A monstrous crime against humanity

Published by The Mail on Sunday (1st March, 2020)

China has slaughtered thousands of its citizens to harvest organs such as hearts, lungs, kidneys, eyes and even skin for sale and to transplant into sick patients in hundreds of hospitals across the country.

A landmark international investigation, published in full today, will accuse the Beijing government of covering up ‘crimes against humanity’ that have been routinely carried out against religious minorities.

The inquiry says the organised butchery of living people to sell body parts can be compared ‘to the worst atrocities committed in conflicts of the 20th Century’ such as the Nazi gassing of Jews and Khmer Rouge massacres in Cambodia.

Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, a prominent war crimes prosecutor who led the probe, told The Mail on Sunday that there was such clear evidence of ‘systemic and widespread’ organ harvesting that international bodies should investigate if China is guilty of genocide.

‘There is a systematic programme to kill people. They have willing doctors, an enormous medical infrastructure, and it is by all accounts a very lucrative business,’ he said. ‘Our Government should accept it is going on and take appropriate action.

‘If you had clear evidence of crimes against humanity being committed closer to home in Europe, not only would the Government act but the public would demand they act. It should not matter this is on the other side of the world.’

Beijing has admitted – after first denying – regular use of executed prisoners for organ donation but strongly rejects allegations that it targets followers of Falun Gong, a banned spiritual group branded an ‘evil cult’ by Communist Party chiefs.

The Chinese government insists it has instigated a voluntary system of organ donation since 2015 – but this claim is undermined by substantial evidence gathered by the inquiry and analysis of ‘unbelievable’ official data by medical experts.

An article in a Chinese medical journal even discusses the need to anaesthetise a donor in a heart-lung transplant operation, a procedure that would obviously lead to their death.

There are growing fears that Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang – who are being rounded up in vast numbers and imprisoned in ‘re-education’ camps – are also being used for supply of body parts after evidence that many have been forced to undergo medical tests.

Signs were also spotted recently at airports in western China – home to Uighur and other Muslim minority groups being terrorised by the state – for ‘special’ passengers directed through a ‘human organ transport channel’.

One was written in English as well as Chinese, which indicates it was to guide foreign visitors.

Investigations into ‘transplant tourism’ by a Japanese journalist uncovered prices of $200,000 (£156,000) for a kidney and $300,000 (£234,000) for a liver in 2013.

The China Tribunal was set up to focus attention on horrors taking place in the hospitals of the world’s most populous nation. It believes they have carried out up to 90,000 organ transplant operations a year – far more than any other country.

The British Government, like most other Western nations and international bodies, claims there is insufficient evidence to back claims of systematic organ harvesting. 

Yet one article published last year in a respected journal of medical ethics recorded that Chinese officials had admitted that only 130 of the 120,000 organ transplants between 1977 and 2009 came from voluntary donors.

The China Tribunal was initiated by the International Coalition To End Transplant Abuse in China, a group of academics, doctors, ethicists and lawyers.

Panel members included Professor Martin Elliott, former medical director of Great Ormond Street Hospital, and Prof Arthur Waldron, a leading US historian and Asia expert.

Its 556-page judgment admits it is difficult to get evidence but concludes ‘very many people have died indescribably hideous deaths’ due to ‘extreme wickedness’ that ‘beyond reasonable doubt… constitute crimes against humanity’.

Witnesses spoke of forced organ harvesting going back decades. One former medical intern told the tribunal of a soldier who was tied up and shot but not killed, so that his kidney and eyeballs could be extracted while he was alive.

The report highlights evidence from Wang Gouqi, a burns specialist, who told a US congressional committee in 2001 that he removed skin and corneas from 100 executed prisoners and some ‘victims of intentionally botched executions’. Gouqi said he learned the skills in a Beijing army hospital.

When the corpses of executed prisoners arrived in the autopsy room, doctors rushed to strip off the skin since it ‘could generate significant income, charged by the square centimetre’.

Among those who spoke to the inquiry was Enver Tohti, a former Chinese doctor who is now an Uber driver in London after fleeing here in 1999.

He told The Mail on Sunday that he was an oncologist in a hospital for railway workers when his chief surgeon asked if he would like to see ‘something wild’, ordering him to prepare a surgical team and instruments for the following day.

The next morning, they drove to execution grounds on the fringe of Urumqi, where his boss told him to wait for gunshots.

After hearing gunfire, they drove as instructed around a hillock where they saw about ten dead prisoners on the ground. ‘They had been shot in the head so their foreheads were blown away. But there was one civilian in his 30s with hair, not a shaved head, who had been shot in the chest. I was told to remove his liver and two kidneys.

‘I assumed he was still alive because when I cut into him, blood came out so his heart must have been pumping. The body also reacted when I sliced in.

‘We had been taught that eliminating enemies of the state was our duty, so if he was sentenced to death he was an enemy of our state. But now I feel that I killed someone. That man died because of my actions when I removed his organs.’

Mr Tohti also said he examined three Uighur teenage boys who had gone missing, then returned with big U-shaped surgical scars consistent with kidney removal. Scans confirmed each had lost a kidney.

Most of the atrocities have been carried out on Falun Gong followers. Communist Party leaders launched a campaign in 1999 to eradicate the sect, a form of Buddhist meditation that attracted tens of millions of members.

‘They often exercise their bodies, so their bodies are very good,’ one prison doctor told a jailed Falun Gong follower, adding that if he crossed the Communist Party, ‘your heart, liver, spleen and lungs will be taken.’

Another who gave evidence to the inquiry was Yin Liping, 51. She said she was sent three times to forced labour camps before escaping China in 2013.

She was frequently tortured, imprisoned in solitary confinement and subjected to regular death threats as a Falun Gong member. While held in a camp in Liaoning province, she was taken to a hospital where guards held her down as blood was extracted, before she was dragged off for ultrasound and brain activity tests.

‘I was very scared,’ she said. Another witness, a medical engineer jailed in 2016, said that after a few months in prison he was taken by guards to its hospital.

‘I was forced to put my arm through a hole in a window. The nurse then wrapped a rubber band around my arm and put a needle into my vein and took two glass tubes of blood.’

He said only Falun Gong followers were given blood tests. ‘I was very afraid that I would be killed for my organs. I lived in fear that I would be killed until my release.’

The inquiry heard similar stories from Uighurs. One woman said she was hooded, stripped and forced to have medical tests, then taken to a hospital for examination. ‘Many women were taken from cells and they did not come back,’ she said.

Omir Bekali, a Uighur arrested in March 2017, told of having blood tests followed by organ scans while hooded and handcuffed. ‘When I heard them speaking about my examination, I was terrified they might open me alive to remove some of my organs to sell them. It was a very traumatic experience,’ he said.

Another witness forced to undergo similar tests in detention claimed the families of executed Uighurs were banned from seeing bodies or cleaning corpses, in keeping with their burial customs. He suspected this was due to removal of their organs.

The Mail on Sunday has seen footage reportedly shot in a Xinjiang hospital last summer showing huge numbers crammed inside and long queues outside.

A Uighur activist said it followed a sinister order for everyone in one city to undergo medical tests. He claimed that organs harvested from the country’s Muslim minorities were viewed as ‘halal’ because they were removed from people who had avoided pork and alcohol.

Saudi Arabian transplant doctors have admitted some patients buy organs on the Chinese market.

The report contains transcripts of taped conversations from investigators with a campaign group that called 80 different hospitals. Fifteen said they used Falun Gong donors and 14 more admitted using live organs.

Zhu Jiaxin, head of a security agency in Mudanjiang, was recorded boasting in June 2016 about his role in organ harvesting: ‘After slaughtering and opening up the belly, you just carve out the organs and sell them.’

He brags that his nickname is ‘The Butcher’, saying: ‘It is nothing – just like slaughtering pigs.’

The tribunal details extensive torture, including rape and sexual abuse. Several witnesses mention the ‘Tiger Chair’, which locks a prisoner by the arms and legs before a helmet is placed on their head to deliver powerful electric shocks.

Its judgment concludes ‘with certainty’ that Christians and Tibetan Buddhists have been jailed and tortured in similar ways but finds ‘insufficient evidence’ that they have been killed for their organs.

One damning finding is the availability of organ transplants on demand – a stark contrast to Western nations such as Britain, where sick patients can wait for years before a suitable body part becomes available.

Jacob Lavee, one of Israel’s top heart transplant surgeons, told me that in 2005 he learned a patient was travelling to China for a new heart – the first such case he had come across.

The operation was fixed for two weeks ahead – yet this organ must be moved within four hours of a donor’s death for successful transplant. ‘The only way this could happen was if someone was being executed,’ he said.

After seeing several more patients following suit, he and other doctors persuaded the Israeli parliament to ban the purchase, funding and sale of organs. More than 40 British MPs backed a motion for a similar measure.

Last year, Prof Lavee and two fellow experts published a paper in a medical journal that concluded China was engaged in ‘systematic falsification’ of official data, which shows transplant cases more than doubling over the past five years.

They found ‘contradictory’ and ‘implausible’ figures that included ‘mis-classification of non-voluntary donors as voluntary’ along with willing donations ‘incentivised by large cash payments’.

Prof Lavee has no doubt the majority of the 712 transplant hospitals in China used organs from unethical sources such as prisoners held on religious grounds.

He said: ‘Chinese physicians are not only involved in mass murder and crimes against humanity but the international community and World Health Organisation for some reason shut their eyes against these crimes.’

Fiona Bruce MP, chairman of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, said she would seek a meeting with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab following the China Tribunal’s judgment. ‘This is a deeply concerning issue that merits more serious scrutiny by our Government and the international community,’ she said.

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