‘Harvested Alive: The Ten-Year Investigation,’ a documentary on forced organ harvesting in China, stunned its audience on Friday night with attendees calling the event “shocking” and “eye-opening”.
The screening served as the premiere of the English language version of the documentary, and was hosted at Victoria University in Melbourne.
Advertised on Facebook, the free event quickly gathered 164 registered attendees, booking out of seats days beforehand.
The screening pulled a diverse crowd, with Australian and international students, as well as professionals and older enthusiasts in attendance, many of whom stayed behind after the screening to voice their opinions and concerns.
The documentary, instigated and directed by former aviation-doctor Zhiyuan Wang, and produced by award-winning director and producer Jun Li, examines the organ transplantation boom in China, which began in 1999, and investigates the sources of organs harvested.
Participants were eager to question documentary makers Wang and Li in a Skype interview immediately following the event, which lasted longer than the run time of the film.
The Q&A was aided by several language interpreters.
Between 1999 and 2005, China’s rate of organ transplants increased on average by 483% per year.
In comparison, the worldwide organ transplant industry grows just 5% annually.
Deemed an “explosive increase” by documentary director Zhiyuan, the film alleges that the organs were harvested from living Falun Gong practitioners, a persecuted spiritual denomination.
The practise was established in 1992, and quickly grew in popularity, reaching between 70 – 100 million members by 1999.
It was banned the same year by members of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), who believed the practise to be at odds with the party’s political ideology.
Falun Gong is a form of spiritual meditation based on principles of truthfulness, compassion and tolerance, and is founded in ancient Chinese culture.
U.S. based prisoners’ rights group Dui Hua believe that 41,500 Falun Gong practitioners have been killed for their organs, while other organisations place the number much higher.
Despite claims by Chinese officials that the persecution has stopped, many Falun Gong practitioners continue to be harassed and arrested today.
The event’s organiser, Leigh Smith, was introduced to the documentary and its director through friends, who practise Falun Gong.
After seeing the documentary for herself, Smith decided that it was important to spread the word on forced Chinese organ harvesting.
“If more people know and care, these things will stop,” she said, emphasising the importance of making sure people travelling to China for transplants know the origin of their organ.
“People need to know if someone is being killed for their body parts,” she explained.
The documentary drew on eyewitness testimonies, phone interviews with doctors and nurses, and official records to expose details surrounding the conspiracy over a period of 10 years.
It is critically-acclaimed, having won dozens of international awards, including the Hollywood International Independent Documentary Awards best foreign documentary feature category for January 2017.
The English-language version of the documentary can be viewed on YouTube, and runs just over an hour long.