Utah doctor working to stop forced organ harvesting in China
(KUTV) Winston Liu and Roy Manning feel lucky.
The two men are able to practice their beliefs –- freely –- in a place that won’t jail them for doing so.
It’s a far cry from the life they knew in their homeland of China.
Jailed for practicing Falun Gong
Liu and Manning were jailed – multiple times each –- for participating in a Chinese ritual called Falun Gong. It’s a form of spiritual exercise or meditation. Many swear by it.
“I haven't ever been ill,” said Manning. “I did not even catch a cold.”
The Chinese government banned Falun Gong in 1999 over fears that those who practiced it were becoming a cult. Liu was a Ph.D. student when he was arrested.
“I still have a nightmare sometimes about the life I spend in the jail,” he said.
That's because being behind bars was just the beginning of Liu’s problems. He said he was subjected to forced medical testing. That’s something he said never happened to regular prisoners -- only to those who practiced Falun Gong.
Manning –- who has changed his name from the Chinese version -- went through the same thing.
“They tortured me both mentally and physically,” he said.
Both Liu and Manning said they were never told why they were being tested.
“My suspicion is they were looking for the blood type that they really wanted,” Manning said.
Why would the Chinese government need that? Multiple reports from investigators, journalists, and others point to a chilling likely reason: practitioners of Falun Gong are killed by the government for their organs.
China has a low organ donation rate, but it reportedly performs a high number of transplants. The gap, some investigators say, is made up by the government killing prisoners of conscience and taking out their organs. The Chinese government has repeatedly denied that.
“They’re selling them,” said Dr. Weldon Gilcrease, an oncologist at the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City. “This is for profit.”
Gilcrease, who is also deputy director of Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting, has followed this issue for years.
“When you hear about the atrocities that can be happening at the hands of the medical community, I felt compelled to do it,” he said.
Responding to the problem
His organization works to spread awareness and take action. The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a resolution that, among other things, condemns forced organ harvesting and calls for it to end.
For Gilcrease, who also practices Falun Gong, it's personal.
“For me, this isn't a nightmare that's happening in some far-off land,” he said. “These are people that I know, people that I've met along the way.”
Liu and Manning never did meet the fate they feared. But they watched as others like them disappeared from jail -- never to be seen again.
Whatever the reason, they're grateful they were spared. Now, living in Utah, the two can practice the very thing that once sent them to jail. But they haven't forgotten what they went through, and they don't want others to, either.
“I appeal to the free world,” said Manning, “to know about the truth and stand up against the persecution and the killing so that we can put an end to this unprecedented evil in China as soon as possible.”