Exclusive Interview with Ethan Gutmann on China’s Forced Organ Harvesting

Exclusive Interview with Ethan Gutmann on China’s Forced Organ Harvesting

On June 17th, the China Tribunal announced its Final Judgement: that China has been — and still is — killing prisoners of conscience for their organs. It found that Falun Gong practitioners have been one — and probably the main — source of the organ supply.

Today we hear from an investigative journalist who was on the forefront of reporting on China’s forced organ harvesting. He explains how he got involved, how today’s situation in Xinjiang could have been avoided, and how regular people can help put pressure on China to stop forced organ harvesting.

Today’s Guest:


Ethan Gutmann is the author of “The Slaughter” and a co-founder of the International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China (ETAC). ETAC initiated the China Tribunal.



Forced Organ Harvesting in China

The China Tribunal concluded that: “forced organ harvesting has been committed for years throughout China on a significant scale and that Falun Gong practitioners have been one – and probably the main – source of organ supply.” You have researched this for many years, and you came to the same conclusion. What evidence convinced you this was really taking place?

Ethan Gutmann: The evidence that convinced me personally was the evidence I could see and feel and touch and smell, which was these witnesses that I was going off and interviewing all over the world. It was the interaction with them that really persuaded me … but it was also the fact that I talked to a man who’d actually done this harvesting. We don’t know if it was on a political prisoner or not, that was in 1995. And that was Enver Tohti. And he first revealed himself to me in parliament.

This man stands up and said, “I don’t have a question; I have a story. I did this with my own hands.” And you know, for me, time stopped when he said that. It was really remarkable. – Ethan Gutmann

Ethan Gutmann: I’d heard about this man, but what I had not heard was that the person was alive when he had harvested him. But I think that it really is a big significance in one way: It shows that even a man like Enver, who I’m very close friends with now–I mean, we’ve driven to Hungary together in a car and driven back to London. We’re really quite close. Even a guy like that is capable of almost anything in these situations. I think that’s very important. It adds a lot to the credibility of the story.

Ramifications of the World’s Late Response

It’s been over a decade since allegations of forced organ harvesting in China first came to light, yet it has taken the West a long time to respond. Ethan Gutmann explains how the world’s failure to address the persecution of Falun Gong could have contributed to the Uyghur human rights crisis in Xinjiang today.

Ethan Gutmann: What’s happening with the Uyghurs right now and the reason why you have a million and a half to 2 million of them detained in concentration camps, and I believe–I disagree with the Tribunal on this point. I believe they are being harvested. I believe the evidence is quite conclusive on this. I mean, you do not blood test 15 million people as some sort of joke or to make a point. Okay.

They blood tested them in less than nine months. They didn’t do any Han Chinese, only Uyghurs. If that’s not a signal as to their intentions, I don’t know what would be. They don’t even make the case that there was some sort of infectious disease, and, even if there were, it clearly could spread to the Han Chinese population.

If the world had stopped the persecution of Falun Gong, if it had raised enough of a price to China, if it had not treated the Falun Gong issue as if it was sort of separate and somehow not something that needed to be brought up very seriously in the negotiations with China, I don’t believe we’d have the situation, the human rights catastrophe, that is taking place in Xinjiang today. – Ethan Gutmann

Ethan Gutmann: So that’s one of the reasons why I think we really, really have to examine what’s just happened here. This is the responsibility of the human species is to examine every descent into genocide and also to examine when the world allows it to happen.

What You Can Do to Help

The tribunal specifically said that if governments and international bodies don’t do their duty, regular citizens can be very powerful. My question is this: What can regular citizens do to help end forced organ harvesting in China?

Kilgour, Gutmann, and Matas
Kilgour, Matas, and Gutmann


Ethan Gutmann: I have always said, personally, the most important thing any of us can do is just talk to their doctors. The truth is, the big player in this is not actually the politicians. It’s strange to say that, but it’s really the medical community. You see, China’s very, very eager to be accepted in the Western medical community. And that’s why it was so important to them when the Transplantation Society came out and gave them a clean bill of health … This is the problem that we face. It’s the problem China faces. And if doctors, the medical community persists in sort of giving China the benefit of the doubt, giving this constantly on this, this is very dangerous for the world. This creates a false confidence in China, which absolutely shouldn’t be there when they should be punished for this.

Asking the Tough Questions

Ethan Gutmann: If you’re somebody out there and you’re involved, even just a little bit, with Amnesty International, why don’t you ask them. Why don’t you just send them an email? Why don’t you ask them, why did you ignore Falun Gong for all these years? What did you base that on? Did you think there wasn’t a human rights problem there? Did you think they somehow deserved it? What do you think about that? Ask the question. Ask Human Rights Watch why they didn’t, why they have written almost nothing about this. They’ve written a lot about the Uyghurs, and it has been very helpful information, but they never wrote about this.

All these organizations need to be held to account. Now, the time when we were building–in our community, if you like, our community of people who are fighting against this forced organ harvesting in China, the time of the big tent, that’s coming to a close now. People need to jump in the tent because it’s closing shut. – Ethan Gutmann

Ethan Gutmann: We have to ask those questions, and we have to ask political questions too, politicians who did nothing on this. Anybody, even in American politics, I think people have to be put to this test. What did you do? Now, there are people that did something. Again, everybody makes mistakes, but it’s fair to ask the questions. It’s fair to ask for accountability. In fact, it’s the only way that things are going to move here because we can’t just do this. We have to exert the pressure, which then will be felt in China. This is the only way it could possibly work.

Press play to listen to Ethan Gutmann’s in-depth interview.