An Industry of Genocide: Why China’s Organ Harvesting Can’t Be Stopped? A Chat with Ethan Gutmann


Simone: China declared that it had stopped using prisoners’ organs for transplantation, and it solely depends on organ donations. But there is a problem.

Ethan Gutmann: So they started showing these voluntary donation numbers and the curve was perfect. And they very quickly came up with the fact that this curve was based on an equation.

Simone: The transplant industry exploded in China at the same rate as the explosion of Falun Gong flowing into jails and labor camps. They, and later the Uighurs, experienced the same bizarre routine.

Ethan Gutmann: So they’re given this blood test. And then a week later, three or four people, whatever they remember, would leave in the middle, would just be gone the next day. What was their age? 28.

Simone: Reports on systematic organ harvesting from Falun Gong prisoners first emerged in 2006. 16 years later, this practice is still going on. The victims have expanded from Falun Gong to the Uighurs. Why couldn’t it be stopped?

And who could be the next victims? I spoke with Ethan Gutmann, a pioneer researcher in this field and the author of the book “The Slaughter: Mass Killings, Organ Harvesting, and China’s Secret Solution to Its Dissident Problem”.

Simone: On March 17, 2006, Annie, a woman who used to work at the Liaoning Thrombosis Hospital of Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine in Sujiatun District, Shenyang disclosed to The Epoch Times that her hospital secretly detained a large number of Falun Gong practitioners.

Her ex-husband was involved in the surgery to remove organs from living Falun Gong practitioners. Since then, a large number of independent investigators have investigated the matter and have confirmed that the Chinese government has been conducting state-sanctioned, systematic forced organ harvesting from living prisoners of conscience, mainly Falun Gong practitioners, for organ transplantation. Ethan Gutmann is one of those investigators.

The Chinese government has always denied harvesting organs from prisoners of conscience or death row prisoners. However, after the revelation of the organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners, the Chinese Minister of Health, Huang Jiefu, suddenly admitted that most of the organs for organ transplants in China came from executed prisoners. His remarks are widely seen as an attempt to cover up the greater crime of organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience.

China officially announced in 2015 that it would stop using organs from executed prisoners. But there is evidence that organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience and political prisoners has not stopped in China.

Simone: So Ethan, you said in your speech that there’s evidence that forced organ harvesting in China is still going on. Tell me about that again.

Ethan Gutmann: Well, it is a complex picture, like everything in organ harvesting; we’ve had to do it. We’ve had to learn new techniques every time because the Chinese communist party always learns. So for example, they came out and said in 2015, we are no longer harvesting prisoners for their organs.

Now, what they didn’t tell you was two things. They didn’t tell you that they had denied ever harvesting, Falun Gong or Tibetans or Uighurs, or house Christians for their organs. So they were just speaking of prisoners on death row; prisoners who were convicted to death.

And they’re saying, we’re not harvesting them anymore, but even then they were lying because in their own press, they were saying, oh, no, prisoners can still be harvested. As long as they fill out the right forms. That’s all; the only difference was what they were saying in English and what they were saying in Chinese.

And to this day, the World Health Organization and the Transplantation Society, choose to act like they actually said we’re no longer harvesting prisoners.

Simone: So they endorsed their statement.

Ethan Gutmann: Well, they said that statement in English, but in the Chinese, they said something completely different. And I can show you the references if you like, because they were all over the Chinese media. They very quickly tried to reassure everybody in the country that don’t worry. There won’t be any shortage in organs. Okay.

Leaving that aside. Let’s say the English part counted. Well, the problem was that we had been working with some Falun Gong practitioners for many years. Me, Kil ..when I say me, I mean, Kilgore, Matas, myself, had been working with some Falun Gong practitioners for many years who’d been working. Actually it was two groups who’d been trying to estimate, volume, transplant volume in China, and they had done almost a, it was almost a superhuman effort to come up with this stuff, but they had traced every hospital they could and said, okay, how many, how many organs are they harvesting a year?

These weren’t estimates. They had to actually say how many organs they were harvesting every year. But what we, what quickly what’s striking about it is that even just putting a couple of hospitals together, you came up to a figure of 10,000. Now 10,000 was the figure that the Chinese medical establishment had been claiming for almost 10 years. They’ve been saying we do 10,000 transplants a year. Okay.

So we could come up with that with just a few hospitals, but we certainly, but then we realized there were 163 hospitals which were authorized by the Chinese state to do transplants. And when we started going, you know, estimating other, looking at other hospitals, we came up to numbers that were quite spectacular. In fact, we very quickly came up with a figure of at least 50,000.

Then when you started adding in some of the hospitals, which had actually claimed they were doing, you know, 5,000 transplants a year, we were up to a number of 60,000 to a hundred thousand. In fact, truthfully the figure came out to about 120,000. I did those figures. And it was about 120,000 per year.

Now I know something about China having lived there. You know, when somebody catches a fish in China, they catch a fish. They describe it. The fish is this big. It’s not, it’s really about this big, okay. Okay. So people exaggerate by about 20, 25% in most cases. So I said, okay, let’s lower it to a hundred thousand, not 120,000, a hundred thousand. Some people have said 90,000 instead. I don’t really care. It’s, we’re talking, either way, we’re talking about a figure of 80,000, transplants per year, something like that.

That’s very different than 10,000. So there was something very wrong with the Chinese story. So if they were no longer accepting, organs from prisoners or harvesting organs from prisoners. How would they get them? Well, the Chinese got very busy and they did two things. First of all, they started to say, well, actually we’re doing more than 10,000 per year. We’re moving very quickly.

Now, now we’re doing about 20,000 per year. But they also showed the voluntary donations going up. So in other words, they were trying to match our numbers, see how this is working. Okay. This is like, when you catch somebody in a lie and they start going, well, you know, no, I didn’t do that. I mean, I did some of that, but not that, some of it, and don’t worry, it’s no longer, I’m not longer, I’m no longer doing it.

Right. So they started showing these voluntary donation numbers and the curve was perfect. It was going like this. Well, that made me very curious, but it also made Matt Robertson and Jacob Levy and a statistician, very curious. And they got together and did, an advanced statistical study.

And they very quickly came up with the fact that this curve was based on an equation, a simple equation. So in other words, it’s a parabolic curve. That’s based on an equation. The chances of real life of getting voluntary donations to go up in that form are impossible. Okay. They’re a million to one. It doesn’t happen in real life. Quadratic curves like that only occur in design. Right?

So they were obviously lying about the voluntary donation in China. And, you know, you have to say, well, if they’re lying about them, then why wouldn’t they just tell the truth?

If they had a successful voluntary donation campaign. But they didn’t. Right, so we had a problem. So right there, we knew that something was wrong, but I think a larger signal that I was particularly attuned to, because don’t forget, I had studied, done direct research on Uighurs being harvested years ago. Kilgour and Matas didn’t do that. Matt Robertson didn’t do that, nor did Jacob Levy.

I was the first person to go out and start interviewing Uiguhrs about the 1990s before Falun Gong was even being oppressed. And what I’d found was that some, first of all, that live organ harvesting had first taken place in Xinjiang, in Northwest China. That they tried it out there for the first time.

And we have a doctor who actually did that. Envor Tohti who actually was forced to do such an operation. The man who’d been shot; the body was in shock, but the man was not dead. In fact, as Envor Tohti has more recently said if he had worked, operated on that man, the man could have survived. He killed him on the operating table.

So that’s what happened. He took out a kidney and two kidneys and a liver and, and the man died; the man expired. And he was alive when he was making the operation; you know, because the blood was pulsing. That was in 1995. So we know for a fact that live organ harvesting was taking place in Xinjiang.

In 1997 there’s a demonstration in Ghulja, in Xinjiang. It was over Ramadan. They weren’t allowed to practice Ramadan. And some of the Uighurs came to this town hall to demonstrate, and the Chinese police shot a lot of them. And then they went on. There was a lot of them. They arrested them en masse and so forth.

But what we also know is that in Ürümqiin, in the capital, for the first time, they started doing blood tests of the prisoners, political prisoners.

That’s new. Up til now all of Chinese organ harvesting – and it’s not that big a program – has been taking place on, on prisoners, regular prisoners. People who’ve who’ve committed crimes; sometimes very serious crimes.

And who’ve been sentenced to death. Now, I don’t know if those sentences are correct or wrong, or, uh, you know, I’m not there with a clipboard, but I can tell you that. I’m sure a lot of those people, you know, a lot of those people were duly sentenced to death; some were murderers and so forth. This was different. These were political prisoners. These were people who put their fist in the air and said, Allah akbar.

And suddenly they’re getting blood tested. And then five or maybe six Chinese cadres arrived. Very high ranking Chinese Communist Party cadres came in, presumably from Beijing, flew into Ürümqiin, and a Uighur doctor whom I interviewed was told to go in and do the blood tests again on the prisoners.

And he said, well, why? And he said, because they need kidneys. They’re here to get kidneys from these prisoners. And he sort of, I guess, looked a little alarmed or something. And then his supervisor said, don’t worry. These are very bad people. These are very bad people, very bad people. This is for the state.

It’s a good thing for the state. So anyways, these high ranking Communist Party cadres got their kidneys <ironic laugh>. Then they left. And then a couple of months later, some more came in.

Simone: That was when?

Ethan Gutmann: Now that’s in 1997. So in 1999 …and then it sort of died off, and maybe it could have all ended there, but in 1999, China declares the crackdown on Falun Gong and declares, doesn’t even declare Falun Gong illegal, but just treats it as illegal. And by 2000 you start getting the first exams in prisons and detention centers throughout China.

And initially they were very, very scared about doing these exams. The interesting thing is in 2000, 2001. I’ve talked to many Falun Gong practitioners who experienced those exams. And often it was like one at a time. They’d go to these medical exams. There’d be a man with two armed police on both sides of them. So there was a very intense process. They were very worried about something happening.

In fact the practitioners themselves did not have any special insight as to why they were being examined. And most of them, organ harvesting did not occur to them at all.

Simone: Did they? This is in retrospect. They realize what well …

Ethan Gutmann: And now, now they were… not always. You know, one of the interesting things about persecution is that there’s a great tendency for denial. What we call denial. You know, one of the ways. Yes, for the victim, because often one of the ways you keep your spirits up or keep yourself kind of, okay, is you don’t think about the worst thing.

That’s the way some people handle it. Some people think always about the worst. Some people it’s better they don’t think about the worst. So they go, there’s no way they’d do that to me. Or that won’t happen. So for example, I did meet a woman who was one of the earliest cases who had clearly been examined for her organs. And she – this is in Australia – and she said, oh, they never would’ve harvested me. I’m too important. Okay.

Now, in fact, they were examining her for organs and maybe she just didn’t have a good match. Who knows; maybe she was right. I don’t think she was right. I think she was wrong, but who knows? The bottom line is to make a long story short here, the transplant industry exploded in China because at the same rate, as the explosion of Falun Gong into the, what we call the Laogai system of China, the prisons, the black jails, the mental hospitals, obviously labor camps…

And that explosion hits every province. Every province builds a transplant hospital. Everybody gets in on the act, the techniques improve. They start learning how to use lungs, hearts. These become common over time. So they’re experimenting with people and the waiting time for an organ very quickly goes from, you know, China traditionally had a waiting time for organs of a couple of months or something like that.

It’s suddenly two weeks or less. You know, that’s what people leave out. They say, oh, until two weeks. No, it was actually less In 2006, there are several cases of hospitals which did emergency liver transplants. That is somebody comes in with an, an acute liver crisis. Okay. They’re at the point of death.

And four hours later, they have a matching liver and it’s transplanted. And the person, the day after the person is magically rising from the hospital bed. And this is unbelievable stuff. It’s the stuff of science fiction.

And it was only made possible because there were so many Falun Gong in detention. And so many had been tested for their organs, that there was a stable of tissue types, a stable of cross matching, where you could select, you had all these possibilities and you could select from them and pull one out.

That was a perfect or close to perfect match for whoever had a problem. And you could do it that fast. So this is, this is an astounding, point even in 2006. So by 2015, what’s changed? Well the year before 2015 there’s some evidence that they were starting to run out of Falun Gong or at least young Falun Gong practitioners.

Up til then they had been harvesting Falung Gong and mainly young Falun Gong. We’ve seen the records on this. Now they’re not recorded as Falun Gong, but it’s very clear. They say 28 year old male dies of heart failure.

Okay. And I really wanna make sure your camera catches this. 28 year old dies of heart failure. What are the chances? Do you know anyone? Have you heard of anyone in your life who has died of heart failure at age 28?

Do you have a friend or a friend of a friend who’s died of heart failure at age 28? This is nearly impossible. Okay. And that is one of the reasons that 28 year-olds are so valuable for organs. But Falun Gong is aging at this point. A lot of Falun Gong …. Some Falun Gong had left China. Some very dedicated people had been killed and a lot of people had gotten older.

So at that point in nine provinces, in 2014, the police start showing up in Falun Gong homes and opening the door and saying, you’re doing a blood test. Police doing this. And they do a cheek swab, a DNA cheek, swab. The combination of DNA and blood leads you to a perfect organ match. It’s the best possible match you can get.

Simone: Are you talking about, they go to, they went to Falun Gong homes to test Falun Gong practitioners?

Ethan Gutmann: Yes. Falun Gong homes to/for Falun Gong practitioners. These are people who are not in prison. They’re not in jail. They’re not in – they’re just Falun Gong at this point. Maybe they’ve been in the head brush with the law before. Maybe they’ve had a little trouble before, but at this point, they’re just at home. The significance of that…

At first, when I heard about this story, this came out in Minghui. And when I first heard about it, I said, this is a scare tactic. They’re just trying to scare people. They can’t really be doing this. But I was wrong. They were. They were trying to select. to see if they could get them from their homes. They’re looking for young people.

Simone: Do you have evidence that people who were tested at home, forced tested at home, were taken away?

Ethan Gutmann: Well, we know we do have some evidence that a lot of them were arrested later on pretext. So we don’t know about did they, were, they just grabbed from their homes and take it away? Probably not. That’s not the way that … that’s not the way the CCP works.

They tend to not want to do things that way. They’ll sort of say you’re being arrested for this and that. And then, then you just disappear into that system. Now, as Matas has pointed out, and a lot of practitioners have pointed out too, Falun Gong were extremely vulnerable of across us because they were not giving their names in many cases, and not even saying which province they were from.

So that meant that their families couldn’t really advocate for them. And of course they were trying to protect their families from damage. Similar situation arises with the Uighurs.

But we’ll get into that briefly. The bottom line is that what this tells us that about 2014, they’re running out; they’re, they’re going low on this. Uh, and what happens in 2015? There’s an announcement that every Uighur in Xinjiang has to be health checked, given a health check.

Every Uighur above the age of 12 must some mandatory health check. People formed long lines all over in bizaars and in shopping centers and all kinds of places, school houses, and were given health checks. These were basically blood tests and other brief tests. But the main thing was the blood test. What they’re trying to do is map out the population. Han Chinese half of Xinjiang, as you know, is Han Chinese.

They didn’t have to take any tests. There was no mandatory health check for them at all. Okay. So this was Uighurs and I believe Kazakhs, I’m not even sure about Hui… Yeah. Hui too, at that time, I’m not even sure they were sort of, they were always in between. Okay. They’re giving that test. That’s 2015. By 2016, the camps have begun. And the tests are done. That’s when, you know, these people start pouring into these camps. Okay.

Simone: So 2015, they had the test. In 2016, they built the camps and they put those, people who had been tested to the camps.

Ethan Gutmann: Right. And the interesting thing of course is that the camps did, were featuring mainly young …. They were going after young people and middle aged people, they weren’t going that much after…

Simone: Not like every single one who has been tested is, is put into camp.

Ethan Gutmann: No, no, because older people are pretty much exempt from all this. In a sense, you can say whatever’s happening to older people is sort of for show. We don’t tend to think of them as great candidates for organs. You can use elderly organs, but I wouldn’t. Why would you trade an old, you know, if I needed an organ, why would I trade it for another old organ?

I mean that doesn’t make a lot of sense. The point is this … when we look at the camps and what happened to Uighur villages, for example, they became places – and many people have described this who’ve been through them – with nothing but little kids and old women. Sometimes elderly men. So it’s like elderly people and little kids and all the rest of the people are gone.

There are no young people. Okay. There’s I mean, any adolescents were in there – you know, all the way from 15 up and people of 45 were in there. The rest is just left behind.

Now, what we know at this point is that 2017, the camps are fully constructed and we probably have, and it’s very hard to make these estimates, but based on what we see from satellite technology, it’s probably at least 2 million in the camps at that point. It’s an extraordinary number.

Now I tend to use the figure 1 million, because it’s a conservative figure. It’s simple to defend. I think everybody can accept that at least 1 million people are in the camps. Even now, 1 million people in the camps. And what I did, and this is, I think, the important point I bring in here, is that I went to Kazakhstan because…

I only was interested in talking to people who’d actually been inside the camps. I wasn’t interested in family members. That’s not that I wasn’t interested, but they weren’t helpful to me. Stories about people who they … you know, my mother’s in the camp.

I mean, I can’t help with this. There’s nothing I can do. What I can do is try to interview people who’d been inside the camps. What did you see? And I asked them who went missing? Who left the camp? And they said, well, sometimes some, occasionally an old person would leave the camp because they got sick.

And I’m like, okay. And they’d say, but there was a definite group who left the camp and they were usually about 18 years old. And I said, tell me about that. And they said, well, this is young. This is very young people. Uh they’re they’re about 18 and, and maybe girls, right. And young women.

And they would, would’ve be announced at lunch, usually that they were graduating. This is the term they used ‘graduating,’ which meant that they were going to work in a factory out east, in Eastern China.

Yeah. They were not gonna come back. They wouldn’t see their families again. They were just gonna go and work in some factory. Or sometimes they were going to work in a cotton plantation, essentially a place where they pick cotton and grow cotton in Xinjiang; sometimes they were going in Xinjiang.

A lot of times out east, whatever. They would announce this. And it was almost like an award. It was like people were sometimes they even encouraged you to applaud a little bit for these young women who were going away. Well, that was done very openly but there was one other group.

They all said, well, there’s this other group. And this is about, um, talking about 10 witnesses, which doesn’t seem like much, but we only have 10 witnesses over here in the west. So these are 10 in Kazakhstan.

So I’m doubling the witnesses essentially, which is not easy. And they what’s the other group? Well, they said, well, these other people would disappear in the middle of the night. I said, well, what were the circumstances that?

Well, they say, well, we don’t really know. We except that they, we were all given a blood test. I said, when did you give them the blood test? And you know about a week before. So they’re given this blood test. And then a week later, three or four people, whatever they remember, would leave in the middle, would just be gone the next day. What was their age? 28.

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