COPENHAGEN, Denmark—Yang Guang and his old friend, a logistics officer at a major hospital in northeastern China, had everything planned: the officer would slowly, carefully, over many months, collect the files and documents moving across his desk that showed a pattern of illicit organ harvesting at the hospital. Then, he would leave China on “vacation,” defect, and expose how Chinese hospitals were killing for their organs practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice that is persecuted in China.
The plan came undone in December 2009, Yang Guang said, when his friend received a visit from China’s secret police, who got word of the plan. The friend is now retired, and Yang has not been able to contact him for several years.
Yang said that he kept detailed notes of their discussions throughout the 2000s, however. Earlier this year he recapitulated his notes in interviews with the Epoch Times, providing a portrait of how organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners may actually play out in China.
Yang Guang is a Chinese man currently based in Denmark; he has been known to Epoch Times reporters there for a number of years and is considered reliable. His account was based on what he said were roughly 50 phone calls with his friend, Mr. Wang (an alias), from 2007 to 2009, lasting from 30 minutes to several hours each.
Why would a working doctor in China provide so much information to a friend about highly illegal activities and human rights abuses? According to Yang Guang, theirs was an uncommon friendship: in 1968, during the chaotic Cultural Revolution, the two of them were branded as being part of the same “counterrevolutionary clique.” They spent 10 years and 8 months together in the same prison.
“That is no ordinary friendship, it’s a relationship of life of death—very, very special. When I heard about organ harvesting, I knew he was in this field, and I constantly asked him about it and asked him to collect information about it. Our friendship is deep,” Yang said.
Subsequent to their political rehabilitation in 1978, Wang entered the Communist Party, became a doctor, and decades later had come to be the chief logistics officer of a major hospital in northeastern China. Yang Guang, meanwhile, pursued a career in technical development and media in Hong Kong, and has long been an outspoken critic of the Communist Party.
Yang provided to Epoch Times the real name and former workplace of Wang, both of which were verifiable online. The Epoch Times did not attempt to contact Wang, because of the dangers such contact would expose him to.
The account that Yang gave was largely congruent with what is already known about how organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners works in China—though the sale prices of organs that he suggested were higher than has previously been reported.
Ethan Gutmann, an investigative reporter whose book on organ harvesting in China will be published in August, was shown a version of Yang Guang’s account. He said in response: “Although it is second-hand testimony and must be taken with a grain of salt, several elements stand out about Mr. Wang’s reported account: the 6-10 Office’s explicit, central role in the Falun Gong selection process, the extreme price elasticity of foreign organ tourism, and the surprisingly low number of conventional death-row prisoners being harvested (presumably in the Harbin region) compared with Falun Gong practitioners.”
Despite Yang’s account being second hand, the Epoch Times decided to publish it because he has in the past been reliable, because of the scarcity of first hand accounts given the extremely politically sensitive nature of the information, and because the account by itself adds to what is publicly known about the organ harvesting of prisoners of conscience in China.
Mr. Wang was at one point the deputy chief logistics officer, and then the chief logistics officer, at two different hospitals in China’s far northeast. This put him in oversight of, among other things, the maintenance of the blood supply at the hospital, blood matching, making arrangements and negotiating prices for organ transplant operations, and providing accommodation for foreigners who come to China for organ transplantations, Yang said.
Falun Gong practitioners are the main source of organs used in transplantation operations at the two affiliated hospitals where Wang worked, and the process—cataloguing the Falun Gong prisoners by blood type, locating a transplant candidate, and transferring them to the medical facilities—is overseen by the local 610 Office. The 610 Office is an extralegal, Party-run secret police force that was set up on June 10, 1999, to carry out the mission of eliminating Falun Gong. The Chinese regime once supported this traditional spiritual practice, but began persecuting it out of fear of the number of people who had taken up Falun Gong.
Actual death row prisoners, criminals who have been sentenced to death, only account for a small number of the organs procured, Wang said.
“He told me, even in the 10 biggest cities in China, no more than 50 prisoners are executed annually after being sentenced to death, and their organs are subsequently available for transplantation,” Yang said. “However, Wang’s two hospitals had to carry out more than 2,000 organ transplant surgeries every year.”
“What’s more, some senior Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials and their relatives refuse organs from executed prisoners. They specifically ask for organs from young, living prisoners. Therefore, the organs from executed prisoners are usually reserved for foreigners who come to China for organ transplants.”
Prices for foreigners are not fixed, Yang said—in some cases, those with money, desperate for an organ, have been charged up to $2 million for a transplantation and hospital stay, Yang said.
This is multiples of what was advertised as the going price on Chinese websites up until 2006. After organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners was exposed in 2006 by researchers outside China, transplantation centers began pulling down Web pages advertising the prices for operations.
Yang explained the discrepancy by referring to how the Chinese medical system may extort those who come to it for help.
“You don’t know the corruption and blackness of the hospitals,” he said, referring to cases where ordinary medical patients in China can be forced to pay bribes, or fight against doctors and nurses when they are extorted.
Falun Gong ‘Donors’
Wang said that the 610 Office in the city of Shenyang, near to his hospitals, from 2000 began providing data on potential Falun Gong “donors” in its custody. They were identified by gender, age, and camp number. No names were provided.
Wang would send medical staff to prisons, labor camps, and brainwashing centers to collect blood samples, Yang said. He would need to prepare equipment, medicines, refrigerators, thermal preservation equipment, and medical vehicles.
When a match was identified, the hospital would contact the 610 Office, which sent a prisoner van with the corresponding Falun Gong practitioner.
The hospital would then run another blood test to make sure it had the right person, and then anaesthetize the victim and remove their organs. Typically the liver, kidneys, and corneas were removed at the same time, according to Wang’s testimony.
The body was then disposed of in the hospital incinerator. The entire process was monitored by 610 Office agents, Wang said.
Hospital staff was instructed to maintain secrecy and was forbidden from enquiring after the identity of the “donors,” or the number of transplants conducted at other hospitals.
“The 2,000 to 3,000 organ transplants conducted every year are reported to the Party committee,” Yang said. “Any data relevant to these organ transplants are erased from the computer under the watchful eyes of 610 Office personnel.”
Written in English by Gisela Sommer & Matthew Robertson. With additional reporting by Matthew Robertson.