Pound of Flesh: UN Officials Investigate Human Rights Violations Conducted on Prisoners of Conscious in China

Do you wonder what it costs to make your smartphone? You’d probably think of the money, man power and engineering behind it. What if I told you your smartphone’s price was one man’s beating heart? 

On Sept. 24, Reuters reporter Emma Batha, presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to investigate into the appalling allegations of human rights violations that China has been and currently continues to harvest organs from prisoners of conscience on a large scale, sometimes while the prisoner is still alive.

For those who don’t know what a prisoner of conscience is, it is someone who is incarcerated for political or religious beliefs that aren’t tolerated by a governing body. In China’s case, the allegations cite prisoners of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, Uighur Muslims, and even those from Christian sects as those selected for the harvesting of organs. 

China has categorically denied the allegations, claiming that they have not harvested organs from any executed prisoners since 2015. In June of this year, an independent review panel concluded that China’s organ harvesting did indeed fall under crimes against humanity.

To many, it might sound like China has been caught red-handed: a credible investigation has ruled their actions as crimes against humanity. China has been known for numerous other human rights violations in the past, and the nature of the matter is of common human concern regardless of politics.

So, good triumphs, right? No. Sadly, we don’t live in a logical world where moral equations are adhered to. We live in a world of money, power and debt. Even if the U.N. wishes to pursue these matters, what will come of it? Sanctions, possibly? Though, if there are any, they won’t be substantial, how could they be?

The Office of the United States Trade Representative website states that in 2018 alone, imported goods from China totaled at $539.5 billion and supported around 911,000 jobs in America in 2015. All this culminates to one simple conclusion: China will likely be unscathed due to it being an essential economic powerhouse. As a consumer, you need only look at tags and manufacturing labels around your house to know how much we depend on China.

I will be clear with you all: I’m no business savant or juggernaut of politics. I understand the complexity of the situation the world is in, though not in depth like others. But I share one aspect: I’m human. I can imagine being imprisoned for my faith. I can imagine guards storming my cell one day and dragging me out.

I can imagine being strapped to an operating table, my last thoughts knowing that my most basic of human rights, the right of my body, will be violated as they kill me. Even typing these words gives me pause, knowing that this scenario is not abstract, but has been a reality for untold thousands in China. 

But we are not entirely without hope or power. As a democratic republic nation, we choose who we can do business with. As consumers in a digital age, we can be well informed on where the products we buy come from. As human beings born with unalienable rights, we can find the constitution and conviction to reassess who we do business with.

Just as China’s economic power wasn’t built in a day, neither can its deconstruction be in a day. But we can take steps. We can be vocal with companies who do much of their business or production in China. We can demand our representatives oppose trade deals that further tighten China’s economic stranglehold. In short, we can make a difference over time. 

If your conviction ever wavers, knowing what you know now, merely look to your smartphone and remember the pound of flesh it costs. My hope is that if not I, that a generation who takes my place can one day give justice to the victims of this heinous crime through economic responsibility and discipline. Let us start today with that progress.

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