This is the 2nd part in a 4-part series: Murder, Money, and Spies: An Investigative Series on the Chinese Military’s For-Profit Ventures
The Chinese regime is looking for ways to rein in its military officers, who have for decades been tapping extracurricular sources for extra income. Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping recently announced that military officials will need to live off their salaries, noting there shouldn’t be any “grey income.”
The new order from Xi may have China’s military officers shaking in their boots. Around the same time Xi made the announcement, 16 Chinese generals were placed under investigation, and it’s very likely a longstanding policy that has quietly supported corruption in China’s military is playing in the backs of their minds.
These areas of “grey income” could tie to some of the most serious human rights abuses taking place in China today. Recent evidence suggests the Chinese regime is buying the loyalty of military officers with black market industries and blood-stained money.
“The military has a lot of leeway in the Chinese society, ‘entrepreneurial’ leeway,” said Ethan Gutman, author of the recently-released book The Slaughter: Mass Killings, Organ Harvesting, and China’s Secret Solution to Its Dissident Problem, in a phone interview. “They make money for themselves, but they also make money for the military.”
Murder for Profit
A major income stream for the military has been the forced harvesting of the organs of living Falun Gong practitioners for use in transplantation.
Falun Gong, also called Falun Dafa, is a spiritual practice rooted in ancient Chinese culture that includes meditation and a moral philosophy based on truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance.
The Chinese regime estimated in early 1999 that there were up to 100 million Chinese people practicing Falun Gong in China—a number greater than the membership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). These practitioners included members of the military, the security forces, and the CCP.
In April 1999 the then-head of the CCP, Jiang Zemin, circulated a letter to the Politburo. He warned of how many people were practicing Falun Dafa, claimed they were manipulated by foreign forces, and saw the traditional moral teachings of Falun Gong as a challenge to the CCP’s ideology. On July 20, 1999, Jiang launched a campaign to eradicate the practice of Falun Gong in China.
Just a year after the persecution began, the number of China’s organ transplants—known for using prisoners as their sources—began increasing dramatically.
Researchers believe that the organs are harvested while the victim is still alive, in order to have the freshest possible organ for transplantation. Whenever an organ is harvested, all of the retail organs are taken, killing the victim.
While other prisoners of conscience—including Uyghurs and Tibetans—are known to have been harvested, the predominant source for the increase is believed by researchers to have been Falun Gong practitioners.
At least 62,000 Falun Gong practitioners are believed to have been killed for their organs between 2000 and 2008, according to estimates from Gutman.
Canadian international human rights lawyer David Matas and former Canadian secretary of state (Asia-Pacific) David Kilgour independently reached a similar estimate for that time frame in their own investigation using a different methodology.
Large-scale organ harvesting has continued since 2008, with the number of victims continuing to grow.
Matas told CQ Global Researcher in July 2011 that organ harvesting brought US$ 1 billion a year to participating hospitals, which were mainly run by the military.
Former Defense Minister’s Admission
In an October 2014 phone call from an undercover researcher working for the World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong to Liang Guanglie, China’s former defense minister and head of its military General Staff Department, Liang is recorded admitting his knowledge of the Chinese military’s involvement in a murder-for-profit operation.
The investigator said he was inquiring about a statement made by Wang Lijun, the former vice-mayor and head of the Public Security Bureau in Chongqing. Wang is famous for fleeing to the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu in February 2012 in an event that sparked the current anti-corruption campaign in China. Wang is also famous for having received an award for research this police chief had directed on organ transplant surgery, research that involved thousands of organ harvesting operations.
The investigator told Liang that Wang said he once cooperated with China’s military hospitals to research organ transplant surgery, and the people used as sources for the organs were imprisoned Falun Gong practitioners.
During the recorded phone call with the undercover investigator, Liang first responded with caution. The investigator then asks, “Did you hear about this when you were the Chief of the General Staff?”
Liang replied, “Yes, I did,” adding “I am in charge of military work, not these logistics matters.”
Liang then said, when asked whether China’s troops were responsible for those providing the organs used for organ transplants, “I have heard of this thing.”
The investigator continued, asking whether the Central Military Commission—the Party organ that rules the military—discussed the forced organ transplants. Liang replied, “They discussed this matter.”
While short, Liang’s comments are telling. His mention of “logistics matters” was in reference to the Chinese military’s General Logistics Department, which operated alongside the department Liang once headed.
While Liang’s department is in charge of warfighting and runs many of China’s spy operations, the General Logistics Department controls the military hospitals—and researchers say it’s in those hospitals that one of the world’s most atrocious crimes is now taking place.
The General Logistics Department has built a national live organ bank in China, using blood samples from Falun Gong prisoners of conscience, Epoch Times reported in August 2014. Supervisors in the military were given the power to arrest, detain, and execute anyone who tried leaking information about their crimes.
The General Staff Department headquarters, which Liang was in charge of from 2002 to 2007, took part by using its intelligence systems to block information about the organ harvesting from leaking out of China, according to the earlier report. The department heads China’s military hackers, its foreign spies, and agents involved in electronics intelligence.
Wang Zhiyuan, chairman of the World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong (WOIPFG) and a former doctor at a Chinese military air force hospital, said the new information gives additional evidence on the military’s role in the Chinese regime’s persecution against Falun Gong.
“Basically, the hospitals—the military health department—is managed by the General Logistics Department,” Wang said in a phone interview. “This work is carried out by the General Logistics Department.”
In an interview with New Tang Dynasty Television, Wang spelled out one implication of the involvement of the General Logistics Department and the knowledge the Central Military Commission had about the practice of organ harvesting: “This means that the live organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners has not randomly happened, but is a national massacre carried out by the government and CCP authorities.”
According to Gutman, military doctors have often appeared in his own research into the Chinese regime’s system for forced organ harvesting.
“This has happened several times—in several cases where organs are being harvested and military doctors appear,” Gutman said, noting that in his own research “it became obvious the military centers were the main centers for this.”
Gutman said based on interviews he has conducted he has found at least seven military hospitals are involved in forced organ harvesting of China’s prisoners of conscience. He added, however, “that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” and noted that in addition to using Falun Gong practitioners, the Chinese regime’s systems for forced organ transplants also use Tibetans and Uyghurs as living sources.
The involvement of China’s military in the murder-for-profit scheme comes from a deeply rooted system that even China’s leaders have warned could become a cesspool for corruption.
From its inception, the CCP granted its military extra leeway to conduct business. Under the regime’s founder, Mao Zedong, the military dominated China’s agriculture sector, and played a large role in China’s industrial and political systems—although its business ventures were mainly limited to goods for the military itself.
The system changed after Mao’s death in 1976, when Deng Xiaoping came to power. Deng was known for opening China to foreign trade, and his relaxation of restrictions on business started with the Chinese regime’s military.
“He basically said you need to find ways to pull your weight,” Gutman said, referring to Deng’s role in China’s business-military complex.
The Chinese regime’s military businesses began by opening sales to the domestic market. It led to the creation of major state-run companies under its military including giants like China Poly (international trade and real estate) and China Xinxing (import and export, with 54 subsidiary companies), and to involvement in markets ranging from banks to farms, and from hotels to brothels.
It wasn’t until the early 90s that the Chinese regime’s leaders decided to start reining in the military’s business ventures.
According to a 2008 report from Dr. Gary Busch, publisher of the web-based news journal of international relations Ocnus, “The reforms were intended to keep management of PLA enterprises under the control of senior military leaders and prevent lower-ranking officers from becoming involved in the daily functioning of military companies.”
Then, in 1998, the system burst. The then-CCP leader, Jiang Zemin, called a meeting where he announced that “China’s military is no longer in business.”
At the time, according to the Hong Kong-based but Beijing-influenced Phoenix News, the People’s Liberation Army troops owned 70 car factories, close to 400 laboratories, and 1,500 hotels.
The announcement did not actually end the Chinese military’s alternative sources of income, however. Instead it merely changed how the military’s officers got their pockets stuffed.
Jiang was the leader of the Central Military Commission, and during his announcement he was flanked by top generals within the military. According to a 2001 report from the Hoover Institute, several top-level generals publicly seconded his announcement. They included Chief of the General Staff General Fu Quanyou, General Logistics Department Director Wang Ke, and General Armament Department Director General Cao Gangchuan.
Just one year later, on July 20, 1999, Jiang launched the persecution against Falun Gong, and according to recent findings from WOIPFG, Jiang gave orders to begin the organ harvesting in 2000.
According to Hu Zhiming, a former officer of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, the reforms only affected lower-level officers, and businesses officially under the military. “The high-level officers can use their military background as leverage for business and profit,” he said in a phone interview. “That is still going on.”
Hu defected from China and testified before Congress in 2012 about his experience being twice imprisoned and tortured in China for practicing Falun Gong.
Hu said that while Jiang ended the Chinese military’s surface-level business ventures, “what he did contributed enormously to the corruption of the military.”
What took the place of the surface-level businesses was a deeper system of corruption, and new ways to buy loyalty of military officers—which the organ harvesting became a part of.
“The Jiang clique, in order to buy off the military, and make it listen to him and the CCP, they used this corrupt system,” Hu said.
According to Sarah Cook, senior research analyst at Freedom House, one of the key problems is that in China the military is not meant specifically for national defense. Its specified role is to protect the Chinese Communist Party—and this ties directly into its emphasis on indoctrination over combat training, and in the regime’s interests to pay off military leaders in order to ensure their loyalty.
“It’s the Party’s army,” Cook said in a phone interview. “It also functions as the national army, but it has these split missions, and it has these tensions because these two missions often contradict each other.”
“A national army would be around protecting the country,” she said, “but a Party’s army ends up with all these operations within it that involve political loyalty.”
“There are interesting things the Party needs to do to maintain their loyalty,” she said, “in the sense they want to let the military officers get rich and allow them to profit, because they want to maintain their loyalty.”