Sixty years ago, a vow of “Never Again” was the world’s reaction to the unspeakable horrors of Auschwitz.
But today, why do concentration camps still exist, despite our determination to stamp out this worst manifestation of human evil? Why have genocides happened in Cambodia, northern Iraq, Bosnia, Rwanda and now Sudan?
We may find some perspective in a shocking example that recently came to light. Last month, reports in the Epoch Times and the Washington Times uncovered gruesome details of Chinese concentration camps killing Falun Gong practitioners in the thousands and selling off their organs to the black market.
With millions held in custody since the 1999 suppression by the Chinese Communist Party, practitioners of the Falun Gong spiritual meditation have become a main feeder for these shocking human organ factories. A Chinese investigative journalist found that in Liaoning Province alone, the Sujiatun camp had harvested organs from approximately 4,000 Falun Gong practitioners before the Chinese government cleaned out the camp and invited U.S. officials on a guided tour. Essentially, a government policy of genocide and greed is underwriting this revolting trade in human organs, which has lined the pockets of camp officials in a vicious cycle of crime and profit.
The organ trafficking business is immensely lucrative. A single kidney transplant nets roughly $62,000 in China and the costs for a liver transplant can run up to $130,000, according to the China International Transplantation Network Assistance Center. In the United States, the median wait time for a kidney match is two years, and there were 63,092 patients on the wait list as of last August. In China, the CITNAC Web site states, “It may take only one week to find out the suitable donor, the maximum time being one month because the kidney transplant needs to find a HLA tissue match.” Chillingly, there is no wait time because there are plenty of live “organ banks” ready to be tapped. It is old news that Chinese prisoners are often executed for their organs on demand. But this is the first time that the world found out about these organ-harvesting concentration camps.
What will be our response this time? Horror, incredulity or more nonbinding resolutions?
The motto cannot be “Never Again” because it indulges in the unrealistic hope that human beings have moved beyond the capacity for unimaginable evil.
Darfur has taught us that publicity alone cannot stop genocides happening in broad daylight. Headlines reporting the massacre of millions are meaningless if people fail to understand how such evil degrades their human dignity, if governments dismiss it as a domestic issue of a foreign country and if the media worry about turning off the general public.
If we hope to move people and governments to action, then the horrors of genocide must be made relevant to our personal experiences and our moral sensibilities.
Once we put faces behind the victims’ names and lend our imagination to each individual story, it is not hard to feel the immediacy of the unutterable atrocities. In the eyes of the executioners confronting nameless strangers, the victims are nothing more than suppliers of organs, samples for medical experiments and “problems” to be solved. However, the same executioners would find it much more painful to push the button if their family members were to suffer instead. In destroying the latter victims they would be destroying a part of their life and identity.
If we hope to stop genocides as they unfold, then the media must bring out this human connection. The media reports have to go beyond listing simple numbers to investigate and capture the moving experiences of modern-day Anne Franks. It is these stories that will resonate with the readers. It is from these tragic pieces that a tangible narration of the genocide can be pieced together. It is these undeniable testimonies that will move the average readers to demand action from their government.
What, then, can we do today to avoid repeating the lessons of passivity?
In the case of the organ-harvesting camps, the answer is clear. During Chinese leader Hu Jintao’s visit to the United States this month, President Bush and University President Richard Levin should urge him to open up all the labor camps for immediate on-site visits by an outside investigative organization. We need better proof of human rights progress than the token release of high-profile prisoners and the purchase of Boeing airplanes.
More broadly, we must meet our responsibility to investigate all credible reports of genocide. Passivity has no place in the urgency of saving lives. In the words of Edmund Burke, “All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men and women do nothing.” It is up to us to answer the call.
Hao Wang is a junior in Morse College.