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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As for Annie, I interviewed her for ten minutes on April 20, after her first, rather chaotic, public appearance. She spoke at a rally at McPherson Square, a few blocks from the White House, to protest human rights abuses in China. Although our interview was hardly the six-hour session that I wanted, we were alone, apart from an interpreter, and could look each other in the eye. My strong impression was not of a Falun Gong devotee put up to a stunt, but of a classic accidental witness: pale, open-eyed, conscientious, and somewhat bewildered by Washington--a beautiful doctor's wife sitting in the back of a van, telling the most explosive story in recent Chinese history.

It must be noted that there are discrepancies between the Chinese reporter's account and Annie's. For example, he called Sujiatun a concentration camp at one point and spoke darkly of barbed wire and massive underground civil defense tunnels allegedly connected to the hospital. Annie portrayed Sujiatun as a regular hospital with a basement large enough to hold thousands of Falun Gong prisoners.

The U.S. State Department states that its "officers were allowed to tour the entire facility and grounds and found no evidence that the site is being used for any function other than as a normal public hospital." And for those who point out that you couldn't clean up Auschwitz in three weeks--the time that elapsed between the publication of the story and the consular visit--the matter ends there.

But, given the political sensitivities involved, particularly during a summit, I still have questions. Anyone who has lived in China knows that three weeks is a long time by Chinese construction standards. Is the State Department certain its officers toured an unaltered facility? Did they take an architect with them? Collect forensic samples? Sift through ashes? Interview any hospital personnel privately, off-site? And on their tour, did they reject the company of the inevitable CCP handler or hospital operative? If the answer to these questions is no, then the Americans' findings are interesting but hardly dispositive. The visitors could easily have missed a walled-off underground facility.

Experts have also pointed out that the Sujiatun hospital is prohibited by its legal classification from performing organ transplants in the first place. Yet Annie spoke of organ harvesting, not transplants. In any case, in the new entrepreneurial China, organ transplants at hospitals of a similar classification have been reported on Chinese state-controlled television, apparently without repercussions.

These are all legitimate areas for inquiry--which is difficult in surveillance-rich China. Certainly, investigating Sujiatun would place any Beijing-based media bureau on a collision course with the CCP. No wonder Sujiatun has so far been covered in depth only by the Epoch Times, the same paper that acquired a press pass for Wang Wenyi. It has numerous Falun Gong practitioners on its staff and has become a magnet for Chinese dissidents of many stripes. Like the Jewish papers that published the first accounts of the Holocaust, the Epoch Times and the World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong have made this story their own.

Over the last month, Kevin Yang, a director of the latter group, has led a team making phone calls to hospitals in Tianjin, Shanghai, Shandong Province, and elsewhere in China posing as transplant candidates searching for organs. They made some 80 phone calls, and struck pay dirt at seven different hospitals. Recordings of the incriminating conversations were played for the press on April 18. They would be hard to script. Here are highlights from two of the phone conversations, translated by Yang's team:

Zhongshan Hospital, affiliated with Fudan University in Shanghai, March 16, 2006:

Q: I have to have a fresh and healthy kidney. And it should be alive. You are not going to give me a kidney from a dead person, are you?

A: Of course we will give you a good kidney, how could we give you a bad one?

Q: . . . Do you have ones from people who practice Falun Gong? I heard that they provide very good ones.

A: All that we have here are of this type.

Tongji Hospital, Wuhan, March 30, 2006:

Q: . . . Do live transplants, for example, use organs from live people who practice Falun Gong?

A: Sure.

Q: At your place, for example, prisoners, like those who practice Falun Gong, can you guarantee enough live supplies from such people?

A: Yes, sure! When it's convenient for you, come over and discuss the details.