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
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Now, given that many Chinese are consummate salesmen, could some of the responses be construed as simply attempts to please the customer? Perhaps. But the calls also turned up an unexpected timeline. Repeatedly, hospital representatives urged the potential customers to come in April when supplies would be plentiful, and got nervous when customers asked about May. Independently, unnamed sources in China have told the Epoch Times that after its story appeared on March 10, party authorities gave the hospitals until May 1 to end the practice (or at least make it untraceable).

Finally, Yang's team also placed a call to the workers in the boiler room of the Sujiatun hospital. The call confirmed that they burned bodies and had watches to sell.

If it is true that imprisoned practitioners of Falun Gong are being murdered for their organs in China, a remaining question is the scale of the practice. The number of Falun Gong practitioners in custody is disputed; estimates by the Chinese dissident community range from 235,000 to one million or more. An unnamed military doctor from the mainland told Epoch Times that Sujiatun is one of 36 such facilities, created following the directive of Liu Jing, China's former deputy minister of public security, to "stamp out" Falun Gong "before the Olympic Games in 2008." And for several years now, rumors have circulated on the mainland of a death camp in Xinjiang capable of holding 50,000 Falun Gong practitioners.

Personally, I fear the worst. One reason is that the Chinese authorities have always handled Falun Gong with a peculiar vehemence, even in comparison with other enemies of the CCP. When Falun Gong was declared illegal on July 21, 1999, ancient sound trucks drove around Beijing to make sure that no one missed the point. That's unusual. At the time, I was working in Chinese television, and I remember the day well. Several of my Chinese colleagues began laughing nervously and buried their faces in their hands, muttering that they had not seen such a thing since the Cultural Revolution. Since then, Falun Gong participants have regularly disappeared, with no arrest record, nothing but an assigned number, leaving them particularly vulnerable.

But the main reason I'm pessimistic is the money. Organ transplants are a profitable business. Until recently, a website out of Shenyang carried a price list for organ transplant operations in English to attract foreign customers, with a kidney transplant going for $62,000. And there is precedent; it is indisputable that the Chinese Communist party has sanctioned the sale of body parts from executed prisoners. As a former Beijing business consultant, I am familiar with the peculiar combination of state directive and entrepreneurial acumen pervasive in the New China. A directive comes from on high. The money is made down below. If the CCP orders tracking software, say, installed in Internet cafés across China, the local police will sell a version for $200 a pop, and every café had better purchase a copy. The May 1 shutdown will also be familiar to anyone who follows micropatterns of counterfeit enforcement in China. Chinese SWAT teams do not swoop down on illicit factories, even the ones that make fake Johnson & Johnson baby oil that causes skin rashes. Instead, plant managers are told to finish up their production runs and move their equipment elsewhere.

So I suspect that the profits from Chinese organ harvesting dwarf those of the Nazis' soap and hair-pillow-stuffing enterprises--but I also wonder whether they will prove the undoing of the CCP. Where there is money, there's a trail. Epoch Times, in a rush to get the story out, neglected to pursue that line of investigation. What if its reporters had formed a front company that had gone in and inspected the stock of potential organ donors--wired-up, spy-cam, the works--and only then released the statements of witnesses like Annie for corroboration and color? What if they had persuaded Congress to order U.S. intelligence agencies to intercept financial transaction statements and monitor train and truck movements to and from the hospitals of China?

No matter--that's not how Epoch Times handled it, because that's not the way real witnesses behave. Instead, when they are ready to come forward, they feel compelled to testify. And it's not the way real people behave, either, when they believe that family, friends, and fellow congregants are being thrown into incinerators and when they see their own honorable profession grotesquely perverted. Instead, they scream bloody murder--just as Wang Wenyi did--and silently pray that someone is listening.

Ethan Gutmann is the author of Losing the New China. He has been a frequent speaker at forums organized by the Falun Gong-associated publication Epoch Times.