In Depth Look at the Law: China's Death Penalty - 3: Who are the Falun Gong? Why are they targeted for execution and organ harvesting?
This is third part of our new Friday Legal Memo Series - In Depth Look at the Law, where we're focusing on an international horror that is not getting enough attention. In China, people are being executed inside mobile death vans, vehicles that drive from village to village. First, the victim is killed inside the van. Thereafter, his organs are taken from him almost immediately so they can be sold for a profit. All this, while grieving loved ones may well be just outside the vehicle. This is real. Take notice. Spread the word.
Practitioners of Falen Gong have been targeted for execution and organ harvesting by China. Why?
Falun Gong was founded in 1992 by Li Honghzi in northeastern China.  Falun Gong followers practice meditative, slow-motion exercises and adhere to the movement's guiding principles of truthfulness, benevolence, and forbearance taken from Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism.
The Chinese government touts protection of certain religious activities, which include Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Protestantism, and Catholicism. However, all other religious groups, sects, and denominations are illegal and subject to suppression by the Chinese government.
In April 1999, over ten thousand Falun Gong members gathered in Tiananmen Square to peacefully protest the persecution of their practices.
On April 25, 1999, fifteen thousand members of Falun Gong gathered outside of the government's central headquarters in Beijing and demanded official recognition. Following the April 1999 protests, the Chinese government began a campaign to eradicate the Falun Gong. Leaders of the movement were detained, the organization was outlawed, and a massive media campaign was launched aimed at discrediting the organization.
On July 22, 1999, the People's Republic of China's Ministry of Civil Affairs decreed the Falun Gong an illegal organization.
Following the outlaw of Falun Gong, the international news media and academic groups began producing and disseminating documentation of the group's rapid dismantling.  In October 2000, the Chinese government increased efforts to destroy the Falun Gong by pronouncing the group as a "reactionary and hostile" organization.
As a result, detention and re-education efforts were increased.  The Chinese government undertook a three-pronged approach to quash the Falun Gong movement: 1) re-education of members; 2) violent treatment of members; and 3) distribution of anti-Falun Gong propaganda.
Eight hundred thirty thousand Falun Gong followers had been arrested by the conclusion of April 2001.  However, it was reported in April 2006 that each year, more than twice as many Chinese nationals join Falun Gong than the Communist Party, much to the Chinese government's fear and dismay.
In 2001, the Chinese president, Jiang Zemin, stated, "Religion must never be allowed when it opposes the direction of the Party of the socialist system, or destroys national reunification or ethnic identity." 
In late 2001, China declared the use of the Internet to organize or coordinate the activities of "evil cults" a criminal offense.  In the years following, thousands of Falun Gong followers were detained and charged with violating the anti-cult laws.
President Jiang Zemin actually created the 6-10 office, a special branch of the Chinese government designed specifically to eliminate the Falun Gong movement.  The 6-10 office sent thousands of Falun Gong practitioners to prisons and labor camps.
Falun Gong practitioners have been subjected to torture, capricious detention, and re-education to include confinement, forced labor, and psychological treatments.  One research group identified over three thousand Falun Gong practitioners who have lost their lives as a result of persecution by the Chinese government.
Organ harvesting of Falun Gong prisoners may have begun a decade ago
Researchers linked the large surge in organ transplants performed in China to the persecution and imprisonment of Falun Gong members in 1999.  In many prisons and labor camps, Falun Gong practitioners have been singled out from non-practitioners for blood tests and organ examinations.
Although those practitioners were given medical screenings, presumably to determine compatibility for organ transplants, many diagnosed with illnesses were not provided with any medical treatments.
One study found that Falun Gong practitioners who die in captivity would officially be categorized as suicide by the Chinese government, and their bodies would be immediately cremated.  Furthermore, it has been reported that a large number of these deaths were carried out specifically to gather organs for transplants.
Many family members of executed Falun Gong practitioners have reported seeing corpses with surgical incisions and missing body parts.  Moreover, the government gave no explanation as to why the corpses were mutilated.
Many Falun Gong practitioners whose organs were harvested following their execution were never identified by their families because these practitioners refused to identify themselves to the authorities when they were captured. Therefore, it is easy to conclude that these unidentified practitioners were the easiest and safest targets for clandestine organ harvesting.
These findings parallel international human rights groups that have widely reported that executions in China are often performed in conjunction with specific transplant requirements, i.e., shooting a prisoner in the head when kidneys are needed or shooting a prisoner in the chest when corneas are needed.
Christopher Chaney, The Despotic State Department in Refugee Law: Creating Legal Fictions to Support Falun Gong Asylum Claims, 6 (No. 1) Asian-Pac. L. & Pol'y J. 130, 142 (Winter 2005).
Leavy, supra note 50, at 756-57.
 48Id. at 757-59.
Chaney, supra note 51, at 142.
Id. at 131.
 Leavy, supra note 50, at 761.
Matas & Kilgour, supra note 46, at 9.
Id. at 10.
Joseph Watson & Alex Jones, Falun Gong Demonstrator Speaks Out on Chinese Government's Ghoulish Organ Harvesting, Prison Planet.com, Apr. 25, 2006, ¶¶ 13-14, http://www.prisonplanet.com/articles/april2006/250406speaksout.htm (last visited July 29, 2008).
 Edelman & Richardson, supra note 48, at 254.
Matas & Kilgour, supra note 46, at 10.
Id. at 11.
Leavy, supra note 50, at 756.
David Matas & David Kilgour, Bloody Harvest Revised Report into Allegations of Organ Harvesting of Falun Gong Practitioners in China, OrganHarvestInvestigation.Net, Jan. 31, 2007, at 34 [hereinafter Bloody], available at http://organharvestinvestigation.net/report0701/report20070131-eng.pdf (last visited July 29, 2008). Matas and Kilgour continued their research after publishing their first report and published this updated report with additional findings.
 Kirk C. Allison, Ph.D., M.S., Assoc. Dir., Univ. of Minn., Program in Human Rights and Health, Address at the University of Hawaii at Manoa: Transplantation and Human Rights in China, slide 89 (Oct. 29, 2007), available at http://organharvestinvestigation.net/events/Kirk_Allison_102907.pdf (last visited July 29, 2008).
Bloody, supra note 67, at 38.
Allison, supra note 68, slide 70.
 Matas & Kilgour, supra note 46, at 9.
Fear of Torture or Ill-Treatment/Prisoner of Conscience, Amnesty Int'l (ASA 17/049/2006), Aug. 29, 2006, at 1, available at http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA17/049/2006/en/dom-ASA170492006en.pdf (last visited July 29, 2008).
Bloody, supra note 67, at 45.
Id. at 35.
Hemphill, supra note 29, at 439-40.
Next Friday: Prisoners as another source for China's organ harvesting business