A conference in Brussels has been told that the Nobel peace prize bestowed on the EU gives it a "moral responsibility" to promote human rights around the world.

By Martin Banks - 10th December 2012

EU leaders, including commission president José Manuel Barroso and European council president Herman Van Rompuy were in Oslo on Monday to receive the award.

Speaking at a conference on the trade in human organs, Willy Fautre, director of Human Rights Without Frontiers, a Brussels-based NGO, said, "Since winning the peace award, the EU has an increased moral responsibility to enhance its policy on promoting human rights around the world, in particular in China."

Fautre said the EU could do this through various channels, including human rights dialogue, the EU's China delegation and the various trade agreements with China.

He added, "This does not have to be a source of conflict or confrontation but China must be open to the EU's concerns about its human rights record."

China's organ transplant industry has grown rapidly over the past decade but the source of organs used for transplants remains controversial.

Fautre said that on the issue of 'organ harvesting', the EU's foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton had a particular responsibility to "ensure her voice is heard in Beijing".

The event, which was held on "international human rights day," heard allegations that the Chinese regime had "systematically" participated in the "killing of prisoners for the purpose of selling their organs for high profit on the transplant market".

It was said that Chinese authorities are implicated in the practice, including "top level" Communist party officials.

He added, "There are many unwanted groups that these organs may be taken from, the Falun Gong being one of the main groups.

"The illegal trade in human organs is indeed a highly lucrative business," said Huige Li, a German-based academic with Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting.

He said, "Pressure from outside is important and that includes the EU. It needs to point out to the Chinese regime where it is going wrong on issues like human rights."

According to former Canadian secretary of state David Kilgour and human rights lawyer David Matas - as well as evidence and statements from different medical doctors - "tens of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners were killed systematically by the Chinese regime for their organs".

Matas, from Canada, told a parliament hearing on 6 December that the "overwhelming" proportion of organs for transplants in China come from prisoners.

He said, "The Chinese government acknowledges this and accepts that the sourcing of organs from prisoners is ethically wrong."