UN urged to investigate organ harvesting in China

UN urged to investigate organ harvesting in China
Falun Gong practitioners hold lit candles during a protest against what they say is the Chinese government's policy of harassment and torture of its members in China, in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, July 20, 2011. (AP)
Updated 25 September 2019

UN urged to investigate organ harvesting in China

UN urged to investigate organ harvesting in China
  • Transplant recipients in China include Chinese nationals as well as overseas patients who travel to China in order to receive an organ at a substantial cost, but with a greatly reduced waiting time

LONDON: A senior lawyer called on Tuesday for the top United Nations human rights body to investigate evidence that China is murdering members of the Falun Gong spiritual group and harvesting their organs for transplant.
Hamid Sabi called for urgent action as he presented the findings of the China Tribunal, an independent panel set up to examine the issue, which concluded in June that China’s organ harvesting amounted to crimes against humanity.
Beijing has repeatedly denied accusations by human rights researchers and scholars that it forcibly takes organs from prisoners of conscience and said it stopped using organs from executed prisoners in 2015.
But Sabi, Counsel to the China Tribunal, told the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that forced organ harvesting had been committed “for years throughout China on a significant scale ... and continues today.”
The harvesting has involved “hundreds of thousands of victims,” mainly practitioners of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, he said, adding that detainees from China’s ethnic Uighur minority were also targeted.
“Victim for victim and death for death, cutting out the hearts and other organs from living, blameless, harmless, peaceable people constitutes one of the worst mass atrocities of this century,” Sabi said.
“Organ transplantation to save life is a scientific and social triumph. But killing the donor is criminal.”
Falun Gong is a spiritual group based around meditation that China banned 20 years ago after 10,000 members appeared at the central leadership compound in Beijing in silent protest. Thousands of members have since been jailed.
Geoffrey Nice, the tribunal’s chairman, told a separate UN event on the issue that governments, UN bodies and those involved with transplant surgery, could no longer turn a blind eye to the “inconvenient” evidence.
Nice, who was lead prosecutor in the trial of former Yugoslavian president Slobodan Milosevic, said the tribunal’s findings required immediate action.
“The time of convenient ‘uncertainty’, when all these entities could say the case against (China) was not proved, is past.”
Transplant recipients in China include Chinese nationals as well as overseas patients who travel to China in order to receive an organ at a substantial cost, but with a greatly reduced waiting time.
The tribunal said in June its findings were “indicative” of genocide, but it had not been clear enough to make a positive ruling.
A spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in London told the Thomson Reuters Foundation at the time that government regulations stipulated that human organ donation must be voluntary and without payment. 


Safety fears hamper India’s COVID-19 vaccination drive

Safety fears hamper India’s COVID-19 vaccination drive
A medical worker inoculates a colleague with a COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine at the north central railway hospital in Allahabad on Friday. (AFP)
Updated 23 January 2021

Safety fears hamper India’s COVID-19 vaccination drive

Safety fears hamper India’s COVID-19 vaccination drive
  • Only half of the government’s target has been inoculated

NEW DELHI: The world’s biggest vaccination drive to inoculate 1.3 billion people against the coronavirus is slowing down in India as concerns over safety fuel vaccine hesitancy, especially among health workers.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the campaign on Jan. 16, with 30 million frontline health care workers the first to get the jab. A week into the drive, however, Health Ministry data suggest that on average only 150,000 people have been inoculated a day — half of the government’s target.
“There is a general hesitancy among healthcare workers, particularly doctors, about the efficacy of the vaccines,” Adarsh Pratap Singh, president of the Resident Doctors Association of the premier Delhi-based All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), told Arab News on Friday.
Two coronavirus vaccines have been approved for emergency use in India: the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine produced domestically as Covishield by the Pune-based Serum Institute of India, and a locally developed vaccine called Covaxin, produced by Indian company Bharat Biotech, which is still in its trial stage and has no final data on its efficacy.
“Lack of transparency is at the core of vaccine hesitancy,” Dr. Nirmalya Mohapatra of Delhi-based Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, told Arab News.
“We doctors should have jointly taken up the issue and asked the government to demonstrate more transparency in introducing the vaccine,” he said.
Mohapatra was one of the doctors who on Jan. 16 refused to take a Covaxin shot at his hospital.
Progressive Medicos and Scientists Forum (PMSF) president, Dr. Harjit Singh Bhattialso, says that the absence of data is fueling “fear about the vaccination” among members of the medical community.
 Concerns also exist about the Covishield vaccine.

FASTFACT

Instead of digital campaigns, some doctors say that Indian leaders themselves should get the jabs to inspire trust in vaccination.

“Even there is hesitancy about Covishied. There is no enthusiasm for it. However, people will prefer Covishied over Covaxin,” Bhatti said.
In response to vaccine hesitancy, Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan on Thursday launched an information campaign to address what he said were “rumors and misinformation.”
“We have launched a digital media package with impactful messages from key technical experts from the country who have taken COVID-19 vaccine,” Vardhan told reporters.
The messages, he said, are that “vaccines are safe and efficacious,” and cover the “critical role of vaccines in controlling the pandemic.”
But instead of digital campaigns, some doctors say that Indian leaders themselves should get the jabs to inspire trust in vaccination.
“If the Indian PM Narendra Modi and other political high-ups take the vaccine then it will have a huge impact,” Singh said. “There is a lack of political consensus on vaccines. To inspire confidence all the state chief ministers should also take the shot.”
According to media reports, Modi may get vaccinated in the second phase of the campaign, in March or April, when 270 million people above the age of 50 will be inoculated.
Other health experts argue, however, that vaccinating leaders is not a substitute for scientific processes.
“Leadership taking the vaccine is more of a tokenism than coming out clean on the efficacy and the actual and effective profile of the vaccine,” said Amar Jesani, a Mumbai-based health expert and editor of the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics.
“What is tragic is that our PM might be ready to take the risk of vaccination (but) he is not ready to offend the companies, which are sitting on the data. Why can’t they make the data public? This is what the doctors are asking for,” he told Arab News.
In the absence of scientific data, he argued, people with underlying health problems would be hesitant to get vaccinated when the immunization campaign reaches the general public.
“When you are not transparent today, then tomorrow comorbid people will be hesitant and then the general population will be reluctant,” he said.