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UK House of Lords Backs Bill Amendment to Combat Forced Organ Harvesting in China

Lord Hunt slates the US Surgeon General's report, House of Lords, 20 December 2016. (Screenshot/YouTube)

On 12 January 2021, the House of Lords backed an amendment to the Medicines and Medical Devices Bill, aimed at helping to combat China’s forced organ harvesting, that passed through the Upper House.

In 2013 the European Parliament passed a resolution on forced organ harvesting (2013/2981(RSP)) that put China’s transplant figures under the spotlight as originating from prisoners of conscience. The UK Bill was initiated in the House of Commons in 2015 by concerned MP’s in preparation for the inevitable changes that the UK would experience following a Brexit vote.

The Chinese regime has utterly refused to honour, adhere to or comply with the European parliament’s requirements. Other ways must be sought to counteract and address the severity of this issue. The timing of The Lord’s amendment to the Bill is seen as significant because the UK has now left the EU and is enacting its own legislation.

The amendment was tabled on 2 September 2020 by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath. Lord Hunt stated, “In a letter to me last night, the Minister referred to the World Health Organisation’s view that China is implementing an ethical voluntary organ transplant system”. He continued, “That is simply not credible, and in fact is based on a self-assessment by China itself. A much more objective assessment comes from the China Tribunal, which in March 2020 concluded, ‘Forced organ harvesting has been committed for years throughout China on a significant scale.'”

Lord Hunt’s amendment, supported by Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, Baroness Northover, Lord Ribeiro and Health Minister Lord Bethell, seeks to give ministers the power to introduce regulations prohibiting the UK healthcare system, including British companies involved in healthcare as well as healthcare practitioners, from being unwittingly complicit in China’s state sanctioned forced organ harvesting.

The amendment aims to rectify gaps in the current UK Human Tissue legislation, which currently does not require appropriate consent for imported human tissues and cells used in medicines. Human tissue and cells refer to all human material that could be used for medicines, including organs.

The report Guide to the quality and safety of Tissues and Cells for human application authored by the Council of Europe in 2013 states that, “Human tissues and cells are being used in an increasing variety of new ways…However, using human tissues and cells in different ways also raises questions of safety, quality and efficacy, and presents new ethical dilemmas.”

Lord Hunt said “Domestically, the Bill provides an opportunity to prevent British complicity in such crimes and to send an important message to other countries. My amendment is designed to deal with gaps in current UK human tissue legislation.” This Medicines and Medical Devices Bill amendment marks the first UK legislative response following the China Tribunal judgment.

Baroness Northover, the Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and one of the co-signatories to the amendment said, “This is the first time the United Kingdom Government will enact legislation in this area, and we must hope that it sends a strong and clear message internationally. Thus far, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt said, it is enabling, but the Government will know that many will be monitoring this area, we need to see those regulations in place.”

During the Bill stages in the House of Lords, many peers voiced their heartfelt concerns about the forced organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners and Uyghurs in China. Lord Alton of Liverpool and Lord Collins of Highbury made powerful speeches throughout the debates.

The Lords raised concerns surrounding the export of medical devices to China outlined in a report by the Institute to Research Crimes of Communism (IRCC) titled ‘The Economics of Organ Harvesting in China’. The report claims that numerous Western medical and pharmaceutical companies are profiting from supplying China with devices that could assist in forced organ harvesting of prisoners of conscience.

A similar bill amendment was started by Marie Rimmer MP in the House of Commons where it lost the vote. It was then tabled again in the House of Lords where it received overwhelming support.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath who introduced the amendment said, “Today we welcome wholeheartedly what the Government have done and the very important signals that are now being sent to the rest of the world”.

The Bill will now go back through the House of Commons and is expected to become law this year.

Once the Bill becomes law, it is anticipated that human body tissue and organs that have been forcibly harvested cannot enter the UK for medicines or medical testing.

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