Human organ trafficking documentarian honoured with immigrant award

Leon Lee came to Vancouver from China over 10 years ago but made waves worldwide in 2014 for his film, Human Harvest, which exposed illegal human organ trafficking in China.

Leon Lee's film, Human Harvest, exposed human organ trafficking in his home country

Chinese-born filmmaker Leon Lee (left) is being honoured in Toronto as one of the Top 25 Canadian Immigrants of 2016. (Human Harvest/Facebook)

A Vancouver filmmaker is being honoured in Toronto as one of the Top 25 Canadian Immigrants of 2016.

Leon Lee came to Canada from China over 10 years ago but made waves in 2014 worldwide for his film, Human Harvest, which exposed illegal human organ trafficking in China.

"It's an incredible honour and a very meaningful award for me personally," Lee told On The Coast guest host Michelle Eliot. "Where I'm from, if I were to make a film, like, say, Human Harvest, I would not be expecting an award."

Human Harvest looks into the thousands of cases of for-profit organs transplants being done in China, often for medical tourists.

The source of the organs, the film alleges, are prisoners of conscience, especially Falun Gong practitioners, who are executed.

Recipients have 'lifelong burden and remorse'

Lee interviewed many Falun Gong practitioners who said they were tortured while in Chinese custody and were frequently blood-tested — presumably to see if they were suitable matches for transplant.

"China has been using the organs of death row prisoners for years, and some of these prisoners of conscience are treated even worse," he said. "Using organs from someone who they deem to be even worse than death row prisoners is not a big jump."

He also interviewed the medical tourists who received the organs.

"Many of them would just fly there and get a transplant several days later. They also described how shady the whole process looks … they were not allowed to ask the source of the donor," he said.

"After they find out the source of the organ, it was a lifelong burden and remorse."

Since Human Harvest came out, Lee says, awareness about the issue has increased markedly, which he hopes will lead to international pressure on China and eventually change.

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast


To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Filmmaker who exposed organ trafficking in China honoured as one of Canada's top immigrants