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China: Organ Harvesting

Volume 799: debated on Thursday 25 July 2019


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the Final Judgment and Summary of the Independent Tribunal into Forced Organ Harvesting from Prisoners of Conscience in China, published on 17 June.

My Lords, I note the time and energy that the International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China has dedicated to this issue. Officials have reviewed the evidence thoroughly. While the evidence is not incomprehensible—

It is what I am saying that is incomprehensible. I meant to say that the evidence is not incontrovertible. I apologise; it is a hot day. I was just listening to all the stuff about Muslim student loans. I am sure it is not lost on anyone that we now have a Muslim Chancellor. But back to the Question: we have consulted the World Health Organization and international partners. The evidence provided disturbing details about the mistreatment of Falun Gong practitioners, and raised worrying questions about China’s transplant system. We continue to monitor all available evidence in this regard.

I thank the Minister for his response and welcome him back to the Dispatch Box. I am glad to see that he is still here; we hope he will still be here in September. The fact is that the tribunal’s evidence was pretty strong but the WHO is saying that the Chinese transplant system is ethical. Will the Minister take this up and say that the Government should ask the WHO to examine the tribunal’s evidence and explain why it does not think it sustains the argument that harvesting for transplants is going on?

I know the noble Lord has raised this question before, as have others from the opposition Benches and the government Benches, including the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Collins; the ambassador and I have pressed the WHO on this very issue. The evidence that it uses is based on the self-assessment made by the country that is a signatory, and in this case that is China. The question is whether the country meets the threshold that it has signed up to; a few countries would perhaps admit that they did not. The noble Lord makes a very valid point and I assure him that I continue to press this issue directly with the WHO. We continue to press on this issue directly and bilaterally with the Chinese authorities as well.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that government departments often make use of in-country reports, particularly on matters relating to immigration and asylum? Now that the tribunal’s report is available, will the Minister ensure that it is put on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website so that people travelling to China for medical tourism are aware of how such organs are secured? There seems to be no transparency on this matter. We have a proud tradition of respecting the human rights of individuals wherever they may be. Surely our bilateral trade arrangements should not impede that exercise.

I will certainly take the noble Lord’s first suggestion back to the FCO. The issue of people travelling to China has been taken up before. Both I and the Minister in the other place have taken it up directly with the Home Office. We as Foreign Office Ministers have written to the Home Office to explore this issue, and my understanding is—[Interruption.] Maybe that is the Home Office calling the noble Lord, Lord Desai. My understanding is that Canada, Spain, Israel, Italy and Taiwan have now implemented schemes on the very issue of monitoring people travelling to China for transplants. That is something I wish to explore further with Home Office colleagues.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that witnesses at last night’s inaugural meeting of the all-party parliamentary group on Uighurs expressed great concern that many of the Uighurs in detention centres—there may be as many as 1 million—along with Falun Gong practitioners and people from other minorities are being targeted through DNA tests, which they fear may then be used for the harvesting of organs?

Will the Minister respond to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Collins, about the World Health Organization, given that 34 parliamentarians wrote in April asking for a response from the WHO? As one has not been forthcoming, will he press the WHO to give that response? Will he also undertake to meet Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, who chaired the independent tribunal?

I will, of course, be pleased to meet Sir Geoffrey Nice. The other issue, as I told the noble Lord, Lord Collins, is something that I am pressing for directly. We will follow up with the World Health Organization on this matter.

My Lords, it seems from this inquiry that the time you have to wait for an organ transplant in China is a matter of weeks, as opposed to every other country in the world, including similarly populous countries such as India, where you wait months, if not years. Could my noble friend meet his counterpart in the Department of Health and Social Care to discuss this? Maybe the Chinese have discovered some miracle option in transplant matching that the rest of the world, including the NHS, needs to know about.

I thank my noble friend for that useful suggestion. I am sitting next to my noble friend the Health Minister and I am sure she has made a note of this. We can probably arrange that meeting pretty quickly.