Far-fetched and fantastical? One aspect of Squid Game could be all too real

Netflix’s hit dystopian drama – with deadly playground games, anonymous masked henchmen and a giant murderous doll – is far-fetched to say the least. And yet, arguably, one storyline underplays the grim reality.

In just four weeks, Squid Game, the Korean production where contestants play children’s games and the losing players are killed, became Netflix’s most popular series ever and number one in 90 countries.

In one storyline, guards take the bodies of losing contestants and operate on them, removing vital organs while the subjects are still alive. These organs are then rushed to be sold to Chinese traders.

A grim reality

Astonishingly, this black market story has some basis in reality. Illegal organ trading has become a widespread and lucrative business for illegal groups around the world, with one estimate suggesting that 10,000 kidneys alone are traded on the black market worldwide annually – more than one every hour.

In most countries, including the UK, criminal gangs bear primary responsibility for this sinister and sadistic trade. In 2018, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime reported that they had collected information on approximately 700 victims of trafficking in persons for removal of organs detected in 25 countries over 13 years. This is likely a conservative estimate.

For example, a few years ago people smugglers in Egypt would often target refugees and asylum seekers from countries like Eritrea and Sudan, telling them that they could raise money to pay for sea crossings into Europe by selling their organs. In other cases groups even abducted refugees to extort exorbitant ransom payments from their families and friends.  When payments were not forthcoming, vital organs were forcefully harvested in unhygienic conditions, generally resulting in the death of the person concerned.

China is also home to this sinister trade, but recent years have also seen allegations emerge which suggest it is home to another form of illegal organ harvesting – one sanctioned and organised by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) itself.

Organ harvesting on an industrial scale?

In particular, activists allege that the CCP is responsible for industrial level organ harvesting sometimes specifically targeted at members of ethnic and religious minorities and prisoners of conscience. CSW has not been able to independently verify these allegations, but the accusations certainly offer cause for concern in light of the CCP’s well-documented and egregious human rights violations.

For example, a series of reports by human rights lawyer David Matas, former Canadian cabinet minister David Kilgour and China analyst Ethan Gutmann, found evidence to suggest that Falun Gong practitioners – a spiritual movement which has been banned in China since 1999 – had been particularly and unwillingly targeted, finding that “the source of 41,500 [organ] transplants for the six-year period 2000 to 2005 is unexplained.”

In 2019 an independent people’s tribunal into forced organ harvesting of prisoners of conscience in China chaired by barrister and former judge Sir Geoffrey Nice QC also raised concern that forced organ harvesting may now be taking place amid the ongoing human rights crisis in the Uyghur region.  

Forced organ harvesting has been committed for years throughout China on a significant scale and that Falun Gong practitioners have been one – and probably the main – source of organ supply. The concerted persecution and medical testing of the Uyghurs is more recent and it may be that evidence of forced organ harvesting of this group may emerge in due course. The Tribunal has had no evidence that the significant infrastructure associated with China’s transplantation industry has been dismantled and absent a satisfactory explanation as to the source of readily available organs concludes that forced organ harvesting continues till today. The Tribunal further concluded that crimes against humanity against the Falun Gong and Uyghurs have been proved beyond reasonable doubt.”

Short form conclusion of the China Tribunal’s judgement

A call to action

The organ harvesting storyline is not one of the most dominant features of Squid Game, but it does illustrate that even the most far-fetched and horrifying stories can often have some basis in reality.

The programme’s themes of social injustice and discrimination have clearly struck a chord with audiences around the world, and our hope and prayer at CSW is that anyone stirred by the unspeakable horrors depicted in the show would be moved to stand up, speak out and challenge the equally grave atrocities taking place in our world today.

By CSW’s Head of Campaigns Dave Mance

Featured Image: Screenshot from Squid Game/Netflix


Imran Khan: Defender of Islam or political opportunist?

On 17 September 2021, less than a month after seizing control of the country, the Taliban effectively banned girls from secondary schools in Afghanistan after they ordered schools to resume classes for boys only.

The move marked a realisation of fears that had been raised ever since the Taliban regained power, and was met with widespread and routine international condemnation from countries and human rights organisations alike. One of the more surprising critics however was Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who told the BBC that preventing women from accessing education would be ‘un-Islamic’.

The reason for such surprise is that while Prime Minister Khan has expressed somewhat mixed feelings regarding the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, he has encouraged the international community, and particularly the United States, to recognise their authority. In addition, his own government has entered into talks with the organisation, and Khan himself has pledged to ‘forgive’ members of the group if reconciliation is achieved.

Developments such as these already start to make Khan’s criticisms of the Taliban ring hollow, but they are made even more interesting when considered in conjunction with his own rhetoric regarding what is and isn’t un-Islamic in his own country.

Continue reading “Imran Khan: Defender of Islam or political opportunist?”

Red tape and restrictions: India’s Foreign Contribution Regulation Act is preventing NGOs from doing their vital work

Home of Hope, Chennai, is a church-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) that helps underprivileged children and orphans with monthly sponsorship feeding programs, and helps women with microloans. Like many NGOs, Home of Hope relies on funds from generous donors across the globe to sustain their work, but the Indian government is making life increasingly difficult for this and many organisations like it.

Since amendments to the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) came into effect in September 2020, things have been different. Two boys receiving support from Home of Hope were prevented from sitting their final examinations in September as they were unable to receive the funds that helped pay their fees on time. Several other critical needs, such as healthcare for COVID-19 patients, were also left unmet due to the delay in funds. 

Of course, Home of Hope is not the only organisation affected by the new regulations. A majority of Christian charities, organisations and even educational institutions in India are funded by international donors, relying on them to survive. The FCRA amendments have made it almost impossible for them to function. 

Continue reading “Red tape and restrictions: India’s Foreign Contribution Regulation Act is preventing NGOs from doing their vital work”

India’s reservation policy is meant to help Dalits, as long as they don’t convert to Christianity or Islam

In June, we published a blog post detailing the history of Dalit conversion in India and how this can often be an act of self-liberation for members of this historically underprivileged community. This continues to this day, however there are those in the community, particularly those who convert to Christianity or Islam, who can continue to face discrimination and hardship even after conversion.

For this blog, we spoke to a Christian who works on Dalit and other human rights issues in the country, who shared some of her own experiences and shed light on the issues that persist for Dalits in India today.

“Growing up as a Christian in India, there were some decisions that you had to make early on in life. One such decision was what I would put my caste down as in my school’s admission form. I was taught that we are all God’s children and we are all equal, but why was I being asked to classify myself? I was a Christian, so I ticked the box that said OC (Other Caste) because we were taught that Christians don’t have castes and that was the only sensible option available. Also, because I was privileged to not know what caste I belong to. 

Continue reading “India’s reservation policy is meant to help Dalits, as long as they don’t convert to Christianity or Islam”

Six months after the coup, what are we going to do about Myanmar’s new nightmare?

By Benedict Rogers

Exactly six months ago yesterday, Myanmar, otherwise known as Burma, was plunged into yet another dark chapter in its history – perhaps one of the darkest yet.

On 1 February the army’s Commander-in-Chief, General Min Aung Hlaing, seized power in a bloody coup that overthrew the democratically elected civilian government, led to the arrest of most pro-democracy leaders, and ushered in a new era of brutal repression which many of us hoped had been consigned to Myanmar’s history.

Relentless repression

In the past six months, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, the junta has killed 940 civilians, arrested 6,994 and currently holds 5,444 political prisoners in jail. Among them are many of my friends – including the incredible Thin Thin Aung, Myawaddy Sayadaw and others.

Continue reading “Six months after the coup, what are we going to do about Myanmar’s new nightmare?”