Japan's First-Ever Conviction For Illegal Organ Trafficking Shines Light On Forced Organ Harvesting

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by Tyler Durden
Friday, Dec 08, 2023 - 03:20 AM

Authored by Bin Zhao and Sean Tseng via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

In a landmark ruling, a Japanese court has convicted a non-profit executive of facilitating illegal overseas organ transplants for Japanese citizens.

Doctors carrying organs for transplant surgery at a hospital in Henan Province, China, on Aug. 16, 2012. (Screenshot/

On Nov. 28, the Tokyo District Court sentenced 63-year-old Hiromichi Kikuchi, chairman of the Association for Patients of Intractable Diseases, a non-profit organization. Kikuchi received an eight-month prison term and a fine of 1 million yen (around $6,800) for arranging organ transplants abroad for two Japanese citizens without government approval. His organization, which has been working with transplant patients for over fifteen years, is now under scrutiny.

The case, the first of its kind in Japan, has prompted widespread media coverage and heightened concerns over illegal organ transplants.

Mr. Kikuchi's conviction shows Japan's efforts to crack down on organ trafficking and forced organ harvesting. The transplants that led to his arrest took place in Belarus in 2022. However, the case has drawn attention to the grim reality of forced organ harvesting in China, as Mr. Kikuchi admitted that the vast majority of the transplants he has orchestrated since 2007 involved organs from China.

This verdict has sparked intense public debate in Japan, where organ harvesting is already a hotly contested topic because of widespread ethical reservations about the source of organs for transplant.

Forced Organ Harvesting

For years, investigations and reports have highlighted the practice of forced organ harvesting in China's major hospitals, with substantial evidence supporting the claims.

On June 25, 2022, The Epoch Times Japanese edition published an exclusive interview with Ushio Sugawara, a former member of Japan's largest "Yakuza" crime syndicate, Yamaguchi-gumi.

Mr. Sugawara, who left the underworld in 2015 to become an economic commentator, recalled an incident from 2007. At that time, he was involved in a liver transplant for a friend's brother, arranged through an intermediary, and costing about $220,000. The liver transplant took place at Beijing's Armed Police General Hospital.

After arriving in China, Mr. Sugawara visited his friend's brother at the hospital the day before the scheduled surgery.

He described seeing the donor, a 21-year-old Falun Gong practitioner labeled a "terrorist" and sentenced to death, unconscious and medicated, with bandages on his hands and feet. The hospital staff explained that the severing of tendons in the donor's hands and feet was to prevent escape and ensure the quality of the organs.

The transplant ultimately failed, resulting in the deaths of both the recipient and the donor.

After the report on forced organ harvesting practices by The Epoch Times Japan, several prominent Japanese media outlets, including Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan's largest newspaper, launched investigations into Japanese intermediaries in overseas organ transplants and found evidence against the Association for Patients of Intractable Diseases and Mr. Kikuchi.

The non-profit, according to its website, has been connecting Japanese patients with overseas hospitals, primarily in China, for organ transplants since 2003.

This timeline coincides with when Chinese hospitals began aggressively marketing organ transplants to foreign nationals.

Canadian human rights lawyer David Matas and the late David Kilgour, a former Canadian cabinet minister, have long investigated the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP's) organ transplant practices. Their 2006 report, which was expanded into the book "Bloody Harvest," raised suspicions that the CCP was illicitly harvesting organs and particularly targeting Falun Gong practitioners.

In 2016, Mr. Matas, together with Kilgour and London-based investigative journalist Ethan Gutmann, published "Bloody Harvest/The Slaughter: An Update." The 680-page report estimated that China was conducting 60,000 to 100,000 transplant surgeries annually.

'Organ Extractions for Profit'

On Oct. 10, the Tokyo District Court conducted its first hearing in the widely-publicized Kikuchi case. The defendant was charged with brokering organ transplant operations without government permission for two patients, in violation of Japan's organ transplant law.

Presiding Judge Baba Yoshiro said Mr. Kikuchi recruited patients for overseas organ transplants and expedited organ transplant surgeries within a matter of a few months. Japan's organ transplant law outlaws the sale of human organs and profiting through intermediaries.

In a startling admission, Mr. Kikuchi revealed that over the past two decades, his organization had facilitated about 170 transplants, with 90 percent of patients receiving transplants in Chinese hospitals. He highlighted the cost-effectiveness of the operations, noting that prices in China were significantly lower than in the United States. Following the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing travel restrictions, Mr. Kikuchi shifted his focus to Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

Mr. Kikuchi also outlined the costs involved: 20 million yen (approximately $136,000) for a kidney, 30 million yen (around $204,000) for a liver, 30–40 million yen ($204,000–$272,000) for a heart, and 40–50 million yen ($272,000–$340,000) for lungs. These figures included surgery, travel, and intermediary fees.

On Nov. 28, the court handed down its final verdict: Mr. Kikuchi was sentenced to eight months in prison and fined 1 million yen (about $6,778).

The decision was widely discussed online, with some Japanese netizens expressing outrage: "This group's inhumane acts, forcibly extracting organs from young individuals in China, are utterly deplorable," read one post.

Another post criticized the leniency of the sentence: "Kikuchi is essentially an accomplice to murder; this punishment is insufficient."

Initially, Mr. Kikuchi had maintained his innocence, claiming his actions "saved hundreds of lives." However, Hiroaki Maruyama, a representative for the Stop Medical Genocide (SMG) Network, vehemently disagreed with this perspective.

In an interview with The Epoch Times, Mr. Maruyama said the "Chinese hospitals' organ extractions from living persons for profit" contrasted with the principles of medical ethics.  Mr. Kikuchi, by engaging in these activities, not only abetted them but also implicated many Japanese patients unaware of the truth, he said.

Mr. Maruyama emphasized that Mr. Kikuchi's arrest and conviction, along with the media coverage surrounding it, shed light on a network of illegal intermediaries tied to the global organ black market, particularly CCP's large-scale forced organ harvesting.

These revelations represent just the surface of a much darker reality, he stressed. He called for legislation preventing Japanese citizens from seeking organ transplants in countries like China, which are known for human rights violations.