A Chinese Organ Recital

Western moral sensibilities don't apply everywhere.

Asian traditions do not place nearly as high a value on individual lives as Judaeo-Christian cultures claim to.  This was a surprise to British observers of China before the last dynasty collapsed in 1912:

"We often wonder why the killing of Chinese soldiers was so quickly forgotten - it made no impression.  A million Chinese could be killed and the loss would not be felt in that sodden, gelatinous, inelastic mass - indeed the Empire would be benefitted.  Safety for foreigners can only be obtained by ever-present force.  Chinamen are cheaper than beasts of burden and cost less to feed, and are even far cheaper than engines."  - Woodruff, Charles, Expansion of races, (Rebman Company, 1909) p 46

The Emperor Shih Huang-ti, who unified China around 220 BC, built the Great Wall of China by connecting many short segments which had been built earlier.  Instead of killing his enemies outright, he exiled them to construction sites and worked them to death.  Nobody was surprised - that was the usual penalty for supporting the wrong side in a power struggle.

We at Scragged tend to believe that part of the reason human life isn't valued as highly in Asia as in Europe derives from the laws of supply and demand: when the population is high enough to crowd a country, individual lives aren't particularly valuable.  A muscle-powered farming society is always close to famine.  The more people there are, the less food is available for anyone else.

Tens of millions starved when Mao Tse-Tung promoted collective farming under communism.  In spite of that population reduction, the Chinese government was so concerned about over-population that they instituted the "one-child policy" which included forcing abortions on pregnant women who already had the permitted single child.

In classical China, the only old-age pension system available was to have enough sons.  Sons carried on the family name and supported the parents when they became old.  A girl joined her husband's family and helped take care of her in-laws; raising a girl and providing her dowry brought no long-term benefit to her parents.

Lacking effective contraception, parents put female infants to death to save food or to stop the woman from nursing so that she could have a son.  - Mjngello, David E., Drowning Girls in Ancient China: female infanticide since 1650 (Rowman & Littlefield, 2008) p 21

Infanticide was an acceptable, if inconvenient, method of birth control - you had to wait through the entire pregnancy to see if the baby was worth saving.

Abortion, Human Rights, and Efficient Recycling

Although abortion has been contentious in the United States since long before Roe v Wade, there was general agreement that, regardless of what abortionists were permitted to do before birth, once a baby was out of the womb, it was unquestionably a human being and entitled to the full protection of the law and to the best efforts of the health care system.  That was the justification for "partial birth" abotion - the baby's head was still inside the mother, so it was OK to snip the spine and kill it.

Society is changing, however.  Recent laws proposed in many states and passed in New York suggest that it is now OK to let inconvenient babies die after they've been born alive, just as in ancient China.  Tolerance of infanticide is bringing American thought into line with longstanding international standards.

This clear manifestation of our societal drift toward denying human rights to unfavored groups such as babies whose birth mothers don't want them makes it somewhat surprising that Westerners claim to be so upset about Chinese hospitals transplanting organs harvested from condemned prisoners.  The Guardian reports:

An official in charge of overhauling China's organ transplant programme has said the country may still be using organs from executed prisoners in some cases, even though there is technically zero tolerance for the practice.

The admission by Huang Jiefu, a former Chinese deputy health minister, came as human rights activists and medical ethics experts voiced strong objections to his inclusion at a Vatican summit designed to tackle illicit organ trafficking.

The activists said that by giving Huang a platform, the Vatican risked giving China's practices an air of legitimacy. Huang told reporters on Tuesday that the controversy was "ridiculous" and repeated assertions that the use of organs from prisoners is now "not allowed".

"There is zero tolerance. However, China is a big country with a 1.3 billion population so I am sure, definitely, there is some violation of the law," he told reporters at a conference in Rome.

Zero tolerance for what?  Can anyone imagine a high-up Chinese government official or a powerful tycoon being denied or having to wait for a life-saving organ transplant?

"The timing of the execution is - we think - sometimes dependent on the need of a particular transplant surgery. You will execute this person at this time on this day, because that is when the patient has to be ready," Bequelin [East Asia director for Amnesty International] said. "It is very secret and there is not a lot of reliable information."

Forbes provided detail about how "donors" are chosen:

One of the issues on the agenda was the claim that the Chinese government is killing prisoners of conscience (particularly, religious minorities, including Falun Gong, Tibetan Buddhists, Uighur Muslims and unregistered House Church Christians) to supply the organ harvesting industry.

As one would expect, Forbes reported the money angle:

Hardened criminals were harvested for organs; transplant centers stood to make $60,000, $100,000 or more but the rise of the Chinese transplant industry was built on the foundation of Falun Gong incarceration.

If you think about it dispassionately, this makes perfect sense.  Once a criminal has been sentenced to death anyway, why shouldn't you harvest useful parts as Planned Parenthood does?  After all, we don't generally have a moral problem with taking organ transplants from an innocent person who gets hit by a bus and is beyond the ability of modern medical science to repair; why this queasiness about recycling a convicted felon, who presumably has done something worthy of death?

True, the Chinese judicial system is hardly the freest or most fair.  But once they've decided to off somebody, they're going to get offed one way or another.  What is it about reluctant organ-harvesting that seems especially stomach-turning?

None of us are at all likely to ever get anywhere near this practice from either direction, at least not anytime soon, but that's not necessarily true of the international rich and famous.  When one has all the money in the world but only a short time left to live, one starts to seriously consider things one might not ordinarily do.  The threat of being hanged in the morning concentrates the mind wonderfully.

Which raises a question about extraterritorial law: could a wealthy American engage in "medical tourism" to gain a new lease on life?  Consider the case of the much-lamented tech titan Steve Jobs who died of pancreatic cancer.

Suppose instead that he'd visited China to "promote the iPhone," disappeared for a few weeks, and returned home to celebrate a modern medical miracle of mysterious healing.  Assuming anybody back home managed to lay their hands on proof of just how that miracle took place and could prove the provenance of his shiny new liver, pancreas, or whatever replacement parts the doctors had installed, would Mr. Jobs have committed a crime?

The Transplanted Arm of the Law

Before answering, consider the case of Marjorie Merriweather Post.  She inherited a vast fortune from the entrepreneur who founded the Post cereal company that became General Foods.

During the 1930s, the Soviet government under Joseph Stalin, desperate for hard currency to industrialize and rearm, began selling art treasures and other valuables seized from the murdered Romanov family and other Russian aristocrats.  Ms. Post was at the time the wealthiest woman in America and just happened to also be the wife of the United States Ambassador to the Soviet Union.

It was a marriage made in the bank.  Ms. Post, a keen art collector, bought vast quantities of plundered masterpieces from an eager-to-sell Stalin and brought them back to the US - you can see them today in the museum created from her D.C. estate.

The surviving heirs of the late lamented deplorables from whom the objects d'art had been seized brought suit in American courts asking for the return of their property.  Alas, they were sent away empty-handed: the courts ruled that Ms. Post's purchases had been made from a sovereign government which the United States government had recognized as being the government.

Her receipts, export licenses, and so forth had all been properly signed, stamped, and sealed by duly authorized representatives of the duly-recognized Soviet government who attested that all applicable Soviet laws had been followed.  This may even have been true, considering that, as in most dictatorships, "Soviet law" was whatever Josef Stalin said it was, justice be damned.  She kept the swag.

By that precedent, so long as our alternate-world Mr. Jobs got a duly signed receipt for full payment for the liver from the Chinese government that attested to its legitimate provenance according to Chinese law, all would be well.

Isn't there something better you could be protesting right now?

Always Look On the Bright Side of Life

We've reported that the Chinese take a pretty brisk attitude toward dissent by Uighur Muslims.  In a perverse way, Chinese demand for organs is good news for "prisoners of conscience" who're for the chop as soon as their teeth are no longer strong enough to crimp Christmas tree lights.  Traditional methods of execution such as the "Chinese water torture", the "lingering death," or being flogged to death through loss of blood can be pretty unpleasant.

It's a medical fact that pre-donation trauma to an organ donor compromises the quality of the organ.  If you want to give your favored big-shot the best chance of a successful transplant, you're careful to keep the designated donor "cool and calm and collected" - not to mention well-fed, well-rested, uninfected by prison diseases such as typhus, and certainly not tortured.

There's a plentiful supply of political prisoners - some estimate that the Chinese have locked up more than a million Uighur - and Chinese genetic matching technology is quite good.  Given their ample supply, they can get a very close genetic match, ship the donor to the hospital to "check out his case of the sniffles," anesthetize him to prevent trauma, prep the recipient, carve away, and collect any leftover blood for the blood bank - so yes, even the ordinary Chinaman-in-the-street can get some good out of the whole affair.

If you knew you were likely to be killed sooner or later because your government had decided that the world would be a better place without you consuming resources and generating CO2, which would you prefer: being tortured to death, or an anesthetic to take you gently into that good Chinese night?

Read other Scragged.com articles by Hobbes or other articles on Foreign Affairs.
Reader Comments

This entire essay has left me feeling squeamish. I have a weak stomach for certain things my gut instinctively opposes, for example I have never wanted to watch an episode of "The Sopranos". Maybe the two are connected.

March 20, 2019 11:02 PM

Would a Uighur provide a good genetic match for a Han Chinese?
Or would this "easy way out" be available only to those of the dominant ethnic group?

March 20, 2019 11:04 PM

Medical tourism is already common in many parts of the world. This is just another, inevitable aspect of it. Thanks for an interesting article.

March 20, 2019 11:34 PM

Sounds like an Up Coming Democrat/Socialist program, like the New Green Deal

Maybe the thousands of indebted students could pay off their debts.


Your answer is NOT correct

March 20, 2019 11:46 PM

Christian teaching and the US constitution have traditionally been our defense against the “ might makes right” snuffer mentalityy. Both teach that the individual has worth and can’t be exterminated because who ever is in charge can. Now non voting fetuses and even non voting new borns are fair game in many states. And in the states where Democrat’s rule, the Dependecy class forces out those who actually pay taxes. While not killed , they are exiled. Yes politics is tough, but the hope of our founders was that factions wouldn’t destroy each other. Things change.

March 22, 2019 9:49 PM

Regarding organ harvesting: In this country, I can see this tying in nicely to the assisted suicide movement and the organ donation movement. Granny, and even neurotic Little Sister who feels depressed because her boyfriend left her, will be encouraged, not discouraged, to take their own lives. And yeah, I'm also sure that there will be people who will find a way to make a lot of money off it. And yet we will compliment ourselves by ending capital punishment.

It seems to me that every society seems to feel a compulsion to kill people, and if it can't kill a few guilty by capital punishment, it will kill millions of innocents through assisted suicide and abortion --- and rejoice in it! This will overturn a 2,000+-year-+ tradition started by Hippocrates who specifically forbade abortion and any intentional killing in his famous oath. One of the consequences will be that society will come to fear doctors, just as people in primitive societies fear the Medicine-Man.

March 23, 2019 9:17 AM

Christian teaching and the US constitution have traditionally been our defense against the “ might makes right” snuffer mentalityy. Both teach that the individual has worth and can’t be exterminated because who ever is in charge can. Now non voting fetuses and even non voting new borns are fair game in many states. And in the states where Democrat’s rule, the Dependecy class forces out those who actually pay taxes. While not killed , they are exiled. Yes politics is tough, but the hope of our founders was that factions wouldn’t destroy each other. Things change.

March 25, 2019 5:58 PM

It's rather obvious that control of the individual by the State leads to use of the lumpen masses for the benefit of the elites on top.

Whatever the mob has of any value from labor to lamp shade material is simply the wholly owned value of the chattel controlled by the ubergrubers.

America is supposed to be about opportunity for the individual, but we alm know those with the money and power do all they can to keep the club exclusive. The almost magical rise of the tech giants has created a mogul empire of invisible power - information.

It is information that China is attempting to dominate as a product, and they have instituted the Skynet monitiring system to be sure they know where you are, what you are saying, doing and even thinking and who you associate with. Your 'social score' depends on this information, and the individual depends on that to work, but and use public transportation. At some lowly point in the scoring scheme, does anyone doubt there is a niche for 'ship to transplant harvesting unit 101'?

You can imagine villagers spotting some malcontent Christian who read Scragged articke once too often. "Look, Wi Sho No Zi, there goes Yu So Gwan Di! I heard she was just scored ad 'one foot in the organ chopper' !

"No, Mi Rat Won Yu! As of 5 minutes ago, she's a 'ship to Harvesting now'! Ohhh, let's cross the street so we're not seen near that Unperson!"

But it will never happen here. Right?

Import 40 million breeding peasants.

Check.

Force them onto welfare (as if) and then lower ebery8ne else's quality of healthcare, education, infrastructure, etc.

Check.

Claim universal healthcare, taking all the guns and central control of everything in the Internet or other platforms must be
Done for your safety and well being.

Check.

Make buying and selling contingent on a mark on the forehead or right hand, ah, social score.

Hold one . . .

March 26, 2019 6:10 AM
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