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Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade
08/06/2018
Human organ trafficking and organ transplant tourism

BRIDGETT, Ms Madeleine, Member, Australian Advocacy and Initiatives Committee, International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China

BRYSKINE, Mrs Sophia, Australian Spokesperson and Policy Adviser, Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting

DELLER, Mr John, Secretary, Falun Dafa Association of Australia Inc

DOBSON, Ms Caroline, Researcher, Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting

HUGHES, Mrs Susanne Gaye, Executive Director and Acting Chair, Australian Advocacy and Initiatives Committee, International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China

LIN, Ms Anastasia, International Guest Speaker, Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting

ROGERS, Professor Wendy Anne, Chair, International Advisory Committee, and Member, Australian Advocacy and Initiatives Committee, International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China

TOKAJI, Miss Andrea, Founder and Director, Fighting for Justice Foundation

ZHAO, Dr Lucy, President, Falun Dafa Association of Australia Inc

[08:36]

CHAIR: Welcome. I ask a representative of each of the organisations present whether they'd like to make some opening comments. Perhaps, just because of the order on my running sheet, I could start with you, Dr Zhao, or Mr Deller.

Mr Deller : We'd like to thank you for the invitation to be here today and for conducting this inquiry. Our submission focuses on reports of forced organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners which were first reported in the Epoch Times newspaper in March 2006. In the same year, this association attended a briefing at the subcommittee hearing in 2006, when Senator Marise Payne was the chair. Since the 1970s organs have been taken from executed prisoners in China without permission. Then in 1984 the provisional regulation on the use of dead bodies or organs from condemned criminals officially allowed organ harvesting from executed prisoners on the condition that the body is not claimed or the prisoner volunteers or the family consents. As prescribed by these 1984 rules, 'the use of the dead bodies or organs from condemned criminals must be kept strictly confidential. After the dead bodies are used the crematorium shall assist the medical units in a timely cremation.'

So, despite China's ban on trading in human organs in 2007, their 2012 statement that they would end their reliance on donations from executed prisoners within two years and then the 2014 further statement that they would stop using organs from executed prisoners in 2015, these 1984 rules still exist and still apply. Once you understand how the Chinese communist party values human life, it is not hard to see how Falun Gong practitioners and other prisoners of conscience became fodder for the rapid expansion of the organ transplant industry in China after 1999.

We have read recent transcripts in the last year from when Jeremy Chapman, Philip O'Connell and Campbell Fraser briefed the subcommittee, and we found that they do not ever offer verifiable evidence of real change in addressing recent reports of organ harvesting, particularly the 2016 report from David Kilgour and Ethan Gutmann. Part of their evidence is that the evidence is based on Falun Gong sources—or 'concoctions', was the word used by Jeremy Chapman. They point to a drop in numbers travelling into China for transplants as proof that the abuse of taking organs from prisoners is decreasing. But there are also statements out of China that there are 300,000 Chinese patients waiting for organ transplants, and there's still a huge internal demand to drive this organ abuse.

We realise that China is not the only country with organ transplant abuse, and the demand for organs is worldwide, with desperate people willing to pay big money. But China is unique. It is not a black market operation exploiting the poor to serve the rich; it is institutionalised, state-run, party-directed abuse for profit. We also note that Dr Campbell Fraser, a senior lecturer in the Department of International Business and Asian Studies at Griffith University in Queensland, addressed the subcommittee and has seemingly become an expert on organ trafficking, attending conferences in Rome, Wuhan, Hong Kong and Kunming over the past two years. He is also unique in that he is extensively quoted in Chinese media with very pro-China organ transplant statements and anti Falun Gong statements. The Queensland branch of the Falun Dafa Association has written to Griffith University in this matter and received replies from Professor Ned Pankhurst, Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor. We would like to table these documents for review by the subcommittee, with permission.

It is our firm view that a further detailed inquiry is required to specifically investigate all aspects of allegations of organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience in China. This not only would follow similar inquiries in the US but, importantly, meets our obligations as a country that espouses and supports essential human rights freedoms and is currently on the UN Human Rights Council. We support that the offence of organ trafficking should have extra territorial application and that Australia should accede to the 2014 Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs. It is not just an issue that only a few Australians go to China so we don't need to do much. It is at the core of our understanding of our humanity and how we continue to develop as a people and a nation. Thank you.

Mrs Bryskine : Thank you for the opportunity to present today and engage in an open discussion on one of the gravest crimes and issues we face in the 21st century that deserves urgent attention by both the Australian government and the international community. Organ trafficking and transplant tourism is a double-edged sword. On one hand there is the patient, perhaps an Australian citizen, in need of a lifesaving operation, but on the other hand there is the victim, who in many parts of the world risks becoming an unwilling donor, exploited for their body parts. The focus of DAFOH's submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade is transplant abuse in China, the place that today remains the source of the most organised, state-sanctioned, unethical organ procurement in the world. It is therefore the largest potential market for Australian transplant tourists.

As a healthcare professional, I ensure every day that my patients receive the best care I can offer. Together, we have an obligation to do everything in our power to protect Australian citizens from becoming unknowing participants in the grossly abusive organ harvesting practices. We commend the committee for conducting this inquiry and seeking evidence to address the issues.

I would like to draw your attention to a recent Korean documentary, released in 2017. It examines in detail, with undercover footage, the process that a transplant tourist undergoes at a major transplant centre in China, the Tianjin First Central Hospital. Thousands of Koreans are said to travel to China annually. The hidden camera footage shows the hospital doctor and nurse explaining the speed at which the organs will be made available—two weeks, or a few days if the patient donates an extra US$15,000. A kidney costs US$130,000 to a Korean patient. All organs are guaranteed to come from young, healthy individuals. Accommodation for the families to be provided: one family will stay with the patient, while others have access to a nearby hotel. An entire floor at a nearby high-rise building is in fact reserved for the hospital's needs. It is a well-established process. No questions are asked. Even more chilling is the statement from the nurse, who claims that the government closes its eyes on the operations.

Transplant tourism needs to be urgently addressed, as it is an achievable avenue for governments around the world to send a strong message to their citizens. As for the terms of reference of this inquiry, we suggest that engagement in unethical organ procurement should be as much a crime within Australia as it is outside Australia. The need for extraterritorial application is great. The legislation can entail compulsory medical and hospital reporting of all out-of-country transplantation.

I will now ask Anastasia Lin, who accompanied us today, to make a brief statement.

Ms Lin : Thank you to the committee for inviting me to speak here today. I am a Canadian actress and international human rights activist. I was invited to speak at the US Congress, the European Union, the UK parliament and the Taiwanese Legislative Yuan, so it is my absolute honour to be here today to contribute my experience.

I work as an actress and I have worked in a lot of human rights films. One of them is called The Bleeding Edge. In this film I acted as a victim of transplant abuse. Because I had to research the physicality of the victims when they go through torture, such as electronic baton shocking and bamboo stick punctures under the fingernails, I spent a lot of time talking to the victims, the labour camp survivors. Perhaps the most overwhelming feeling I had was one of extreme vulnerability. I felt a complete sense of hopelessness, exposed and at the mercy of a cold-blooded murderer, who would show me none. I could have a glimpse into the victims who have undergone this kind of abuse in China in order to convey the physicality of someone going through such horrible situations, which I had to portray on-screen. However, sadly, these stories are based on true accounts from survivors and other witnesses. Transplant abuse in China is a deeply ingrained, systematic, state sanctioned crime. Unlike anywhere else in the world, the abuse occurs within the very institutions that are meant to instil confidence and trust—the hospitals.

What about Australian transplant tourists? Yes, they do exist and they do travel, just like Canadian transplant tourists, Korean transplant tourists and US transplant tourists. However, I would like to encourage you to look beyond the numbers and, rather, examine the crime based on the serious nature of the abuse at hand. Western democratic nations have the ability and the duty to intervene. Legislation can be used to protect local citizens and, no doubt, be a deterrent to discourage a country's citizens from being a part of this abuse. There are legislative precedents which have successfully been passed in Israel and Taiwan. In 2014 the Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs also sent a very strong message.

Finally, I would like to touch very briefly upon a related issue. Closely connected to the crime of organ harvesting is that of overseas plastination exhibitions of bodies and organs. While it may be outside the scope of this inquiry, it would be remiss of us not to mention it. Yes, there is limited visual, firsthand evidence of organ harvesting taking place, simply for the reason that the victims are killed in the process, yet large numbers have seen the plastinated bodies from China on display in Australia right now. These are human bodies and they were human beings who once lived and breathed. Furthermore, plastinated body parts from China have been sold to medical schools and universities throughout the Western world. Plastination gives immediate, widespread and publically visible reality to the abuse that is perhaps tens of thousands of times bigger.

To conclude, let me present a historical analogy which was eloquently explained by one of my colleagues, my friend David Matas at the US congressional hearing. Of course, this example is about a different place and time in history—in this instance, documented discovery of slavery in the Congo. During the early 20th century, a Edmund Morel, a shipping line clerk, came to the conclusion that King Leopold was engaging in slavery in the Congo by examining shipments of goods between the Congo and Belgium. The Congo, on the one hand, imported guns, ammunition and explosives, which were then distributed to the States and its agents. On the other hand, the Congo exported ivory and rubber, which were of much higher value than the goods sent. Meanwhile, the locals were not allowed to use any form of currency. Morel questioned how the ivory and rubber imported into Belgium was even purchased in the first place in Congo. The answer he concluded in research, published first in 1901, was that they were not purchased at all. The people who physically produced the ivory and rubber were simply not being paid. The products were in fact made by slaves. This evidence of slavery was established without any eyewitness evidence. The ship with the shipping record documented enough information to form a sound conclusion. Morel's work was initially met with official denial, yet it was sadly factual and true. Many people at the time were worried about offending Belgium by pressing the issue. The British government nevertheless commissioned their council in the Congo, Roger Casement, to conduct an independent investigation and write a report, which he did in 1904. Casement travelled throughout the Congo for three months and came back with a report which established the existence of slavery in the Congo beyond a shadow of a doubt, despite, it could be said, the continuing denial of King Leopold of Belgium.

I am often requested to prove or to testify personally that I have witnessed organ harvesting. Today, there is irrefutable evidence about the discrepancy between the volume of transplants in China and the source of organs that the government of China is prepared to admit. The China discrepancy today points as much to a human rights violation as the Belgian discrepancy did 100 years ago. Rather than focusing on specific numbers and proof, it is time to take positive action. I look forward to an engaging discussion today. Thank you very much.

CHAIR: Thank you, Ms Lin.

Prof. Rogers : Thank you for the opportunity of appearing here today. We'd like to draw attention to several points regarding forced organ harvesting. We'll try not to repeat material the panel has already heard. There is compelling and convincing evidence that vulnerable prisoners of conscience are being killed in large numbers in China to provide organs for transplantation. The multiple, well researched and evidence based reports draw on diverse forms of evidence—some of which you've heard—including witness testimony from victims reporting prison guards and doctors discussing organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience. Those who deny that forced organ harvesting occurs have not systematically rebutted this body of evidence. Instead, sceptics appear to rely upon assurances from Chinese officials and doctors with whom they have ongoing relations, their experiences visiting selected transplant centres in China, Communist Party of China media sources and a single article in The Washington Post. Twenty-four medical, legal and human rights professionals have rebutted this article.

Regarding claims of major reform in China, there is still no transparency to prove this. Despite their praise of the alleged reforms, leading bodies such as The Transplantation Society, the World Health Organization and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences are unable to provide assurances of ethical sourcing of organs for universities and hospitals, who seek such assurances before entering into collaborations with Chinese hospitals. They cannot guarantee that any particular transplant would actually be ethical.

Like some of the other presenters here, we'd like to respond to some of the claims made in the oral evidence to this inquiry by doctors Chapman, O'Connell, Fraser and Martin and Mr Fletcher in 2017. The first regards claims about the amount of blood necessary to do blood and tissue typing. Initial tests for tissue typing can be done on less than 10 mls of blood. I have personally verified this with two different transplant experts in two different countries. Once prisoners have been blood and tissue typed this information can be used for reverse matching to potential recipients, so that information can go into a database. Further crossmatching, which does require an increased amount of blood, is not required until a potential recipient arrives and a donor is selected from the database.

Second, claims regarding Falun Gong practitioners' witness statements being supplied by Falun Gong leadership are highly inconsistent with our experiences. Campbell Fraser interviewed 11 witnesses in Sydney, following which he told Susanne Hughes of one witness who cried during the deeply traumatic process of retelling her experiences of detention in China. He said to Ms Hughes that the story was obviously authentic and he told the woman that he believed her.

Third, there is considerable confusion regarding the status of Chinese laws, policies and regulations, which are labyrinthine and difficult to understand. On our best advice from an expert in Chinese law, the 2013 Hangzhou Resolution, mentioned by Phil O'Connell, is not an official regulatory instrument and it doesn't require that signatories refrain from using prisoners' organs. There is only policy, rather than regulation, banning foreigners from receiving organs. As John mentioned, there has been no change in the law to prohibit the use of prisoners' organs.

In summary, we believe that forced organ harvesting from vulnerable victims is ongoing in China, and that Australians travelling to China for transplants risk obtaining an organ which has been sourced illegally and unethically. I believe Australia has a real opportunity to show some leadership in this area through a multifaceted approach, and that's included in some of the recommendations that we have in our submission, which I won't repeat now.

CHAIR: Thank you, Professor Rogers. Finally, Miss Tokaji.

Miss Tokaji : I thank the committee for opening this inquiry. My capacity here today is as a friend and colleague of the Falun Dafa organisation, whom I met about five years ago, and, in collaboration, presented before the New South Wales parliament in 2014. Our ongoing human right concerns stand, and today I wanted to draw attention specifically to the inquiry held here today and the importance of it being recognised in the modern slavery bill. I thank Senator Moore for her presence in this inquiry. It helps for you to speak to your colleagues about that, because what we have here today, in fact, is slavery in medical supply chains internationally, so that needs to be considered in the context of an international human right violation.

The transplant tourism occurring in our region does victimise vulnerable religious minorities deemed as political dissidents by the Chinese government, who are illegally detained and tortured. These acts do amount to government sanctioned genocide and torture of minorities. Australia has a due diligence obligation to ensure that further organ transplant tourism, and this abhorrent human right violation, does not occur.

One recommendation in the submission that I tabled today, in addition to my earlier submission, was that we roll out a national opt-out organ donation approach. That's not what we have at the moment. I understand that organ donation is only about 33 per cent. That can be worked on. It's a national public conversation that can take place.

Victims in our region can be supported through several humanitarian ways by Australia, and rehabilitation of course can be provided. Human rights lawyers, such as Gao Zhisheng, advocate for victims also. He was a human rights lawyer in China who supported the victims and tried to advocate on their behalf. He himself experienced imprisonment and torture for his work. That's also something that on a humanitarian level we could look at doing.

Australia's Commonwealth Criminal Code does not go far enough to ensure that transplant tourism is criminalised in order to curb Australia's demand for the trafficking or harvesting of organs internationally. This international crime and human rights violation requires due consideration under our Commonwealth Criminal Code as well as Australia's imminent modern slavery bill as a form of slavery in medical supply chains.

Australia needs to ensure that our international health insurance does not cover organ transplants on the black market. The European Union has reviewed the scope of creating a fair system of organ donation, and it's a model that we could look at replicating. Transplant tourism needs to be seen through the lens of slavery, human trafficking and exploitation. Australia has an obligation to raise these abhorrent human rights violations in our region with our trade partner China, calling the government to account for the trade of organs for monetary and political gain. The matter requires extraterritorial application in the context of Australian offenders and Australian victims. I don't know of any cases, but in case there are any.

It is in the best interests of Australia to accede to the 2014 Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs insofar as criminalising the illegal removal of human organs from living or deceased persons without consent or authorisation where it is for a financial and equitable gain or a comparable advantage, providing protective measures to ensure transparency in access to transplantation services. Trafficking in organs, trafficking for the purpose of organ harvesting, organ harvesting and transplant tourism are different crimes and different human rights violations requiring specific legal recognition in distinct definitions with provisions for the criminalisation of these practices and a model that targets prevention and victim protection and assistance.

Organ trafficking and transplant tourism violate the principles of equity, justice and respect for human dignity and should be prohibited. Transplant commercialism targets impoverished and otherwise vulnerable donors and leads inevitably to inequity and injustice. It should be prohibited, prevented and prosecuted as a violation of human rights and human dignity. Again in the submission there's evidence of reports and medical reports. As stated, data is one of the issues here. Another recommendation is cooperation in our region in relation to this violation. I submit my further recommendations to the committee, as per my report tabled.

CHAIR: Thank you very much, and can I thank you all for your opening comments. Perhaps I will lead off. One of the difficulties we face here is actually understanding what evidence there is and the basis of the evidence. I should say that we've got about an hour for the discussion, so we've got sufficient time. This question is addressed in particular to Mr Deller and Professor Rogers. Is there any authoritative source of what the Chinese law is in this regard? We have various pieces of evidence that say that there were changes made at different times—most recently, I think, in January 2015—and then there are references to 'no changes to the 1984 law', and there's a question of whether regulations are regulations as we understand them in Australia, for example, or simply statements or guidelines that may or may not be followed et cetera. So my question is really: is there some authoritative source of what the law and the regulations are, so far as China is concerned?

Prof. Rogers : I think it is something that is very hard, for us in Australia, to grasp about China, and that is: in China, there is actually no rule of law as we understand it. We have a well-functioning legal system in this country; we have laws and, when those laws are not followed, there are sanctions in criminal and civil jurisdictions and so forth. China has a vast apparatus which seems like a legal system from the outside—they have courts; they have judges; they have laws; they have policies; they have regulations—but it's all a fiction, in that the law is not independent. The law-makers, the law—the whole legal system is not independent. It's answerable only to the Communist Party of China. It's controlled by the Communist Party of China. And, does the Communist Party of China so wish, there are no sanctions for anyone who disobeys any law, no matter what law it is.

We've done quite a bit of work with eminent experts in this area, including David Matas and Clive Ansley. Clive has worked for many years in China, and he says it's astonishing: the more you dig in, the more you find that the law doesn't mean anything; it is meaningless. So, although we cite the fact that the 1984 legal instrument has not yet been rescinded, that actually doesn't mean very much because whether or not it is there doesn't matter; people will do what they want, with the permission of the Communist Party. So, in answer to your question, it is possible to find and document all those regulations—it's a huge piece of research, but it's possible to do that—but, having done that, it's no more than a pile of mumbo jumbo because there is no rule of law.

Miss Tokaji : May I just second that. I'm here because I'm concerned that people's human rights are being violated in an abhorrent way. Minorities are persecuted. But I'm also here in my personal capacity as a refugee child from communist Romania. My family and I escaped persecution under communism. What I can see in this scenario is exactly that. So I would just like to second those comments and state that part of the problem we have here is the institutions we're dealing with, the ideologies, the lack of rule of law, the lack of due process and the lack of access to justice. We have testimonies from victims who were kidnapped off the streets and illegally detained, without any of those human rights. It is an extremely complex matter, yes, but Australia is in a position to do something about it from our end, which, hopefully, also sends a clear message.

CHAIR: In terms of the other piece of evidence, if I can describe it as such, as to the allegations of, effectively, involuntary donations from prisoners et cetera: some of the evidence before the committee has been that there have been some changes in that regard and that involuntary—if I can put it that way—donations are no longer occurring and it is now all done on a voluntary basis. Does anybody wish to comment on that evidence? Mr Deller?

Mr Deller : We did put as a recommendation in our submission, and I referred to it in the opening statement, that this really warrants a further inquiry where the parliament can look into these things and get a systematic and verifiable response. There are law experts who can set out what the laws and regulations are in China but, as Wendy Rogers pointed out, how they're implemented is totally up to the communist system. The inquiry, if that were possible in the future, would be able to draw on and bring the resources to look at this matter in detail. If it's not examined in detail, you're in a very difficult position to form recommendations for the government in this inquiry.

CHAIR: The difficulty is: if, as alleged by some—I'm including some in this room—this is continuing and it's being done regardless of what may be said officially, the nature of the society, which we're referring to as being separate from us and a sovereign country in its own right, makes it difficult if not almost impossible to obtain real evidence in the sense that we would normally seek if we were carrying out some sort of judicial or even parliamentary inquiry in Australia. We just don't have access to that evidence. If the allegations are correct and this is effectively being done secretly, how do we ever get access to that? In a sense, we have to rely on secondary evidence and try and form some sort of prudential judgement about what's happening, knowing that we can't entirely prove it one way or the other. I hear what you're saying, Mr Deller, but I just don't see how we in Australia can do that. Maybe the international community through the United Nations could put some pressure on various countries, including China, in this regard. It's a difficult issue. I'm not trying to shy away from addressing it; I'm trying to be practical about what can or can't be done.

Mr Deller : Could I add to that. With the North Korean situation, we had former Justice Kirby head a United Nations investigation into North Korea. He couldn't get into North Korea; he couldn't get any of that information that we were talking about. He interviewed people who had been abused and tortured, and they gave testimony, and from that he formed a very clear picture and conclusion, which is widely accepted around the world. With China's influence in the United Nations, I don't believe the UN's going to have that happen for China but I believe Australia can access the information that's available. If this is an inquiry into that topic, I really hope there can be further examination of these issues. For example, we could find a legal specialist to document and provide evidence to you of what the current laws are in China. But it will be interpretive, based on the—

Senator MOORE: It will always be interpretive!

CHAIR: So you would support an inquiry analogous to that which former Justice Kirby conducted into North Korea?

Mr Deller : Yes, indeed.

Mrs Bryskine : Could I add to that. I just wanted to clarify, and maybe add to the question you raised earlier, what Wendy Rogers was talking about; how the law in China is very difficult and everything is very hard to police. In the case of the Tianjin First Central Hospital—you can freely view the documentary on our website—the fact is that, in theory, international tourism is banned in China—this is what the official statements are saying; they no longer accept tourists coming from overseas and getting organs—and yet we're seeing this ginormous, massive facility still accepting them by the thousands. As this documentary was being filmed, they had, I believe, 30 patients already on the wards. They estimated that about a thousand Koreans would travel to that one particular facility and yet we know there are over 160 officially-approved transplant centres in China as we speak. There could be more that are performing transplants and there is evidence to say that others do perform transplantation, even though they're not officially approved.

We can see there is a lot of corruption going on within the healthcare system. Unfortunately, that may possibly have happened as a result of some reforms that occurred in China in the late eighties/early nineties, when everything was privatised. The healthcare system in China went from being a purely government funded program, as there was in the Soviet Union and other Soviet states, to being a privatised system, which basically meant hospitals had to produce their own incomes. Early on, the drugs and various new technologies were a major source of income for these hospitals and very quickly they learned that transplantation was a major industry and that there was a lot of money to be made. We hear of people paying from $30,000 up to $100,000 per transplant. It's a lot of money, so the corruption scope is quite vast.

In terms of your question about the 2015 announcements, those were indeed made and were widely publicised in the press and a lot of Chinese government officials were saying it, particularly Huang Jiefu, the spokesperson for the transplant industry. The reality, though, is we have no verification that any of that was actually implemented and, in fact, we saw statements recently at the Vatican summit where they were saying they are still not perfectly implemented—even Chinese officials are saying this—and that they are not able to police it properly. Again, the reality is that there have been no independent visits, inquiries or investigations from overseas, with people visiting these facilities and doing what we call spot checks rather than organised show visits. Everything needs to be thoroughly investigated.

Again, just to put it into perspective, we know that, for example, in the US there are 150 million registered organ donors, yet real numbers translate to just over 30,000 transplants. You have to look at the yield—the scope of people who are registered compared to the numbers of real transplants. What we have seen in China is enormous, astronomical growth, from having no public donation system. We know for a fact there was no public donation system until 2013 when a pilot program was introduced. Within five years, there has been astronomical growth seen nowhere else in the world. Suddenly people are going on this register—theoretically. There have been some numbers come out, I believe, saying there are 400,000 registered donors in China. These are astronomical figures for a country which culturally is resistant to organ donations. Culturally Asian countries don't believe in donating their organs. This is something that we've been told many times by people of Asian descent. We've seen numbers of 4,000 or 5,000 transplants where donors were translated to becoming these donors from the 400,000 pool. That yield translates to about one per cent as opposed to a 0.02 per cent in the US. Again, comparing them to the international figures, these don't seem right. They potentially need to be investigated further. How were they able to achieve this within such a short time frame? It's taken decades for places like Australia, the US and Spain to develop these very well-functioning transplant and organ donation programs. It's taken us a lot of time to make sure everything is functioning well and that we have the infrastructure. So these are all the questions that need to be answered, and the only way to do so is to conduct a very thorough investigation.

CHAIR: I wanted to ask you about the documentary in Korea. Was there any follow-up to that? Was there any reaction to it by Chinese officials? Was there any follow-up by Korean officials? Was there any investigation by the media as to Koreans travelling to China or further information provided?

Mrs Bryskine : Not to my knowledge. The English subtitled version has been recently made available, so perhaps there could be something else going on. I'm not sure if anybody else in the room has any information on that.

Mrs Hughes : At ETAC we have a Korean manager and she's just reported recently that there is growing concern from that documentary and that there are a number of medical people and legal people who are willing to get together and start looking at it. That was recently reported.

Senator MOORE: It's certainly my understanding that the pressure continues to be on the Chinese system from a number of places about organ transplant. But what we are able to do in Australia is not what you want, Mr Deller, or what any of you want in terms of being able to stop what is happening in China. What we can do is have a situation in Australia where we are monitoring what's happening with Australia. That's the focus of this inquiry. There have been, as you all know, a number of inquiries in the Australian parliament around this issue. So it's not like there hasn't been consideration in Australia.

I'm interested to know—and the focus of this inquiry is clearly on—whether there is a need for further change in legislation in Australia to look at what happens for Australian citizens who move. What should there be in the medical profession? We just heard evidence—which you heard—from the Transplantation Society about their views about what should happen in the medical process, because the data is not sound. We have one major register which has a number of figures, which are very low, and now we've got the survey being done by the medical groupings which show that there could be more.

I'm interested with your engagement, particularly in the medical field, because I know that Falun Dafa has done a lot of work in the medical area, working with organisations, and I know we have the medical process here and also in your group, which is zeroing in. This is a medical issue. People who are leaving Australia to have transplants are doing it for medical purposes. So I want to put on record, from all of you, what we should do in Australia. There are a number of issues raised across submissions. I would like to get some discussion around that. I don't think we're going to be able to conduct a full inquiry that will actually change the practices in China. It's really important that we put it on record that we are concerned, and we will. We are concerned about that. But, if we're focusing on how we're going to change what China is doing, we won't be able to move what's happening in Australia.

M r s Bryskine : Maybe I'll respond first. We've made some recommendations in the inquiry.

Senator MOORE: You have, yes. Can you talk about that?

M r s Bryskine : Yes. Absolutely. I believe there are definitely a few things that can be done at a local level. The scope of the issue in general is vast but we can focus on what is achievable, and that is the purpose of today. From our side, we felt that the mandatory reporting of overseas transplanted organs should be definitely considered as a high priority.

Senator MOORE: How could that be done? This is an issue between a doctor and a patient. We have talked about mandatory reporting. How would that be done?

M r s Bryskine : Absolutely. One of the ways that we've proposed this could potentially happen is to utilise the Medicare item number system, the MBS, because, when the patients come back, they are in need of after-care. They have to be seen and have the immunosuppressant drug therapy permanently. This is an ongoing situation. I have been advised by a transplant doctor that, when they are going back for their after-care, there are two item numbers from Medicare that they use. One is the 110 item number, which is an initial consultation. The other one that is used is the 116 item number as a general subsequent consultation item number.

Senator MOORE: We do have the Department of Health coming this afternoon. So we will be able to ask them directly.

M r s Bryskine : Good. We think that perhaps the easiest way to monitor it is to introduce a specific item number. These are general item numbers that are used across the various medical fields. If we have a specific item number in Medicare which is used for a patient receiving after-care after receiving an overseas transplant, it becomes much easier to track it later on, because there is a lot of reporting in Medicare. I work in the optometry industry, and we have item numbers all the time that we use. Everything is statistically analysed—for example, how many are used every year—and I get reports sent to me. So this is something that could be introduced as a specific item number.

Senator MOORE: To differentiate the source of the treatment.

M r s Bryskine : Yes. That way, it could keep the confidentiality for the patient, if that is a concern. This is something that can be done by the doctors and then easily reported back through the MBS system.

Prof. Rogers : We very much support the idea of a register. It would take away this unease that some doctors have with mandatory reporting just of patients who have travelled overseas. If we had an Australian transplant register, every Australian resident who had a transplant would go on to that. It would provide an excellent tool for tracking transplant outcomes anyway—as we have heard from Professor Coates, there are some gaps in their data—then it wouldn't be a question of singling out people who had their transplant in Egypt or in China or in Brisbane; everybody goes on the register. As part of the data that's collected on the register, there would be, 'Where did you have your transplant?' That would take away that unease that people have about doing mandatory reporting only if people have been overseas. I don't think there's a problem with breaching confidentiality anyway, with mandatory reporting, but this would take away the concern that people have. We have the Australian joint register, so everybody who has a joint put in, in Australia, goes on to the register. People don't see that as a breach of confidentiality or some kind of mandatory reporting; it's best practice. If we had that kind of best practice in transplant medicine, we wouldn't need to worry about just picking out the people who'd been overseas; everyone would go on the register.

Senator MOORE: And that would be a national register—

Prof. Rogers : A national register.

Senator MOORE: maintained by the national Department of Health?

Prof. Rogers : Yes. Everybody would be on it, and then you could pull out whatever data you needed.

Senator MOORE: I was involved in inquiries into the joint register. There were issues about types of joints and whether we would have overseas patients registered on that. I would expect there would be some people having their joints done internationally as well. Do you know whether that is picked up in the joint register?

Prof. Rogers : My understanding is it is just for operations that take place in Australia.

Senator MOORE: That's what I thought. So, that's another question to be directed to Health: how would a register operate? Would you be able to gather that data?

Prof. Rogers : We know that patients coming back with transplants from overseas need follow-up care, so, the first time they came for a consultation, their specialist would say: 'Oh, you've had a transplant. It's time to put you on the register.'

Senator MOORE: Okay.

Prof. Rogers : We do that with all our patients. It wouldn't be specially picking out those ones; everybody would be on the register. Then the data could be picked out, including through things like a special Medicare number if you have had an overseas transplant.

Dr Zhao : I would like to address this question from a medical and a legal and human rights perspective. From the medical side, I think that, in addition to the registration system, something could be done here in terms of the doctor training program as well. After the organ harvesting issue in China was revealed, the hospital in Queensland that had a program for training Chinese doctors to do organ transplants requested assurance that those doctors in the training were not going to use those techniques in any forced organ harvesting. When they couldn't get proper documentation they stopped training the doctors. That's another thing to be looked at.

Senator MOORE: I did hear about that, because you told me about that in Queensland. But was that a hospital decision? It wasn't a Queensland state government decision; it was a training facility. An individual place like The Prince Charles Hospital, for instance, does a lot of training. That would be something their own board would decide?

Dr Zhao : I think, from the government side, that could be something that could be encouraged and recommended. Also, in terms of the law change: I think the Commonwealth's criminal law change was mentioned, and also, at the state level, there is the slavery act and also the Human Tissue Act. The Commonwealth law and the state-level legislation can be modified to have extraterritorial effect for the people involved in forced organ harvesting outside Australia. It doesn't matter if it's in China or in India or Egypt. If it is against human rights and also medical standards, that should attract some legal penalties if they come onto Australian territory.

From the human rights side, you mentioned that we can only look after what can be done in Australia. But what we can do here can have an impact on the practice in China. What we do here does send a strong message to China. Also, if we actually discourage people from going to China for organ transplants, that would also reduce the demand and the potential organ transplant abuse in China. For example, Israel used to have an insurance company that paid for organ tourism, so there were quite a lot of patients going to China for organ tourism. But after the organ harvesting was revealed the insurance company stopped paying for that, so that stopped patients going to China for organ tourism.

If we could have more awareness and also a message to tell the Australian people the potential risk of going overseas, particularly to China, for organ transplants—that innocent people might be killed to get their organs to meet the demand—then that could reduce the demand for organ transplants in China. Also, in terms of the law change, as far as we know, there's still no new law change that prohibits the use of organs from the prisoners. In terms of the rule of law, I want to add, from the treatment of Falun Gong practitioners in China, there's really no human rights-related rule of law. In the Chinese constitution, there's a law about freedom of belief in China, but the Falun Gong practitioners are denied freedom of belief and freedom of expression. There's a lot of documentation about how Falun Gong practitioners have been mistreated and tortured in China. Having a law is one thing, but whether that law is being followed is another thing.

Also, there are so many hospitals across all the provinces and cities in China. How much can the central government really police and monitor those hospitals to make sure they're not abusing organ transplants and they're not abusing prisoners of conscience as a source of organs? That's a really big question. I'm not sure how our organ transplant association here can provides an assurance to our committee that this is not happening, if they aren't talking to all the hospitals and doctors in China. Even the central government are not able to really police that effectively. There are such big profits and it is such a profitable industry that has been growing quickly since 1999, which is the year when the persecution of Falun Gong started. Also, the explosive increase in organ transplants after that is not explained by either the organ donation rates or death penalty numbers.

The number of the organ donations was provided by Mr Huang Jiefu, the vice-minister of health in China. From 1980 to 2005, there were only about 120 donations every year, and, according to Amnesty International, the death penalty number was only about 1,600 every year, so this doesn't really match the number of transplants in China. Also, more than that, the waiting time in China doesn't explain the sources. In Australia and the US, there is a lower organ donation rate than China. People have to wait, on average, two to three years or even longer for organ transplant, but in China they promise that they can provide an organ like a liver, a kidney, a heart or another vital organ in two to four weeks.

Senator MOORE: Thank you.

CHAIR: Can I just pick up on something. I don't know if anybody can comment on this, but, under health insurance in Australia, is it possible to claim for procedures which occur overseas?

Mrs Bryskine : We did look into this a few years ago. I believe in 2015 there was an inquiry as well, and we did a submission back then. I haven't checked the most recent websites, but, at the time we did the submission, there were three insurance companies—and there were two others as well—that did have a clause where there was cover for overseas transplants. We said that there needed to be further investigation, because it wasn't clear how that is applicable and how people would utilise that, but there was an international health insurance policy that people could take out where transplantation was listed as an item. That is something to be investigated, certainly. We would welcome that as well.

CHAIR: This is related in a sense. As a result of the changes of law in Israel and Taiwan, as was mentioned—and there may have been elsewhere—is there evidence that travelling overseas for organ transplants has diminished?

Mrs Bryskine : In Israel, I believe it virtually stopped post that law being introduced in 2008. I'm not sure if Wendy wants to add to that.

Prof. Rogers : I agree. It completely stopped the trade in Israel, and it also increased the internal organ donation rate. The Taiwanese law is relatively recent, and I haven't got any data on the effectiveness of that, but I think it's been strongly supported across the country to decrease the tourism that was occurring before then.

Senator MOORE: One of the issues being raised is about families. If people who are born in Australia go overseas to have transplants operation and they're getting transplants from a family member because that's the best matching, it's important that that's acknowledged in anything that we do. It can't just be a blanket process; it's got to take into account people's personal circumstances. None of your submissions actually mention that.

Prof. Rogers : We've put some thought into that since then because that obviously occurred to us. It seems to me this is something that could be led by an international group, such as the Declaration of Istanbul Custodian Group or perhaps even The Transplant Society, to develop a system of documentation and certification for family member transplants so that these could happen in approved countries where it was well recognised that there were ethical and legally compliant transplant systems and these countries would be allowed to issue certificates. For example, if I went to the UK and got a transplant from my sister, the UK might be one of these accredited countries. Countries known to have a bad history of transplant abuse would not be provided with accreditation, and that would potentially discriminate against citizens from those countries, but that would provide impetus for them to put pressure on their governments to change. So you could come up with something like that, some kind of certification system, but it would need to be an international system such that the documentation would then be mutually recognised. And any transplant that didn't have this kind of documentation would be presumed to be from a trafficked organ because you wouldn't be able to prove otherwise.

The further step to prove that these were actually from family members, which I think we're not up to technologically, would be to have DNA samples from the implanted organ and the DNA match. If I suddenly turn up and say, 'This is my nephew from Guatemala who wants to give me a kidney,' and the DNA from me and my alleged nephew don't match, then that would be prima facie evidence that I was lying. I think that's a step away, but, presumably, with big data, one day we'll be able to do that. In the meantime, we could suggest to the international bodies, through the Australian transplant society, to think about some kind of certification for ethical, non-financial, non-trafficked transplants.

Miss Tokaji : From a preventative perspective, slavery is unfortunately driven by demand, so ensuring that organs are available and accessible in Australia is one step towards prevention. The opt-out system was suggested, and, in collaboration with that mandatory register and data system set-up, that's plausible. So, in relation to the human right solutions or proposals, we could support victims and advocates here in Australia. Of course, minorities such as Christians are systematically targeted by the Chinese government, and, if they were to seek asylum, an understanding of the amount of persecution they experience in our region could be a human right consideration. The criminal considerations, as mentioned, suggestions of amendments to the Commonwealth Criminal Code and the Modern Slavery Act and of course the extraterritorial application and acceding to international charters are some solution focused—

Mrs Hughes : The point has been mentioned a few times about the fact that there's extensive collaboration happening in regard to the hospitals and the universities, specifically in relation to transplantation. Professor Wendy Rogers brought up in our opening statement that, at this point in time, the leading bodies cannot actually provide any sort of assurance with China specifically that the organs used in these collaborations, whether they be research or training collaborations, are ethically sourced. So we're not at the stage yet where we can open the doors to collaboration, and, in fact, it has happened and is being promoted.

There could be a situation where the Australian government creates some sort of regulation in regard to that, and there could be different levels. But I guess that universities and hospitals must be able to verify that the organs that are being used in those collaborations are ethically sourced because the system in China and the system in some other countries are still not transparent, and they're not transparent to the degree that is required internationally. So why are the doors open and why are these collaborations happening? There are a lot of financial incentives for them to happen. They can research things in China that cannot be researched in Australia for many different reasons. So that's something that the government could do that we believe should be done immediately because it's growing very, very quickly. Universities and hospitals in Australia and elsewhere are being contacted as we speak to collaborate.

The second point is in regard to a public education campaign. We see public education campaigns in many different areas of health, so, if you're booking in advance to get a vital organ, such as a heart or a liver, from China, somebody is going to be killed for you to be able to have that organ, and there's evidence that shows that. This is going to deter people with a conscience from going, so there's a whole level of society that would most likely pull back.

Senator MOORE: Mrs Hughes, can you actually say that? I'm happy to hear that someone 'could' be killed. I'm happy to hear that. But, to put on record that that is so for every single transplant for someone going from Australia to China, I just don't think that is something we should say.

Mrs Hughes : I'll ask Wendy to elaborate. What I'm saying, to clarify, is that, if you are booking in advance for a vital organ, then somebody would be killed for that organ, and Wendy can explain the medical side of that.

Senator MOORE: I understand the medical science, but I think, in the public education campaign, that is a very difficult process.

Prof. Rogers : What Susie was saying is not what should go on the script of a public education campaign, obviously.

Senator MOORE: I just think we have to be really careful about that

Prof. Rogers : I agree we have to be careful, but this whole notion of reverse matching in China, which happens nowhere else in the world, is misunderstood by a lot of people, and I think we really need to get to the bottom of that. In Australia, it is the potential recipient on the waiting list. You wait and wait and wait, and then one day you get that phone call that someone with your blood group has died, if it's a liver or a heart. If I'm booking to go to China for a heart transplant, I'm not waiting for a phone call from China to say someone's died with my blood group. I'm going over there, and they're picking someone with my blood group to provide that heart or liver for me. You can't have transplants booked in advance from a voluntary donation system. It's just logically impossible. That's the point that Susie was making. If you are booking a transplant in advance and it's for a liver or heart, those donors are going to be dead after the donation, and they weren't dead before when you booked it. That was the point. I would be interested to see what the arguments are to say you can book a heart or a liver transplant in advance, and it—

Senator MOORE: I'm just concerned about public education campaigns, that it's so black and white. I think public education campaigns about the dangers, the situation—all those things—fair. I'm just putting that on the record.

Mrs Hughes : It doesn't have to be a fear based campaign, but, when the facts are facts and then they're presented to the public, that will deter. If we hold back from what the facts are—and it may be that an inquiry into, 'Is that a fact?', if we're presenting those facts in a way that's supportive of the community and it's presented at the same time as there's a Donate Life campaign running, then that would be likely to be deterring people from being involved in that.

CHAIR: That leads me to mention that, naturally, the focus of this session has been on China, but China's not the only country to which Australians travel for transplants. The earlier evidence from Professor Coates was that, in order, they travel to China, India, the Philippines, and, obviously, there are other countries beyond those as well. I come back to Senator Moore's question about what practically we can do in Australia. In terms of priority, a number of suggestions have been made: subscribing to the European declaration, or covenant; mandatory reporting; and items in terms of the Medicare schedules for the prescription of drugs pertaining to transplants. There may be some matters around what insurance is entitled to cover and even what hospitals have to do in terms of any collaborative projects. There was a suggestion from Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting for the formulation of an Asia-Pacific convention against trafficking in organs. And I think there was a suggestion from you, Miss Tokaji, around some sort of extraterritorial legislation akin to the provisions in relation to child sex offences. Of that list—and there may be other ideas—I'm interested in what you would recommend we look closely at in terms of making a recommendation.

Ms Lin : I just travelled back from Oslo, where I spoke to a former justice minister of Canada. The Magnitsky Act in Canada prevents criminals and human rights abusers from entering our country. Canada recently passed this law and, in 2012, so did the US congress and the UK as well. Organ harvesting is happening not only in China but in other parts of the world. There were suggestions made in other countries that we have research groups make a list of surgeons, nurses and also communist officials who have been participating. These lists are not hard to find. For example, there is Dr Huang Jiefu, the head of China's transplant society. A few years ago, in 2006, one of the well-known researchers in the States found four published articles in the Chinese media saying Huang Jiefu was performing autologous surgery. That means the patient would have cancer on his liver and the doctor would take the liver out, take the cancer out and implant the liver again. You don't need a donor for that. But halfway through the surgery Huang Jiefu found that the cancer had spread way too big and that he might not be able to handle it. So he called two hospitals, one in Chongqing and the other in Guandong, and found two full livers, from two people, within the duration of the surgery and they were transported back to Xinjiang. Eventually, he didn't even use the livers, because it was a very successful autologous surgery. It was widely publicised in China, because it was the first autologous surgery in China that was successful. How did they get two livers? That was back in 2006—and now they say they have a voluntary organ donation system.

For people involved in things like that, it is not hard to find evidence of it if we really want to. This would really deter the situation in China. A lot of these communist officials and doctors would transfer their assets, their children and their wives outside of China as their escape route if something happens in China. If they know that they cannot enter countries through the back door, that would significantly decrease the human rights abuse that is happening in China.

Ms Bridgett : I think the Australian government could be doing a whole lot more about dealing with the issue in China. With respect, Senator Moore, I do not agree that this inquiry and this committee cannot be dealing with the issue in China. I say that for a number of reasons. Australia has international law obligations to ensure that people's human rights are protected. What is happening in China is a serious, heinous crime. For us to sit here, with all the knowledge that we have, and do nothing about it would be a crime in itself. I say this with respect to all those who suffered in the Holocaust: in my opinion, what we are seeing is very similar to that. We are seeing a situation where we cannot get access, we cannot get transparent data. We are dealing with a country that will not hand over that data, that will not let people walk into their labour camps and see what is happening. We are walking blindly. But what we've got, what has been presented to you today, is strong, compelling and convincing evidence. We need to listen to that and take action to protect these people who are being slaughtered, tortured and treated with no dignity, no respect, no right to life and no right to a fair trial. We cannot sit here and do nothing about that.

Senator MOORE: With respect, I didn't say we could do nothing. I said the focus of this inquiry was looking at what we could do in Australia to ensure that we respond to that. The general issues of human rights and China are intensely important—and that will happen. What I was trying to do was have a discussion around Australian law, medical situations and how we can ensure that we could protect our citizens. I am sorry if I offended your senses. In terms of human rights, we have the evidence from DFAT about the processes they have with their interactions. We need to strengthen that.

Ms Bridgett : Yes. No offence was taken, I understood your point, but I don't agree that, within the terms of this reference, we can't be dealing with what is happening in China. I say that for a couple of reasons. Firstly, if we make laws that have extraterritorial application then we are going to be dealing with the issue in China because we are going to start to look at cutting the supply and demand issue. This is pure health economics, and I would encourage you to apply health economics to this situation. What we have is supply and demand: people can't get organs here, so they will travel overseas. If it is a crime to do that, that will stop people from going overseas and it will cut the supply and demand chain. So they are interrelated. This inquiry is related to what is happening in China and other parts of the Asia-Pacific.

Australia's geographical position is very different from countries in Europe, Africa and other regions. We are eight hours away by plane to a country where you can get an organ. That places us in a very particular situation in the Asia-Pacific region. The Asia-Pacific region has the second highest number of modern slavery victims in the world. Of those numbers, there are high numbers in human trafficking. What I think we can do much better in Australia is track and monitor what is happening overseas with organ transplants. For example, we could have on our re-entry card, when people are coming back from overseas, a box that asks people whether they had an organ transplant when they were overseas.

Prof. Rogers : For everyone.

Ms Bridgett : Yes, for everyone. The US has something similar. That way, we can track people coming back into the country. That is a very simple thing we can do. We could do that tomorrow. All you need to do is add a box on that card. It is a very simple thing to do. We need to look at how we can collect data better. I have been trying to find data on how many people, and who, are going overseas and getting organs from overseas. We don't have that data. We should have that data. We should be able to have a situation where people who come back from getting an organ overseas are put on a register and that is monitored. This impacts on our health system and our costings here. We are paying for that person's after-care when they come back from overseas. I heard the end of what Professor Coates said, which was that a high number of people who come back from getting an organ overseas will fall ill. That is concerning and it is telling. We can monitor that much more closely.

What else could Australia be doing? I understand that Australia has numerous trade agreements with China. We deal with China on a daily basis and we have numerous trade agreements. Australia needs to be taking a much stronger position about saying it will not deal with a country that is breaching fundamental international human rights laws. We need to take a much stronger position on that. I respectfully submit that Australia is not doing enough. We need to say to China that we are not going to deal with a country that has such human rights violations. Why you think Turkey is not part of the EU? The EU has never accepted them, because of their poor human rights record. Yet we continue to deal with a country that is committing serious, heinous crimes. Australia, in my submission, can be doing much more in that regard.

I would like to briefly address the law, because that is obviously in the terms of reference. In my submission, the Commonwealth Criminal Code has some deficiencies in organ offences. At the moment, the laws relate to trafficking in humans for the removal of organs rather than trafficking in organs per se. Acceding to the convention will require Australia to actually domesticate such laws. My understanding is that the Council of Europe's Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs is the only international treaty that specifically deals with trafficking in organs. I should note that it entered into force on 1 March 2018. Australia should follow suit with all the other countries that have ratified it.

Senator MOORE: Which countries have ratified?

Ms Bridgett : Malta, the Czech Republic, Albania, the UK—and I'd have to check the other one. The treaty required five ratifications, out of which three member states were required. I think there are more than five. But I would need to check that. I can take that on notice—or anyone can just look that up. That convention is very important. It is very important for Australia to accede to that convention, because it is the only treaty that sets laws for trafficking in organs, as opposed to trafficking in humans for the removal of organs. The Commonwealth Criminal Code is at the moment deficient in that area. I would also submit that we need laws for transplant tourists to be criminally liable if they go overseas and have an organ transplant and that organ is sourced illegally or unethically. Those laws will send a very clear message to everybody in Australia that you cannot just jump on a plane, go overseas, source an organ from overseas and have no consequences or ramifications for that.

Executions in China are a state secret. You cannot get any data about the number of executions in China; it is a complete state secret. Amnesty International has been trying to do it for years and has had no success. That is important because in China there are a huge number of crimes that are punishable by death—crime such as treason. If you speak out against the Communist Party of China, that can result in you being put in prison and it can result in death. Thousands of executions happen in China every year. That is a rough estimate that Amnesty International have made. That means there are probably many more people put in prison who have not been given a fair trial and are then executed for their organs. It is very important for me to place on the record that the way China deals with crimes by death is the reason they have such a high number of people who are executed in prison, which gives you a good pool for organ donation. I think it is very important for me to make that comment. Thank you very much.

Ms Dobson : Recommendation 1.2 of the DAFOH submission refers to warning alerts and public access to information. In particular, I would like to highlight the smartraveller.gov.au website as a practical action item for the committee to consider. I acknowledge, Senator Moore, this is a medical issue. What I would like to raise too is that this is a very serious ethical concern as well. That's why we're all here and this time is being invested. As an Australian, may I say to the lawmakers of our country: can we at least ask for an alert? This is happening. I don't think there is doubt. I really urge you to consider the degree and so forth. I've been to a few inquiries too, Senator, and I appreciate the efforts, but we need action items after the inquiries and for the Australian public to see, in a practical and tangible way, that this is being addressed, that it is a concern and that the government is taking it seriously. I think an update on the website doesn't require legislation. That could be something that the committee at least tries to achieve.

I also note that, in the Hansard and in the records of this inquiry, some other parties have had a bit more air time than these groups and ourselves. We put a lot of effort into this research, given the constraints we've addressed today as well: China, Australia and so forth; access. If we are basing certain judgements or decisions on a media release coming out of China that organ harvesting has stopped or certain individuals claim they have been to China 20 times, 40 times or 100 times, who are they speaking to? What is their source? And, if a member from DFAT is saying, 'I've got two media releases from China that say organ harvesting has stopped,' again, I urge you to reassess and see if it's adequate to make decisions, because it really is heartbreaking.

Dr Zhao : I want to quickly make two more recommendations. One is the body exhibition that was mentioned. We recommend that it is investigated and closed. This is also associated with trafficking human bodies and organs into Australia without proper documentation showing they have consent from the body. We're very concerned that those bodies are actually coming from prisoners of conscience and they had been suffering while they were alive. But, even after they have passed away, they continue their suffering and humiliation by being put on public display. This body exhibition was put on display in the name of art, so they get around the requirement to put out a certificate, like a medical certificate. If you use a human body for medical purposes, you have to provide documentation that shows you have consent from the donor of the body, but those bodies on display don't have that documentation. We recommend those body exhibitions be closed. That's something we'd like to recommend to the ministers for foreign affairs, health and the arts.

Ms Lin : Just to have it on the record, France has done it. They have closed the exhibition. And also Israel. And it's happening right now in Australia. It's called Real Bodies: The Exhibition.

Mrs Hughes : The exhibition also has 200 organs, so it is relevant to the inquiry. They have admitted that they do not have identity documentation, or any documentation regarding the source of the organs, or consent forms, and that the organs have been procured from the public security bureau, which is basically the police in China. They have openly admitted that.

Ms Bridgett : In terms of the Commonwealth legislation, we do have crimes against humanity legislation in the Criminal Code, and the provenance of those bodies at Real Bodies: The Exhibition should be investigated by Australia. We need to know where those bodies have come from and whether the people whose bodies those are have given consent or their families have given consent. Our submission is that that documentation is not there and that that exhibition should be closed down immediately.

CHAIR: I thank you all for your submissions and for the discussion this morning. I will just say to Ms Dobson that the committee is concerned about these matters. This inquiry was initiated by the committee itself. It wasn't an inquiry referred to us by the government, which is somewhat unusual. The reason we're having this hearing today is to try to test some of the other evidence before us. It isn't easy, but we're trying to give everybody a say and trying to test what is being said to find a better outcome all around. It won't be perfect, but maybe we can do something that is a step in the right direction. On that note, thank you very much, once again. You will be forwarded transcripts. If there are any corrections you wish to make, you are welcome to do so.