China is harvesting organs from detainees in prison camps to feed a $1 billion transplant business, an international tribunal has found. More than 1.5 million people are being held in the camps, and some of them are being killed for their organs, NBC reports. In London, the independent China Tribunal called it a practice of "unmatched wickedness," exceeding the death toll inflicted by mass crimes in the last century. "Forced organ harvesting has been committed for years throughout China on a significant scale," the tribunal said. In 2014, China announced through state media that it would begin to rely on a national organ donation system, phasing out taking organs from executed prisoners. But the tribunal noted Monday the "impossibility of there being anything like sufficient 'eligible donors'" for the number of transplants taking place.
Investigators and witnesses told the tribunal that the victims include members of religious minorities such as Falun Gong, per the Guardian. Wait times for organs at hospitals are as short as a couple of weeks, the tribunal said, and investigators calling hospitals for information were sometimes told the organs came from Falun Gong members. The tribunal estimates that as many as 90,000 transplant operations a year take place in China, far more than the government reports. In many cases, the tribunal said, "people have died indescribably hideous deaths for no reason." China, which did not participate in the tribunal, says it follows international medical standards mandating that organ donations be made by consent. China did not immediately comment on the tribunal's findings. (Read more human rights stories.)