The Slaughter: Mass Killings, Organ Harvesting, and China's Secret Solution to Its Dissident Problem

The Slaughter: Mass Killings, Organ Harvesting, and China's Secret Solution to Its Dissident Problem

by Ethan Gutmann
The Slaughter: Mass Killings, Organ Harvesting, and China's Secret Solution to Its Dissident Problem

The Slaughter: Mass Killings, Organ Harvesting, and China's Secret Solution to Its Dissident Problem

by Ethan Gutmann


    Qualifies for Free Shipping
    Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for delivery by Monday, March 4
    Check Availability at Nearby Stores

Related collections and offers


The inside story of China's organtransplant business and its macabre connection with internment camps and killing fields for arrested dissidents, especially the adherents of Falun Gong. Mass murder is alive and well. That is the stark conclusion of this comprehensive investigation into the Chinese state's secret program to get rid of political dissidents while profiting from the sale of their organs—in many cases to Western recipients. Based on interviews with top-ranking police officials and Chinese doctors who have killed prisoners on the operating table, veteran China analyst Ethan Gutmann has produced a riveting insider's account—culminating in a death toll that will shock the world. Why would the Chinese leadership encourage such a dangerous perversion of their medical system? To solve the puzzle, Gutmann journeyed deep into the dissident archipelago of Falun Gong, Tibetans, Uighurs and House Christians, uncovering an ageless drama of resistance, eliciting confessions of deep betrayal and moments of ecstatic redemption. In an age of compassion fatigue, Gutmann relies on one simple truth: those who have made it back from the gates of hell have stories to tell. And no matter what baggage the reader may bring along, their preconceptions of China will not survive the trip.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781616149406
Publisher: Prometheus Books
Publication date: 08/12/2014
Pages: 368
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Ethan Gutmann, an award-winning China analyst and human-rights investigator, is the author of Losing the New China: A Story of American Commerce, Desire and Betrayal. He has written widely on China issues for publications such as the Wall Street Journal Asia, Investor's Business Daily, Weekly Standard, National Review, and World Affairs journal, and he has provided testimony and briefings to the United States Congress, the Central Intelligence Agency, the European Parliament, the International Society for Human Rights in Geneva, the United Nations, and the parliaments of Ottawa, Canberra, Dublin, Edinburgh, and London. A former foreign-policy analyst at the Brookings Institution, Gutmann has appeared on PBS, CNN, BBC, and CNBC.

Read an Excerpt

The Slaughter

Mass Killings, Organ Harvesting, and China's Secret Solution to its Dissident Problem

By Ethan Gutmann

Prometheus Books

Copyright © 2014 Ethan Gutmann
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-61614-940-6



To figure out what is taking place today in a closed society such as China, sometimes you have to go back a decade, sometimes more.

One clue might be found on a hilltop near southern Guangzhou, on a partly cloudy autumn day in 1991. A small medical team and a young doctor starting a practice in internal medicine had driven up from Sun Yat-sen Medical University in a van modified for surgery. Pulling in on bulldozed earth, they found a small fleet of similar vehicles—clean, white, with smoked glass windows and prominent red crosses on the side. The police had ordered the medical team to stay inside for their safety. Indeed, through the side window of the van, its occupants could see lines of ditches—some filled in, others freshly dug—suggesting that the hilltop had served as a killing ground for years.

Thirty-six scheduled executions would translate into seventy-two kidneys and corneas divided among the regional hospitals. Every van contained surgeons who could work fast: fifteen to thirty minutes to extract. Drive back to the hospital. Transplant within six hours. Nothing fancy or experimental; execution would probably ruin the heart.

Right after the first shots the van door was thrust open and two men with white surgical coats thrown over their uniforms carried a body in, the head and feet still twitching slightly. The young doctor noted that the wound was on the right side of the chest, as he had expected. When a third body was laid down, he went to work.

Male, forty-ish, Han Chinese. While the other retail organs in the van were slated for the profitable foreigner market, the doctor had seen the paperwork indicating this kidney was tissue-matched for transplant into a fifty-year-old Chinese man. Without the transplant, that man would die. With it, the same man would rise miraculously from his hospital bed and go on to have a normal life for twenty-five years or so. By 2016, given all the immunosuppressive drug advances in China, they could theoretically replace the liver, lungs, or heart—maybe buy that man yet another ten to fifteen years.

The third body had no special characteristics save an angry purple line on the neck. The doctor recognized the forensics. Sometimes the police would twist a wire around a prisoner's throat to prevent him from speaking up in court. The doctor thought it through methodically. Maybe the police didn't want this prisoner to talk because he had been a deranged killer, a thug, or mentally unstable. After all, the Chinese penal system was a daily sausage grinder, executing hardcore criminals on a massive scale. Yes, the young doctor knew the harvesting was wrong. Whatever crime had been committed, it would be nice if the prisoner's body were allowed to rest forever. Yet was his surgical task that different from an obstetrician's? Harvesting was rebirth; harvesting was life, as revolutionary an advance as antibiotics or steroids—or maybe they didn't want this man to talk because he was a political prisoner.

Nineteen years later, in a secure location, the doctor laid out the puzzle. He asked that I keep his identity a secret.

The first experimental organ transplants were carried out in China during the 1960s. Organ harvesting of criminals condemned for capital offenses began on a small scale in the late 1970s. Beginning in the mid1980s, Chinese medical transplant expertise accelerated with the help of new immunosuppressive agents that could effectively tamp down the new host's tendency to reject foreign tissue. Suddenly organs once considered scraps no longer went to waste. It wasn't public knowledge exactly, but Chinese medical schools taught that many otherwise wicked criminals volunteered their organs as a final penance.

Chinese medical authorities admit that the lion's share of transplant organs originate with executions, but no mainland Chinese doctors, even in exile, will normally speak of performing such surgery. To do so would remind international medical authorities—the World Health Organization, the Transplantation Society—of an issue they would rather avoid not China's horrendous execution rate or the exploitation of criminal organs, but rather the systematic elimination of China's religious and political prisoners. Yet even if this doctor feared consequences to his family and his career, he did not fear embarrassing China, for he was born into an indigenous minority group, the Uyghurs.

Behind closed doors, the doctor (and practically every other Uyghur witness I spoke with) calls this vast region in China's northwest corner (bordering India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia) "East Turkestan." The Uyghurs are ethnically Turkic, not East Asian. They are Muslims with a smattering of Christians, and their language is more readily understood in Tashkent than in Beijing. The importance of "East Turkestan" is that the name references a future independent nation. Uyghurs have had different ideas about the composition of such a state over the years, with the possibilities ranging from an Islamic republic (following the Cultural Revolution when the Red Guards literally turned mosques into pigpens) to a Soviet protectorate (until the Soviet Union collapsed) or, most promising, a "Uyghurstan" that would take its place among the new Central Asian nations. At the top leadership level, Rebiya Kadeer speaks about a Western-style democracy.

By contrast, Beijing's name for the so-called Autonomous Region, Xinjiang, literally translates as "new frontier." The Chinese conflict with the Uyghurs over that land is China's longest running territorial war. When Mao invaded in 1949, Han Chinese constituted only 7 percent of the regional population. Following the flood of Communist Party administrators, soldiers, shopkeepers, and construction corps, Han Chinese now constitute the majority, the mass migration creating a rationale for suppressing Uyghur language and culture, most vividly seen in the bulldozing of vast historic centers of ancient Silk Road cities such as Ghulja, Karamay, and Kashgar. Originally driven by cotton, Maoist modernization principles, and countering the Soviets, the Chinese expansion is now fueled by the party's calculation that Xinjiang will be its top oil and natural gas production center by the end of this century.

To protect this investment, Beijing traditionally depicted all Uyghur nationalists—violent rebels and nonviolent activists alike—as proxies for the US Central Intelligence Agency. Shortly after 9/11, that conspiracy theory was tossed down the memory hole. Suddenly China was, and always has been, at war with al Qaeda-led Uyghur terrorists. No matter how transparently opportunistic the switch, the American intelligence community saw an opening for Chinese cooperation in the war on terror, and they signaled their acquiescence by allowing Chinese state security personnel into Guantánamo to interrogate Uyghur detainees.

While it is difficult to know the strength of the claim that detainees were connected to al Qaeda, the basic facts are these: During the 1990s, when the Chinese drove the Uyghur rebel training camps from neighboring countries such as Kazakhstan and Pakistan, some Uyghurs fled to Afghanistan, where a portion became Taliban soldiers. Nor is there little question that the level of violence within Xinjiang, and indeed within China, has increased in recent years. Both Uyghur separatists and the Chinese internal military apparatus play a part, yet because the party bureaucracy controls the Web (the Internet in Xinjiang was shut down for six months following the Urumqi riots of July 2009) as well as Western reporters' physical access to Xinjiang, the Chinese narrative is dominated by lurid—and unverifiable—stories such as that of the 2014 Kunming train-station massacre, while hundreds of enforced disappearances of young Uyghur males—verifiable but relatively dull from a Western editor's perspective—rarely penetrate the Western consciousness.

The party intends to frame the Uyghurs as international terrorists. And yet, even as the Chinese government claims that Uyghurs constitute an Islamic fundamentalist threat, the fact is that I've never met a Uyghur woman who won't shake hands or a man who won't have a drink with me. Nor does my Jewish-sounding name appear to make anyone flinch. In one of those vino veritas sessions, I asked a local Uyghur leader if he was able to get any sort of assistance from groups such as the Islamic Human Rights Commission (where, as I found during a brief visit to their London offices, veiled women flinch from an extended male hand, drinks are forbidden, and my Jewish surname is a very big deal indeed). "Useless!" he snorted, returning to the vodka bottle. So if Washington's goal is to promote a reformed China, then taking Beijing's word for who is a terrorist is to play into the party's hands.

Xinjiang has long served as the party's illicit laboratory. In the midsixties, the Chinese military conducted atmospheric nuclear testing in Lop Nur that resulted in a significant rise in cancers in Urumqi, Xinjiang's capital. In several tests, live prisoners were apparently placed at varying distances from ground zero to measure the effects of the blasts and fallout. At some point during the last decade, the Communist Party authorized the creation in the Tarim Desert of another grand experiment—the world's largest labor camp, roughly estimated to hold fifty thousand Uyghurs, religious prisoners, and hardcore criminals. In between these two ventures, the first organ harvesting of political prisoners was implemented. And again, Xinjiang was ground zero.

Every Uyghur witness I approached over the course of two years –police, medical, and security personnel scattered across two continents –related compartmentalized fragments of information to me, often through halting translation. With the exception of the surgeon who opened this chapter, who is still an active medical professional in China, those who asked me to conceal their identities by using a pseudonym in my writing ultimately agreed to my request that they openly testify if the United States Congress called upon them to do so—and they did this even while they acknowledged risks to their careers, their families, and, in several cases, their lives. Their testimony reveals not just a procedure evolving to meet the lucrative medical demand for living organs, but the genesis of a wider atrocity.

In 1989, not long after Nijat Abdureyimu turned twenty, he graduated from Xinjiang Police School and was assigned to a special police force, Regiment No. 1 of the Urumqi Public Security Bureau. As one of the first Uyghurs in a Chinese unit that specialized in "social security"— essentially squelching threats to the Communist Party—Nijat was employed as the good cop in Uyghur interrogations, particularly the high-profile cases. I first met Nijat—thin, depressed, and watchful—in a crowded refugee camp on the outskirts of Rome.

Nijat explained to me that he was well aware that his Chinese colleagues kept him under constant surveillance. But Nijat presented the image they liked: the little brother with the guileless smile. By 1994 he had penetrated all of the government's secret bastions: the detention center, its interrogation rooms, and the killing grounds. Along the way, he had witnessed his fair share of torture, executions, even a rape. So his curiosity was in the nature of professional interest when he questioned one of the Chinese cops who had come back from an execution shaking his head. According to his colleague, it had been a normal procedure –the unwanted bodies kicked into a trench, the useful corpses hoisted into the harvesting vans, but then he heard something coming from a van, like a man screaming.

"Like someone was still alive?" Nijat remembers asking. "What kind of screams?"

"Like from hell."

Nijat shrugged. The regiment had more than enough sloppiness to go around.

A few months later, three death row prisoners were being transported from detention to execution. Nijat had become friendly with one in particular, a very young man. As Nijat walked alongside, the young man turned to Nijat with eyes like saucers: "Why did you inject me?"

Nijat hadn't injected him; the medical director had. But the director and some legal officials were watching the exchange, so Nijat lied smoothly: "It's so you won't feel much pain when they shoot you."

The young man smiled faintly, and Nijat, sensing that he would never quite forget that look, waited until the execution was over to ask the medical director: "Why did you inject him?"

"Nijat, if you can transfer to some other section, then go as soon as possible."

"What do you mean? Doctor, exactly what kind of medicine did you inject him with?"

"Nijat, do you have any beliefs?"

"Yes. Do you?"

"It was an anticoagulant, Nijat. And maybe we are all going to hell."

* * *

I first met Enver Tohti—a soft-spoken, husky, Buddha of a man—through the informal Uyghur network of London. I confess that my first impression was that he was just another émigré living in public housing. But Enver had a secret.

His story began on a Tuesday in June 1995, when he was a general surgeon at Urumqi Central Railway Hospital. Enver recalled an unusual conversation with his immediate superior, the chief surgeon: "Enver, we are going to do something exciting. Have you ever done an operation in the field?"

"Not really. What do you want me to do?"

"Get a mobile team together and request an ambulance. Have everyone out front at nine tomorrow."

On a cloudless Wednesday morning, Enver led two assistants and an anesthesiologist into an ambulance and followed the chief surgeon's car out of Urumqi going west. The ambulance had a picnic atmosphere until they realized they were entering the Western Mountain Execution Grounds, which specialized in killing political dissidents. On a dirt road by a steep hill the chief surgeon pulled off and came back to talk to Enver: "When you hear a gunshot, drive around the hill."

"Can you tell us why we are here?"

"Enver, if you don't want to know, don't ask."

"I want to know."

"No. You don't want to know."

The chief surgeon gave him a quick, hard look as he returned to the car. Enver saw that beyond the hill there appeared to be some sort of armed police facility. People were milling about—civilians. Enver sarcastically commented that perhaps they were family members waiting to collect the bodies and pay for the bullets and the team responded with increasingly sick jokes to break the tension. Then they heard a gunshot, possibly a volley, and drove around to the execution field.

Focusing on not making any sudden moves as he followed the chief surgeon's car, Enver never really did get a good look. He briefly registered that there were ten, maybe twenty bodies lying at the base of the hill, but the armed police saw the ambulance and waved him over.

"This one. It's this one."

Sprawled on the blood-soaked ground was a man, around thirty, dressed in navy blue overalls. All convicts were shaved, but this one had long hair.

"That's him. We'll operate on him."

"Why are we operating?" Enver protested, feeling for the artery in the man's neck. "Come on. This man is dead."

Enver stiffened and corrected himself. "No. He's not dead."

"Operate then. Remove the liver and the kidneys. Now! Quick! Be quick!"

Following the chief surgeon's directive, the team loaded the body into the ambulance. Enver felt himself going numb :Just cut the clothes off. Just strap the limbs to the table. Just open the body. He kept making attempts to follow normal procedure—sterilize, minimal exposure, sketch the cut. Enver glanced questioningly at the chief surgeon. "No anesthesia," said the chief surgeon. "No life support."

The anesthesiologist just stood there, arms folded—like some sort of ignorant peasant, Enver thought. Enver barked at him. "Why don't you do something?"

"What exactly should I do, Enver? He's already unconscious. If you cut, he's not going to respond."

But there was a response. As Enver's scalpel went in, the man's chest heaved spasmodically and then curled back again. Enver, a little frantic now, turned to the chief surgeon. "How far in should I cut?"

"You cut as wide and deep as possible. We are working against time."

Enver worked fast, not bothering with clamps, cutting with his right hand, moving muscle and soft tissue aside with his left, slowing down only to make sure he excised the kidneys and liver cleanly. Even as Enver stitched the man back up—not internally, there was no point to that anymore; all he could do was make the body look presentable—he noticed the blood was still pulsing. He was sure the man was still alive.


Excerpted from The Slaughter by Ethan Gutmann. Copyright © 2014 Ethan Gutmann. Excerpted by permission of Prometheus Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 The Xinjiang Procedure 9

Chapter 2 The Peaceable Kingdom 31

Chapter 3 An Occurrence on Fuyou Street 73

Chapter 4 Snow 109

Chapter 5 The Events on Dragon Mountain 131

Chapter 6 Alive in the Bitter Sea 159

Chapter 7 Into Thin Airwaves 191

Chapter 8 The Nameless 217

Chapter 9 Organs of the State 253

Chapter 10 A Night at the Museum 287

Afterword 309

Appendix: A Survey-Based Estimate of Falun Gong Harvested From 2000 to 2008 317

Acknowledgments 323

Notes 329

Index 357

From the B&N Reads Blog

Customer Reviews