China's hidden policy of executing prisoners of the forbidden quasi-Buddhist group Falun Gong and harvesting their organs for worldwide sale has been expanded to include Tibetans, "house church" Christians and Muslim Uighurs, human rights activists said Monday.
In a news conference on Capitol Hill, several speakers, including attorney David Matas of B'nai Brith Canada and Ethan Gutmann of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, said their investigations have unearthed a grisly trade in which an estimated 9,000 members of Falun Gong have been executed for their corneas, lungs, livers, kidneys and skins.
They likened the practice to the Nazi treatment of Jewish prisoners in World War II concentration camps, which included using them for sadistic medical experiments and taking the gold fillings from the teeth of corpses.
The newest wrinkle, they said, is that organs from other religious prisoners — specifically dissidents from China's Christian, Muslim and Tibetan Buddhist communities — are also being harvested to satisfy an insatiable global demand.
"These groups are useless to the state," said Mr. Gutmann, author of a forthcoming book on Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa. "They are toxic, so you can't release them. But they're worth a great deal of money in terms of their organs."
Organs from just one person can fetch a total of $100,000 on the worldwide market, he added.
The Falun Dafa Information Center issued at Monday's news conference its annual report on China's persecution of Falun Gong.
The charges of organ harvesting and its spread to other religious and ethnic groups were made by the researchers and activists based on their extensive interviews with former prisoners and families of prisoners, and based on analysis of statistics, including health numbers, released by the Chinese government.
Although the practice of harvesting organs from prisoners has been documented as early as 1992 by Chinese dissident Harry Wu's Laogai Research Foundation, it was not until 2006 that the Epoch Times, a Falun Gong publication, accused the Chinese government of using its adherents for the practice.
In 2005, Chinese Vice Minister of Health Huang Jiefu acknowledged that 95 percent of all transplanted organs come from executions, said Mr. Matas, whose 2009 book "Bloody Harvest" co-written with Mr. Gutmann, details the practice.
"This is an abuse that can end," Mr. Matas said. "The Chinese may feel it can abuse the Falun Gong to stay in power, but it doesn't have to take their organs."
Falun Gong is a highly visible Buddhist revival movement that had spread across class and educational lines throughout the 1990s. The Chinese government has banned it since 1999, denouncing it as a "dangerous cult."
Founded in China in 1992 by Li Hongzhi, who now lives in the United States, it grew dramatically in only a few years. Its philosophies incorporate ideas from Buddhism and Taoism and include slow-motion meditative exercises on the principles of truthfulness, compassion and tolerance.
Its estimated membership in China is more than 70 million. Mr. Gutmann said 450,000 to 1 million Falun Gong members are in prison at any given time.
When contacted Monday, Wang Baodong, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy, had no response to accusations of organ harvesting.
In the past, Chinese government representatives have denied the allegations, saying the country abides by World Health Organization principles that prohibit the sale of human organs and require written voluntary consent from donors.
Still, in December 2006, the Australian government said it had abolished training programs for Chinese doctors in organ-transplant procedures in two hospitals and also banned joint research programs with China on organ transplantation. In early 2007, Israeli health insurance carriers stopped sending patients to China for transplants.
On March 16, the House of Representatives passed Resolution 605, urging the Chinese Communist Party to end its campaign against the Falun Gong and expressing "sympathy to Falun Gong practitioners and their family members who have suffered persecution, intimidation, imprisonment, torture and even death … because of adherence to their personal beliefs."
"The scale and scope of this persecution is severe," said Levi Browde, executive director for the Falun Dafa Information Center, "and with something this large, the news coverage doesn't match the scope of it. This is not a small fringe group. This is tens of millions of people. People think this is a weird fringe group but these are heartland Chinese with traditional Chinese values."
Mr. Gutmann pointed out that the White House has "no clear policy" on the Falun Gong.
"At present," he said, "the research we're presenting on this panel is a distraction at best and an annoyance at worst."
When the giant Internet search engine company Google disclosed in January that Chinese hackers had stolen information from its computers, that, he added, "was a wake-up call" to the U.S. government.