When a young tech wiz discovers that the heart transplant he got in China was taken from a prisoner in a forced organ “donation,” he risks his life to save the next victims of China’s organ harvesting program…in The Bleeding Edge. [Dir: Leon Lee/ Jay Clift, Anastasia Lin, Tony Bai, James Yi / 90 min/ Thriller/ Government as Torturer, Democide]
The Bleeding Edge is the story of two people whose disparate lives are accidentally intertwined by fate in a spiral of events – horrifying events that ultimately reveal a terrible secret.
A young tech entrepreneur, James (Jay Clift), is in China to sell the Chinese government a cutting-edge software that will help improve its Orwellian monitoring of the population. He’s a naïve and cynical person, just interested in getting a pile of money, without much concern about how he accomplishes that end. Meanwhile, unknown to James and just miles from him also in Shanghai, Jing (Anastasia Lin), a faithful believer of the Falun Gong religion, is caught distributing religious material. She and her husband are arrested and separated in prison. Conditions in prison are brutal, and gradually escalate in brutality, even to torture, as the two refuse to publicly reject their faith, a condition of their release.
What brings these two stories together is the Chinese government’s policy of selling prisoner organs via forced organ transplants. After James wins the tech contract he so desperately wants, he has a heart attack. When he wakes up in the hospital, he is surprised to find that he has received a heart transplant, even more so to learn that he is in a hospital where Westerners are generally receiving transplants on demand, while organs in the West typically involve very long waiting lists. He is told cheerily that he is very valuable to the Chinese government because it wants that improved monitoring ability his technology promises and they “take care of their own.”
Concerned about where his new heart may have come from, James does a little detective work and soon learns that his heart is that of Jing’s executed husband. In an agony of guilt, he decides he must save her, against all odds and whatever the risk.
This is a powerful premise, and it’s played out to good effect, as the film alternates between the lives of these two people, in a steady and effective escalation of suspense.
It’s all the more moving when you realize that although the specific characters are fictional (at least to my knowledge), the basis of the story is true. Western technology companies did indeed cynically help the Chinese government build its “Golden Shield Project,” through which it has been able to successfully monitor the online conversations of its large population, and arrest with who knows what consequences those who speak out against it. Even “don’t be evil” Google caved to the rich prospect of the Chinese market. And, with regard to forced organ harvesting in China, there are now four films on the subject and entire international organizations dedicated to stopping it. The film ends, powerfully, with audio from a few Chinese who have witnessed live forced organ transplants telling what they saw.
You could use many words to describe The Bleeding Edge: chilling, disturbing, powerful, courageous, moving. It’s a film that stays with you after the end, not only because it’s a story well told, but because the horrors it describes are happening right now. Normally we learn about such atrocities well after socialist governments collapse, when the hidden truth is finally revealed in a giant pit of emaciated bodies or when some death camp survivor writes a best-selling book. This time it’s real-time.
It must be added that in relation to the making of this film there has been heroism off screen as well. Lead actress Anastasia Lin, a Chinese immigrant to Canada who won the Miss World Canada title in 2015, has used her newfound prominence to promote human rights in China, this film being a part of that effort. Director Leon Lee earlier made the documentary Human Harvest on this same subject of forced organ harvesting in China. Given the long memory and long arm of the Chinese government, these two and for that matter the whole cast of this film, have taken on some risk in its telling.
One caveat: you can’t make a film about something this horrible without showing some of that horror, so as one might expect there are a few graphic scenes. I confess at these times I looked away, but get through them as you have to. The film is worth watching to the end.
External Reviews of The Bleeding Edge
“The Bleeding Edge is a deeply emotional and powerful film that borders somewhere between a thriller and a piece of investigative journalism.” —Tuidang
How to See It
“Doctors and medical students working in state-run civilian and military hospitals take up to 11,000 organs a year from donors under no anesthetic to supply China’s lucrative ‘organs on-demand’ transplant program, say a network of investigators comprised of international researchers, doctors and human rights lawyers attempting to end the macabre abuses.”
The Sydney Morning Herald: China’s gruesome live organ harvest exposed in documentary
“In an effort to increase the chances of successful transplant, Gutmann writes, the organs are often taken from prisoners while they are still alive. Gutmann estimates that to date, more than 64,000 Falun Gong practitioners have suffered this fate, with more being added to the count every day.”
NY Post: China’s long history of harvesting organs from living political foes
“Phone interviews by David Kilgour and David Matas revealed that in 17 locations in China, organs were procured from detained Falun Gong practitioners. This suggests that organ harvesting in China is a widespread, systematic, state-sanctioned atrocity.”
–DAFOH: Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting
“Mass murder is alive and well. That is the stark conclusion of this comprehensive investigation into the Chinese state’s secret program to get rid of political dissidents while profiting from the sale of their organs–in many cases to Western recipients. Based on interviews with top-ranking police officials and Chinese doctors who have killed prisoners on the operating table, veteran China analyst Ethan Gutmann has produced a riveting insider’s account–culminating in a death toll that will shock the world.”
–Book: The Slaughter: Mass Killings, Organ Harvesting, and China’s Secret…
“It’s a story straight out of a horror movie, but it’s been common practice in China for more than a decade. State-run hospitals have secretly harvested body parts from tens of thousands of prisoners, removing their vital organs while they are still alive.”
News.com.au: China’s other big business: Harvesting organs from prisoners when they’re still alive
“One doctor, who spoke anonymously because he still practices in China, vividly described a scene in 1992…his surgical task, to remove the liver and the kidneys from a man who had just been executed by a shot through the heart, was technically simple but emotionally complicated by the mark of a wire around the man’s neck, indicating that the police had forcibly prevented this particular man from speaking up in court.”
–World Affairs: Bitter Harvest: China’s ‘Organ Donation’ Nightmare
“Allegations surfaced in 2006 that the disappeared were being killed for their organs which were sold for large sums mostly to foreign transplant tourists. It is generally accepted that China kills prisoners for organs. The debate is over whether the prisoners who are killed are only criminals sentenced to death or Falun Gong practitioners as well. The authors produced a report concluding that the allegations were true.”
–Book: Bloody Harvest: Organ Harvesting of Falun Gong Practitioners in China
“When reports first emerged from China in 2006 that state-run hospitals were killing prisoners of conscience to sell their organs, it seemed too horrible to be true. However, a new documentary is about to blow the lid on the illegal organ trade that is now allegedly worth a staggering US$1 billion a year. This despite the fact 10,000 organs are transplanted in China every year, yet there are only a tiny number of people on the official donor register.”
–Daily Mail: A Human Harvest: China’s organ trafficking exposed in shocking documentary that alleges the illegal trade is now worth a staggering US$1 billion a year
“Among the eyewitnesses cited by Lee are a Chinese police officer who claims to have seen organs harvested from a woman who was tortured and raped for days, before she was mutilated without anesthetic, and the wife of a doctor said to have extracted the corneas of some 2,000 patients while they were still alive. She alleges that some of the victims were subsequently burned alive after the cornea extractions, and that the Chinese government tried to assassinate her husband after he fled from his grisly job.”
–Breitbart: Report: China harvests organs from live prisoners
“China’s organ transplant numbers are second only to the United States. Unlike any other country, virtually all Chinese organs for transplants come from prisoners. Many of these are prisoners of conscience. The killing of prisoners for their organs is a plain breach of the most basic medical ethics.”
–Book: State Organs: Transplant Abuse in China