Death of Political Prisoner in 1978 Reveals Long History of the CCP’s Live Organ Harvesting

December 23, 2021 Updated: January 4, 2022


In the final judgment of the China Tribunal—an independent people’s tribunal based in London—the expert panel concluded that forced organ harvesting had been committed by the Chinese regime “for years” and “on a significant scale,” and that practitioners of the spiritual discipline Falun Gong likely had been the main source of the organs.

This conclusion was made “unanimously” by the tribunal members after more than a year of hearings and investigation.

Several decades before the tribunal’s investigation, in an incident unknown to many people, a prisoner of conscience in China’s southeastern Jiangxi Province was a victim of forced organ harvesting.

Zhong Haiyuan, a teacher and a radio announcer, was imprisoned for supporting and defending Li Jiulian, who was sentenced to imprisonment for her criticism of the regime and its former vice chairman, Lin Biao.

Bloody Execution and Live Kidney Harvesting

Zhong was sent to prison and later sentenced to death on April 30, 1978. She was executed on the same day.

She was carried by two police officers to the execution site in Xinjian County, Jiangxi Province. This wasn’t because she was too scared to walk on her own.

On the way to the execution site, a person in military uniform and wearing a white surgical mask gave her two injections on both sides of her back. He used a long and thick metal syringe of a kind that was normally used for injecting animals. Zhong’s body immediately trembled violently due to the tremendous pain; her mouth was gagged to muffle any noise.

It’s likely the injections were intended to protect the viability of her kidneys.

A military pilot, the son of a high-ranking Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader, was staying in the No. 92 Field Hospital in Nanchang at the time. He was suffering from kidney failure and urgently needed a kidney transplant to save his life. Healthy kidneys taken from a living female body, especially from a young woman, were believed to be his best hope.

The hospital searched for a kidney source and found a young woman who was about to be executed: Zhong. Hospital authorities told the leaders of the military execution team that the kidneys had to be taken from a living body.

Zhong’s executioner fired a shot at her back, away from her heart to keep her alive and away from her kidneys to keep them intact, as he was ordered to do. Several military doctors and nurses immediately carried her to a military van parked nearby.

A temporary operating table was already set up in the van. Doctors and nurses started the procedure to take her kidneys as quickly as possible.

During the operation, blood was dripping from Zhong’s body. The van became slippery from the blood, and a doctor had to keep mopping the floor. Blood even dripped to the ground under the van. When the operation was complete, the blood filled half a bucket.

General Xu Caihou, then-Vice Chairman of the Communist Party of China's Central Military Commission, talks with China's Chongqing Municipality Communist Party Secretary Bo Xilai during the opening ceremony of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People on March 5, 2012 in Beijing, China. Xu and Bo conspired to establish forced organ harvesting in Liaoning Province. (Feng Li/Getty Images)
Gen. Xu Caihou (R), then-vice chairman of the Communist Party of China’s Central Military Commission, talks with Chongqing Municipality Communist Party Secretary Bo Xilai during the opening ceremony of the National People’s Congress at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing on March 5, 2012. Xu and Bo conspired to establish forced organ harvesting in Liaoning Province, China. (Feng Li/Getty Images)

Doctors swiftly left with Zhong’s kidneys, and her body was left at the execution site, where it was dressed again for photos that were used to prove her death. Her body was then taken to the No. 92 Field Hospital and used as a specimen for dissection.

Zhong had been tortured in prison. Her calf bone had once been broken by police.

The stories of Zhong and Li were recorded by Chinese writer Hu Ping in his book “China’s Eyes,” which was once available but has since been taken down from, a popular e-commerce website in China.

A Hard Journey to Justice

Zhong was innocent. She didn’t commit any crime.

She openly supported and defended Li and later criticized then-CCP leader Hua Guofeng.

Local people from Jiangxi Province petitioned for the two women. However, petitioners were also persecuted for their bravery.

“Two people died, 60 people were sentenced to total imprisonment of 700 years, more than 600 people were ‘disciplined,’ and more than 1,000 people were involved in the cases,” wrote Zhu Yi, one of the petitioners who succeeded in getting in touch with people of influence and reporting directly to the CCP’s top disciplinary body.

Dai Huang, a Chinese reporter who had been persecuted during the Cultural Revolution, learned about the two cases from local people during a visit to Jiangxi Province. He wrote an investigative report after going through piles of archived materials and interviewing locals. He submitted the report to the CCP’s senior members before New Year’s Eve in 1980.

In January 1980, this report reached Hu Yaobang, the general secretary of the CCP at the time. Hu immediately gave instructions to three top officials: Peng Chong, the secretary of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Committee, Jiang Hua, the president of the CCP’s Supreme Court, and Zhao Cangbi, the minister of public security.

“Please handle this matter properly (including with her family members), but don’t publicize such matters in a way that it highlights adverse consequences, but focus on lessons learned,” Hu wrote in his instructions on Jan. 25, 1980.

On May 9, 1981, the Superior Court of Jiangxi Province officially acquitted Zhong of all charges.


More than 40 years ago, Zhong’s kidneys were harvested while she was still alive.

Twenty-one years ago, the CCP’s live organ harvesting became a profitable industry, primarily targeting Falun Gong practitioners.

He Xiaoshun serves as deputy director of the First Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University in Guangdong Province and is a member of a top health care body for the CCP’s top echelons.

“The year 2000 was a watershed for the organ transplant industry in China. … The number of liver transplants in 2000 reached 10 times that of 1999; in 2005, the number tripled further,” Chinese newspaper Southern Weekend reported, citing He.

In September 2014, the World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong (WOIPFG) conducted a telephone investigation that revealed that Bai Shuzhong, former health minister of the General Logistics Department of the People’s Liberation Army, testified that then-CCP leader Jiang Zemin personally ordered the live organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners.

Why have these crimes against humanity been happening in China?

Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party,” an editorial series published by The Epoch Times that has inspired hundreds of millions to quit the CCP, detailed the history of the Party; created by the communist specter, it’s “a force against nature and humanity, causing limitless agony and tragedy.” The depths of evil of the CCP shouldn’t be underestimated.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Wang Youqun
Wang Youqun holds a doctorate in law from the Renmin University of China. He previously worked as a copywriter for Wei Jianxing (1931–2015), a member of the CCP Politburo Standing Committee, from 1997 to 2002.