China harvested livers, kidneys, corneas and even hearts from tens of thousands religious prisoners while they were still alive and the world is paying no attention, according to a new documentary.
Rumours of the live organ trade in China first surfaced in 2006, and have been supported by human rights lawyers, witnesses and even surgeons who admit having performed the operations.
But claims that supporters of the Falun Gong faith are having their organs sold to wealthy transplant tourists from all over the world are still not taken seriously.
The documentary, Hard to Believe, offers the first sustained examination into why the world is so willing to turn a blind eye to ‘one of the most catastrophic human rights violations in our time’.
What drew me to the story was that the evidence was so strong and yet it’s hardly talked about,’ director Ken Stone said . ‘What we did was explore why the reports and documentaries have gotten so little attention.
‘A number of people have come up with such strong evidence, but they are consistently ignored.’
The spiritual Falun Gong sect began in the 1990s and within seven years an estimated 100million people had joined the practice.
But the Chinese regime launched an aggressive crackdown on the sect in 1999, fearful of such a large group of people unified in their faith.
The ban is still in practice in China today, and just last year the group was placed at the top of the regime’s list of ‘most active cults’.
The new documentary explores the research of investigative journalist and China enthusiast Ethan Gutmann, and a Canadian investigative team consisting of human rights lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize nominee David Matas and Canadian Secretary of State David Kilgour.
It includes harrowing detail offered by former Falun Gong prisoners and a surgeon who admitted that he had carved organs from living people with his own hands.
None of these credible professionals’ testimonies have been taken seriously enough to warrant an official investigation.
‘There’s a general tendency to not want to look atrocities in the face,’ Gutmann told MailOnline.
‘We acknowledge a terrible atrocity only after it’s over. Look at how long it took before the Holocaust was recognised.
For director Ken Stone, the most compelling testimony is from Dr Enver Tohti, a native Uyghur from the west China province of Xinjiang.
Dr Tohti reveals in the documentary the chilling details of his own involvement in the live-organ harvest, in a testimony that he also gave to the European Parliament.
The doctor – who now works as a taxi driver in London – was a young surgeon in Xinjiang province, when in 1994 he was taken to an execution site. There, he found a Falun Gong prisoner lying on the ground with a gun-shot wound.
Matas and Kilgour reported, in the first ever investigation into organ-harvesting in 2006, that hospitals charge $30,000 (£19,800) per cornea, $62,000 (£40,900) for a kidney and $130,000 (£86,000) for a liver or heart.
‘There was this huge population, extremely vulnerable. And they became this vast sea of expendable humanity,’ Matas tells Stone in the documentary.