Dateline: Downtown

Dateline: Downtown

Dateline: Downtown

Dan Roche

It’s one of those stories that you don’t believe when you hear it, though a terrible twinge in you says it’s true.

Now, I’ll give any crazy idea or assertion a hearing. I’m democratic with ideas, even bad ones. I’ll sit for an hour and listen intently to someone ranting in front of the library, carefully dissecting their assertions. The Art Bell show is an old favorite. I am looking as I write at a stack of books from the outer-space New Age cult Unarius.

I also like the tamer fringe-dwellers, the quiet sects that don’t show up on the front page. So in the late ’90s, when Falun Gong became known in Boston, I wanted to know about them. Their religion is syncretist, drawing off elements of Buddhism and qigong. They have a charismatic leader, Li Hongzhi, but membership is loose and no money is asked for. The Chinese government despises them and claims that they are an end-times cult. They accuse Falun Gong of “Hierarchical Structure, Mind Control, and Secret Association”, which, coming from them, is rich. Taken in itself, it would just seem to be another case of a repressive government infringing on people’s right to freely profess their credos.

What makes this story different is that China, specifically the Chinese government and medical establishment, is harvesting Falun Gong organs- livers, kidneys, you name it- and keeping them for transplants. The sources of over 40,000 organ transplants in China over the last few years are undocumented. A former member of Canadian Parliament, David Kilgour, said in a report co-written with David Matas, a human-rights attorney: “This is a terrible outrage, a new crime against humanity, and it has to stop”. China is rounding up political and religious dissidents, imprisoning them, killing them, and farming their organs out to hospitals for transplants. The going rate for a liver transplant in China is far cheaper and the waiting list much shorter than in the average American hospital.

This is not Falun Gong freaking out and making wild claims, this is an established matter of public record. It has been brought up by the Americans to Chinese emissaries, who responded coldly when inquired. They can no longer deny that China has not only harvested organs from live Falun Gong members but from all manner of prisoners, particularly prisoners of conscience. China has by far the highest capital punishment rate in the world- industralized capital punishment, in a sense, with thousands killed by the State every year- and international courts have been finding that Chinese prisoners have indeed been accused of and put to death for comparatively harmless (or false!) charges so that their vital organs can be extracted. China, a quarter of a century ago, scrapped Communism and adopted the free market. This left workers with nothing, while the handful of industrialists and previous government figures who made the switch had everything. Thus, Chinese labor conditions are as bad or worse than in America before the reform era. One thinks “sweatshop” one thinks “China”, and that’s no accident. The government has retained a few characteristics from the CCP days, as they still crack down mercilessly on dissident groups, and this is where many of the prisoners for these organ mills come from. As far as the workers are concerned they’ve gone from being worked to death as the vanguard of the Revolution one generation to being worked to death in industrial mayhem the next. They’ve gone from a controlled economy to one where all are left to fend for themselves, often against the government.

For political and religious dissenters, it is the same old story. They were rounded up, tortured, and killed under Mao’s regime just like they are under the Hu Xintao regime. A few Falun Gong have escaped and are telling people about the atrocities in China. A few I’ve spoken to tell me about operatives of the Chinese Government, truly nasty pieces of work, who follow them to America to kill them. It’s easy sometimes to hear a wild claim and immediately disregard it. The problem is though, sometimes those wild claims are right. Sometimes there really is wicked evil in the world.

ENDNOTES: One of my writers, Jason Pramas, has a request: “I’d love to hear some feedback regarding what people think about the parking situation at UMass Boston. Anything people would like to send in about getting to and from school, and how it’s working out for them, would be great.” Jason can be reached at [email protected]. I’m sure there’s no dearth of opinion concerning the on-campus parking issue, so fire away!