Authentication and Analysis of Purported Undercover Telephone Calls Made to Hospitals in China on the Topic of Organ Trafficking
V.O.C. China Studies Working Paper 1/2020. Version 1.
19 Pages Posted: 8 Mar 2020
Date Written: February 11, 2020
The People’s Republic of China operates one of the largest organ transplantation systems in the world as measured by transplant volume, yet its operations are cloaked in official secrecy. A great deal of contention has surrounded the source of the organs, whether voluntary donors, death row prisoners, or prisoners of conscience. It is difficult to gather reliable data about the operations of China’s transplant program, and Chinese authorities have been found to disseminate falsified donor registry datasets. One source which may shed light on empirical questions about China’s transplant system is a cache of telephone calls made by investigators to transplant hospitals in China. The investigators pose in a range of plausible identities, and make enquiries about organ availability, health, and donor source. The matter of whether these telephone calls may be used as valid evidence in social scientific research is not immediately clear, given questions of source and selection bias, and even the basic facticity of the calls themselves. This working paper aims to establish whether or not the audio files are in fact what they purport to be — that is, actual calls to hospitals in China — and considers issues associated with their potential use by researchers.
Keywords: organ trafficking, human rights, authoritarian secrecy, contentious politics, source verification
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