On Tuesday evening, the Speaker of the House of Commons will host the UK premiere of a new film, starring Miss World Canada, and he will be joined by a number of Parliamentarians from both Houses and all parties. Despite being banned from the Miss World finals in China last year by the brutal regime in Beijing because of her outspoken activism on human rights, Canada's beauty queen Anastasia Lin will be contesting again this year, this time in Washington, DC. Yet this film is no pageant. Instead, it is a thriller and borderline horror movie - and yet is one of the most important films of 2016. The Bleeding Edge depicts the harrowing and horrifying practice of forced organ harvesting in China today.
"Organ harvesting" is a term that sounds misleadingly innocuous. The stark truth is that it means the practice of forcibly cutting out livers, kidneys, hearts, lungs and corneas from prisoners of conscience while they are still alive. Those prisoners are likely to be practitioners of Falun Gong, a severely persecuted 'Buddha-school' spiritual movement that teaches the cultivation of principles of "truthfulness, benevolence and forbearance". Other victims may be Christians from the unregistered 'house' churches, Uighur Muslims or Tibetan Buddhists. Once they are stripped of their valuable organs, the victims, if still alive, are then executed.
Earlier this year, the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, chaired by Fiona Bruce MP, held an inquiry into human rights in China, and launched a major new report, The Darkest Moment. Among those who gave evidence were the star of The Bleeding Edge, Chinese-born Canadian actress Anastasia Lin, and Ethan Gutmann, co-author of a major new report, Bloody Harvest/The Slaughter: An Update, which unveils evidence which shows that forced organ harvesting in China is occurring on a massive scale.
The Conservative Party Human Rights Commission subsequently held a second hearing specifically on this issue, where we heard in more depth from Ms Lin, Mr Gutmann and one of his co-authors, Canadian human rights lawyer David Matas, as well as from a Uyghur surgeon, Dr Enver Tohti, who has admitted once conducting an operation to remove organs from a living prisoner.
The screening of The Bleeding Edge coincides with Theresa May's first visit to China since she became Prime Minister, and follows the meeting of the G20 world leaders in Hangzhou this weekend. Mrs May has already taken some very welcome steps towards recalibrating our relationship with China, by delaying the Hinkley Point nuclear project. I hope she will add the issue of forced organ harvesting to her list of growing concerns about Sino-British relations.
Of course, China is becoming an economic and political superpower and cannot be ignored. Of course, as we move towards Brexit, we will be looking to forge new trading relationships with countries like China. And of course, a dialogue with China on key global concerns, from climate change to terror, is important. But such a relationship should not come at any price, as Mrs May already shows signs of recognising. And body parts taken from living prisoners of conscience by force, to be sold to western 'organ tourists', is too high a price.
Furthermore, Germany's Angela Merkel, among others, has shown that it is a myth that one has to stay silent on human rights if one wants to trade with China. She has been consistently outspoken and yet Germany continues to be China's best trading partner in Europe. Mrs May would do well to abandon banalities about a 'golden era' and chart an honest, robust and principled course with Beijing.
The United States Congress passed a resolution in June, condemning forced organ harvesting in China, particularly focused on prisoners of conscience. The European Parliament has done the same, as have several other legislatures around the world. It is time for the United Kingdom to lead the way in addressing this issue, just as Mrs May has championed tackling human trafficking. The United Kingdom, together with other allies, should call on the United Nations to establish a commission of inquiry to investigate China's forced organ harvesting - or, failing that, conduct its own investigation. A ban on organ tourism - whereby foreigners go to China to receive transplants at state-approved hospitals - is also long overdue, as is a travel ban for those who perform such gruesome operations. Statistics on how many people from Britain travel to China each year for organ transplants should also be sought and released.
In her testimony to the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, Ms Lin said that this issue "forces us to confront the question of how humans - doctors trained to heal, no less - could possibly do such great evil?" Her answer: "The aggressors in China were not born to be monsters who take out organs from their people ... It's the system that made them do that. It's the system that made them so cold-bloodedly able to cut people open and take out their organs and watch them die. No one is born to be so cruel."
Anastasia Lin is right, and a key part of our recalibrated relationship with China should be about challenging that system, and ending these crimes against humanity. To begin to understand the horror, a good starting point would be to watch The Bleeding Edge.
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