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China’s presence at Vatican summit comes under fire

VATICAN (UCAN): A medical ethics expert from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, Wendy Rogers, reacted with disappointment at the invitation extended to Huang Jiefu, who is in charge of overhauling the system of harvesting organs for transplant in China, to speak at a summit on the topic at the Vatican on February 6.

Rogers, who is the chairperson of an advisory committee on tackling organ theft in China, described Huang’s presence at the summit as shocking.

Other ethicists and human rights lawyers were also critical of the move, saying that there are still grave concerns about China taking tissue from the bodies of prisoners as the country struggles to get supply to meet demand for spare human parts.

Rogers and a group of experts wrote to Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, the chancellor of the Pontifical Academy for Sciences, warning him that the Church risks appearing to be sanctioning the practice.

The Vatican “should be aware of how the endorsements—even indirect—of prestigious foreign bodies are used by China’s propaganda apparatus,” the letter says.

The bishop shot back a curt reply, saying that the summit was aiming only to be an academic exercise and not a reprise of contentious political assertions.

For his part, Huang told journalists that using organs from prisoners in China is not allowed under any circumstances and that he found the whole controversy to be ridiculous.

However, he did admit that organ transplants may still be taking place, despite being absolutely banned in 2015 and a 2007 regulation against trade in human body parts.

But the black market in China is alive and well, despite the legislation on the matter. It is widely reported that victims include not only prisoners, but also religious and ethnic minorities such as Uyghurs, Tibetans, Falun Gong and Christians from unregistered Churches.

Although the practice is banned, it is widely believed that prisoners are being reclassified as volunteers, which neatly gets around the regulation.

The results of a study released on June 22 last year suggest that the number of organ transplants performed in China is estimated to be up to 100,000 per year and the main source of supply are prisoners of conscience.

“The (Communist Party) says the total number of legal transplants is about 10,000 per year. But we can easily surpass the official Chinese figure just by looking at the two or three biggest hospitals,” Canadian human rights lawyer, David Matas, said in a statement reported on CNN.

Matas coauthored a report with the former Canadian secretary of state for Asia-Pacific, David Kilgour, and investigative journalist, Ethan Gutmann. It deals specifically with the use of prisoners of conscience as an organ source in China.

Their report follows the unanimous passing of a United States of America House Resolution on June 13 last year that expressed congressional concern regarding persistent and credible reports of systematic, state-sanctioned organ harvesting from non-consenting prisoners of conscience.

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