Submission to the European Parliament on Organ Procurement in China and Gross Human Rights Violations Against the Uyghur People


March 6, 2020

The Action Agenda for EU Medical, Scientific, and Technical Fields

The medical and scientific fields must recognize the high risk of complicity in horrific human rights crimes in the Uyghur Region.

Evidence of violations of medical ethics in the Uyghur Region, including in the mass-detention camps 

UHRP and other human rights organizations have published survivor and witness testimony documenting numerous violations of medical ethics in the program of mass persecution of Uyghurs in their homeland. This pattern of documented medical ethics violations provides context for the conclusion of the China Tribunal in its finding that crimes against humanity, and forced organ procurement from prisoners of conscience, are happening “beyond reasonable doubt.” This forced organ procurement violates every doctor’s Hippocratic Oath as well as the international legal standards.

  • Eyewitness testimony of unexplained “U”-shaped scars on young Uyghur men in the 1990s, consistent with kidney removal.
  • Collection of DNA without consent across 100% of the Uyghur population over the age of 12, from 2016.
  • Millions disappeared into incommunicado detention with no charge or trial. 
  • Medical neglect in the extra-judicial detention camps holding 1.8 to 3 million people.
  • Unexplained forced medication in the detention camps.
  • Evidence of forced extraction of blood products. A camp survivor told UHRP that in 2018, every two weeks, personnel wearing white lab coats would come to her cell. They would draw enough blood from her forearm to fill 5 large tubes. These tubes were much larger than normal blood-testing containers. One possible explanation is that a blood-products supply company could be regularly obtaining plasma from Uyghur detainees, without their consent, for commercial sale. UHRP is seeking further corroboration on this practice.
  • Non-consenting, unexplained medical examinations in detention, including high-tech body scans, consistent with assessment of extractable organs for transplant.

The burden of proof

The European Commission’s directives on organ transplantation set out stringent rules for transparency and detailed traceability requirements (Directive 2010/53/EU and 2012/25/EU), as does the U.S. Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, whose ethics principles require “the duty to respect decisions of those who refuse to donate organs” and “transparency of processes and allocation rules.” Unless the Chinese medical system creates a transparent and accountable system for organ procurement, meeting the same standards as all other countries, the entire transplantation field in China must be regarded as unethical.

Given widespread and well-documented violations of medical ethics in China, including the fact that the organ procurement system does not meet international standards, the global profession outside China must suspend all cooperation with Chinese medical institutions until compliance can be verified in the field or project at hand. It is not the responsibility of human-rights advocates to expose individual cases of ethics violations. The burden of proof lies with international medical researchers, publishers, and practitioners, to demonstrate that they are following ethical standards at all times.

Urgent Action Agenda for the European Parliament

The European Parliament should conduct a review of EU institutions’ and individuals’ compliance with the European Charter of Medical Ethics and European Principles of Medical Ethics, especially Articles 13, 14 and 15. 

Compliance by hospitals and medical journals. Every EU hospital and medical journal should be asked by EU and national parliamentarians and regulators: Given the fact that China’s organ sourcing system does not meet international ethics standards, how can anyone be sure that any transplant organ was not taken from one of the millions of Uyghurs who have disappeared into the incommunicado camp system and never been seen again? How can hospitals and journals ensure that their training, research, and publication of China-based research follow professional standards? UHRP calls for suspension of all exchanges and cooperation until China’s organ procurement system is brought in line with international standards.

Bans on exchanges, training, and publishing. Transplant surgeons based in Chinese hospitals must be denied positions in EU hospitals if their training was carried out on unethically sourced organs. Transplant research conducted in China should be banned from publication in international journals. Transplant surgeons who have participated in China’s unethical organ-procurement system should be banned from attending international conferences and professional exchanges.

Retractions. Research journals must retract research violating medical research ethics. A peer-reviewed study published in the BMJ, covering transplantation research in China in the period 2010-2017, found that 99 percent of 445 published papers failed to document donor consent. Published papers included 2,688 transplant operations conducted before 2010, when China had no voluntary organ donation program at all. 

Professional licensing. Professional licenses of EU-based transplant surgeons and researchers should be suspended if they cannot show that they have applied EU ethical standards to all their China-related work.

International biotechnology companies. Biotechnology companies are also at major risk of complicity if they participate in Chinese government or university programs. Two American companies have now been credibly implicated in the Chinese state’s techno-totalitarian DNA big-data program: Thermo Fisher Scientific and the biotechnology company Promega both supplied DNA-processing technology used by the authorities in East Turkistan.

Universities and research institutes must conduct a strict assessment of all projects conducted with counterparts in China. Are EU researchers working with Chinese institutions on organ transplantation research? Are EU researchers involved in China-based facial recognition, voice recognition, artificial intelligence, “safe cities,” “smart cities,” “predictive policing” and racial profiling? This research is high-risk, with the dangers ranging from violating research ethics to complicity in building government systems that violate privacy and human rights, including severe and gross human rights violations such as executing people for their organs, enforced disappearances, deaths in custody, sentence without trial, forcible separation of children from their parents, and non-consenting DNA collection. All research using human tissue samples or DNA is a serious concern.


Some EU medical professionals and companies will make the argument that their research and training partners in China are genuinely working for life-saving goals. But this noble intent is not enough to ensure ethics compliance by EU professionals. Because organ procurement in China is unethical per se – it does not meet minimal standards of transparency and ethical safeguards – no organ transplant in China can meet the minimum test for ethical regard for human life. In all cooperation with institutions in China, EU medical professionals must conduct due diligence to ensure that ethical safeguards are in place, and only enter into partnership after verifying that the project meets EU standards. UHRP calls on universities, medical companies, and global medical bodies, such as the WHO, to enforce this critical ethical standard in their China-related work, and impose penalties on those who have violated it.

Contact: Louisa Greve, Director of Global Advocacy. +1.571.882.4825