by Rongbin Zhang, translation by Xiaoli Fang
A recent report by a London-based organisation, the Coalition for Religious Equality and Inclusive Development (CREID), has brought to the fore once again the repression of the Uighur community underway in China’s Xinjiang province. The report features testimony by Dr. Enver Tohti Bughda, a medical surgeon from Xinjiang.[i] His testimony lays bare the reprehensible organ trafficking underway in Xinjiang province, promoted by the active connivance of the local Chinese Communist Party (CCP) apparatus and security establishment.
Dr. Bughda recalls an incident in the mid-1990s when senior colleagues asked him to harvest the liver and kidneys from an executed prisoner in the Western Mountain district.[ii] He recollected that multiple doctors and medical staff were pressed into the service to remove organs from the freshly executed prisoners. Moreover, Dr. Bughda’s account suggests organ extractions on live victims. His testimony also highlights that this organ harvesting was a routine affair as he had earlier heard similar reports in Urumqi. Dr Bughda also mentions that there were “fast lanes” – named ‘Special passenger, human organs transportation pass-way’ – for organ transport at local airports – Kashi, Xi Ning and Urumqi – implying an unusually high rate of outgoing organ trafficking in those provinces.
Many human rights activists have alleged that thousands of Uighurs who in recent years have ended up in re-education camps, have been murdered under fake or flimsy charges and their organs harvested for wealthy Chinese or other foreign donors.
However, Xinjiang is not the only province from where Chinese authorities have illegally sourced organs. According to a report from the London China Tribunal, such organs have been sourced for years from inside China’s labour camps and the practitioners of the Falun Gong cult (which the CCP has denounced as a “heretical organisation” that threatens social stability).[iii] The Tribunal, in its damning report, had noted that a systematic programme existed in many government departments, including the People’s Liberation Army, for obtaining organs from the freshly executed prisoners, including kidneys, skin, liver and corneas.
This terrible practice has existed for decades and justified by edicts such as the one coming from the CCP’s Central Military Commission in 1962 which declared that all death row prisoners and serious offenders may be treated according to the needs of national and socialist development and can be dealt with according to the ‘revolutionary protocol,’ under which enemies of the state are deprived of all rights and utilised as state resources.[iv]
Indeed as demand for organ transplants increases worldwide, illegal organ harvesting has become a profitable enterprise for the CCP by targeting the vulnerable sections such as the Uighurs and Tibetans. As noted by the Wall Street Journal, patients in China – including foreigners – are promised matching organs within days.[v] In most other countries, patients have to wait for or even years for transplants. As per one estimate, between 60,000 and 100,000 organs are transplanted each year in Chinese hospitals.[vi]
Such has been the global concern with the Chinese practice that even the United Nations has reached out to the Chinese government to respond to the allegations and credible evidence put out by many human rights organisations like the London China Tribunal. However, every time Beijing has obfuscated its response by not providing data such as waiting times for organ allocation or information on the sources of organs. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has noted that concern remains at the lack of independent oversight as to whether the consent to donation and organ allocation is effectively given by prisoners or detainees.[vii]
These definitive pieces of evidence of illegal organ harvesting of the Uyghurs add another sordid chapter in China’s repression of this ethnic community. In recent years, the CCP has gone on the offensive as it seeks to quash Uyghurs’ demands for political autonomy, justice and peace. According to estimates, as many as one million Uighurs have been detained in the internment camps, without due process of law and for an indefinite period. Many of these detainees are also being forced to engage in slave labour. Those who oppose have been subjected to torture by the Chinese authorities.
Beijing has erected the world’s largest surveillance network, much of it focused on ethnic minorities like Uighurs and Tibetans to keep a tab on their activities. It has also taken the help of domestic technology companies and social media platforms to flag suspicious activities among the Uighurs.
True to its character, the CCP has evaded global scrutiny for its reprehensible actions and shown no remorse. On the contrary, it has utilised tactics such as the ‘Werewolf diplomacy’ to counter what it calls “anti-China propaganda” through an aggressive diplomatic posture. China’s propaganda machinery has worked overtime in the last few years as Western media and human rights organisations have consistently highlighted China’s crackdown in the region.
China’s actions in Xinjiang indicate the definite plan by the CCP to maintain the dominance of the Han ethnic community by subjugating other ethnic minorities and treating them as second-class citizens. Moreover, while Beijing has bought the silence of the prominent Muslim nations, including Pakistan on its treatment of Uighurs, Western countries have refused to be cowed down by China’s propaganda blitzkrieg and are penalising Beijing.