The Magazine

Why Wang Wenyi Was Shouting

Is Beijing committing atrocities against the Falun Gong movement?

May 8, 2006, Vol. 11, No. 32 • By ETHAN GUTMANN
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WANG WENYI, the woman whose shouts disrupted the welcoming ceremony for Chinese president Hu Jintao on the White House lawn on April 20, is a middle-aged pathologist and a follower of Falun Gong. That spiritual movement was outlawed in China in 1999, and since then Falun Gong has become a focal point for opposition to the Communist party. To that extent, Wang's outburst was understandable. Less obvious was the connection between her profession and the raw intensity of her denunciation of "killing" by Hu's China.

As a doctor and a Falun Gong practitioner, Wang had to be incensed by a hair-raising story coming out of northeast China--of organ harvesting from live Falun Gong prisoners. The reports, which first appeared in print in the March 10 edition of the Falun Gong-associated publication Epoch Times, are still sketchy and confirmation scarce. Yet the allegations are just credible enough to demand attention--too serious to be ignored unless proven false. What's more, recent work by the World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong, headquartered in Boston, has turned up some compelling corroboration. Here, then, is the narrative as it has emerged so far.

Back in 1988, a hospital was constructed on a 21,087-square meter plot (about five acres) a few miles outside of Shenyang, in a satellite city called Sujiatun. It's pronounced Soo-jah-tyun, and you might want get to know that name.

It happened that the hospital--now the Liaoning Provincial Thrombosis Hospital of Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine--had a large basement and an inconspicuous back door. In 2001, some employees in the hospital's accounting and logistics department noticed that the hospital's requests for food, rubber gloves, toilet paper, and surgical equipment suddenly went way, way up. The food and surgical tools would disappear, the trash would get hauled away, yet it was unclear how they were being used. At one point in 2002, the accounting department estimated the logistical increase represented a whopping discrepancy of thousands of patients.

One accountant--called Annie in the Falun Gong literature on the scandal--was aware of the supply mystery, but what concerned her far more was the behavior of her husband, a surgeon at Sujiatun. On the surface, the couple was doing fine. He was bringing home increasingly large amounts of cash, and his job appeared secure. The hospital had even issued him a dedicated cell-phone, which would ring at odd hours and send him back to Sujiatun. Yet when he came home to bed, he had violent nightmares and would wake bathed in sweat. During the day, he was constantly on edge, preoccupied, even fearful of his wife's touch.

It took a year, but eventually he confessed to her: The accounting staff was right. There were extra "patients" in the subterranean depths of the hospital, and some makeshift operating rooms down there, too. When his cell phone rang, it meant that a "patient" had been wheeled in and given a small dose of anesthesia (the hospital had a limited supply). Then he and the other doctors--some hired from the outside, each with a specialty, all constantly on call--would come in and remove the patient's kidneys, skin tissue, corneas, and other organs, seemingly to order. The remains of the "patient" would then be carried down to the old boiler, which doubled as an incinerator. The workers who disposed of the bodies--sometimes still alive--helped themselves to the occasional watch, necklace, or ring as a kind of tip.

The "patients"--men and women, old and young--were all Falun Gong practitioners. It was so much easier that way--no arrest warrants, no need for paper work. If a diagnosis had to be stipulated for some reason, the entry read "mentally destroyed," and the cause of death "suicide." The doctors' silence was bought with generous financial rewards, the assurance that they were simply "cleansing" for the party, and the vague threat implicit in the observation that if you had already done some of these operations then what difference would a few more make? Buck up!

The hospital is still operating, but the Falun Gong "patients" are apparently gone. The Chinese Communist party denies, of course, that they ever were there. More interesting, a recent U.S. consular visit found no cause for concern.

The first account of the horrors at Sujiatun was provided by a Chinese reporter now in hiding in the United States, with whom I spoke briefly. He claims to have many sources, some of whom he paid, as is common in China.