest. Thousands of members have since been jailed.
Geoffrey Nice, the tribunal’s chairman, told a separate UN event on the issue that governments, UN bodies and those involved with transplant surgery, could no longer turn a blind eye to the “inconvenient” evidence.
Nice, who was lead prosecutor in the trial of former Yugoslavian president Slobodan Milosevic, said the tribunal’s findings required immediate action.
“The time of convenient ‘uncertainty’, when all these entities could say the case against (China) was not proved, is past.”
Transplant recipients in China include Chinese nationals as well as overseas patients who travel to China in order to receive an organ at a substantial cost, but with a greatly reduced waiting time.
The tribunal said in June its findings were “indicative” of genocide, but it had not been clear enough to make a positive ruling.
A spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in London told the Thomson Reuters Foundation at the time that government regulations stipulated that human organ donation must be voluntary and without payment. 


Afghan refugee helping war widows escape poverty cycle

Updated 26 min 35 sec ago

Afghan refugee helping war widows escape poverty cycle

KABUL: When Hanan Habibzai became a refugee in 2008, he left Afghanistan with a sense of responsibility toward all those left behind, especially widows and orphaned children.
As he made the UK his new home and managed to establish himself, Habibzai founded Helping Orphans in 2016, a charity that gives vocational training and literacy courses to women and children.
Helping Orphans estimates that there are as many as 3.5 million widows and 2.6 million orphans in Afghanistan today. Often uneducated, the women face few options if their husbands die, while children end up working out of necessity and never receive an education.
“What will happen to these children when they grow up? Their parents are taken away and they are left alone in poverty and hardship, and they have never been in school,” Habibzai told Arab News.
“What can we expect from these children when they grow and take control of their communities except problems? So, I established this charity to help vulnerable children and orphans join school. These are the exact reasons as to why I established Helping Orphans.”
As his family was displaced by the Afghan-Soviet war of the 1980s, Habibzai knows from his own experience what hunger and poverty mean. The situation in the country has become even worse now, he said, after the US-led invasion to oust the Taliban in 2001.
Before he left Afghanistan, Habibzai worked as a journalist, traveling across the country’s provinces, witnessing hopelessness and despair.
“Within the Afghan poverty-stricken and war-torn nation, I see displaced families, a refugee going through many difficulties, a 10-year-old orphan becoming responsible for feeding his family, or a woman who has lost her husband and now has to look after her children while she has nothing,” he said.

FASTFACT

Helping Orphans estimates that there are as many as 3.5 million widows and 2.6 million orphans in Afghanistan today. Often uneducated, the women face few options if their husbands die, while children end up working out of necessity and never receive an education.

“Today I live in the UK. I have everything here. My family and I have three full meals a day. But back in Afghanistan, there are many people who do not even have a single meal a day and are facing severe poverty and hardship.”
The latest survey by the UN indicates that 18 million people in Afghanistan — half of the country’s population — are in need of emergency aid.
In the beginning, through donations from individuals, Helping Orphans provided direct relief in the form of food and cash, but in June last year Habibzai realized that more sustainable efforts were needed.
In Kabul, the charity now enrolls children in school while their mothers take part in three-month courses to become tailors, allowing them to be self-reliant. About 20 women have completed the first training courses. One of them is Shamila, who lost her husband, a commando soldier, and was left alone with a young son about two years ago.
“The world had come to an end for me with the death of his father when my child wept,” she told Arab News.
“I joined the workshop of the charity, learned tailoring and it has been a big change both mentally and financially,” she added. “I am a tailor at home now. I earn money this way and have been able to stand on my feet.”
The charity is now planning to open more courses and teach other professions, like hairdressing, to help women provide for themselves.
“We want the aid to have a long-term impact on the lives of people, so beneficiaries can learn a profession,” said Helping Orphans Director Abdul Fatah Tayeb.
“We want them to learn how to fish rather than giving them a fish. The fundamental goal is to make people self-sufficient.”