There is a horrifying story going around the world: In the northeast of China, thousands of prisoners are being held, so that they can be killed for their organs. The prisoners are practitioners of Falun Gong, the meditation-and-exercise system. The facility at which they are being held–called a “concentration camp” or a “death camp”–is at Sujiatun. Chinese human-rights activists believe that this name should cause the same shudders as Treblinka and the others.
I cannot say whether this story is true; I can say that one ought to pay attention.
Of course, “organ-harvesting” is a very familiar story: The PRC has been doing it, with prisoners, for many years. In 2001, the U.S. Congress held hearings on the matter, which caused a sensation. But the sensation died down, as sensations tend to do. Organ-harvesting has gone on, with no negative consequences for the Chinese government.
Organ-selling is a huge business for the Chinese. You can obtain organs in China as you can nowhere else: any type, and very speedily.
The subject of organ-harvesting has been revived by the discovery of Sujiatun. I will not attempt to do justice to this story in this space (as though justice could be done). I will mainly direct you to the website of the Epoch Times, and specifically to its archive on Sujiatun: here. The Epoch Times is an international newspaper whose reason for being is to tell the truth about China. Media in China itself, of course, are government-owned or -controlled.
I also wish to direct you to an article by the tireless Bill Gertz of the Washington Times: here.
How do we know about Sujiatun? Mainly through two witnesses, indescribably brave. One is a woman whose husband was a doctor who took part in the organ-harvesting; the other is a Chinese journalist, long based in Japan, who investigated the matter. Both are now in the United States, in hiding, in fear of their lives. I talked to the journalist, by phone, on Monday morning.
First, a further word about the woman: You can read an Epoch Times interview with her here, and a follow-up story here. They will give you all the details a human mind can take, and probably more. In brief, her husband became deranged by his work, unable to go on. The wife did not intend to step forward as a witness, but concluded that she had no choice.
I will indulge in just a few details. The woman’s husband said to her, “You don’t understand my suffering. Those Falun Gong practitioners were alive. It might be easier for me if they were dead, but they were alive.”
The woman also said this, to the Epoch Times: “Some poor farmers from nearby places were hired to work in the boiler room. [This served as the crematory.] They were penniless when they first came. . . . But they could scrape up some watches, finger rings, necklaces, and so on. The amount is not small.”
Finally, she said, “I would like to expose this to the international community, so those who are not yet killed can be saved. Also, I would like to expose this as an atonement for my family.”
Now to the Chinese journalist: His name is Jin Zhong–or so he calls himself for the purpose of media reports. I spoke to him when I was meeting with some Falun Gong activists in a New York conference room. One of them, Charles Lee, was recently released from a Chinese prison after three years’ confinement. He was tortured, and I will be writing about him in the next issue of National Review. Dr. Lee is a U.S. citizen, by the way.
And, in a strange twist, he bore witness to organ-harvesting, while a young medical researcher in China, years ago. Prisoners would be shot in the back of the head, and their bodies would be hustled to a waiting van. There, doctors would extract their organs; Charles Lee served as an assistant, holding the instruments. Sometimes, the prisoners seemed not quite dead, he says.
Before Dr. Lee and I talked, I was able to interview Jin Zhong by phone, using an associate of Dr. Lee’s as a translator.
For an extended report on Mr. Jin, please see this Epoch Times article. I will say simply that he found out about Sujiatun when he was investigating SARS, and the extent of the Chinese government’s cover-up of that problem. Some local officials let slip information about the Falun Gong camp, and its purpose. He could not believe what he was hearing: It was too horrific, too inhuman. But he pursued the story, and confirmed that what he had heard was true.
I ask Mr. Jin whether the officials felt guilty about this murder and organ-harvesting. He says, “Not at all.”
Mr. Jin soon attracted the attention of the police, and was twice detained. He says he was tortured, while in detention. He managed to return to Japan, and then come to the United States. His family remains in Japan, and he says they have received death threats. Obviously, he fears for his own life here in America. PRC agents have never been respecters of national territory.
For those who care, Mr. Jin is not himself a Falun Gong practitioner. (Neither is the woman whose husband performed organ-harvesting.) “I’m not even interested,” says Mr. Jin. But he is interested in humanity, and in justice. He says, “I trust that the CCP [the Chinese Communist Party] will try to kill me,” for telling about Sujiatun. His life would have been far easier if he had kept quiet, but his conscience would not allow it.
I compliment him on his bravery. He says, “You’re a journalist. You wouldn’t have done any differently, in my position.” I reply, “I can only hope that that is so.”
Is the U.S. government aware of Sujiatun? Mr. Jin says he has informed interested congressmen and their aides. And friends of human rights in the media are weighing in. Peter Worthington concluded a piece in the Toronto Sun this way: “China’s use of prisoners as guinea pigs, or as a supply to meet world demand, makes Nazi medical experimentation seem almost benign by comparison.”
No one should bet that Sujiatun will penetrate the world’s consciousness. Governments everywhere are keen on smooth relations with the PRC; media, even in free countries, seem to want to help them. The reluctance of major newspapers and TV networks to report on atrocities in China is a sad subject.
And I recall what Robert Conquest, the great analyst of totalitarianism, once told me: The world has seldom wanted to believe witnesses. Ten, 20, or 30 years later, maybe, but rarely sooner.
Testimony out of the early Soviet Union was scoffed at; these were “rumors in Riga.” Tales of the Holocaust were Jewish whining. When escapees from Mao spilled into Hong Kong, they were “embittered warlords.” When Cubans landed in Florida, they were “Batista stooges.” And so on.
There is an extra incentive to look away from persecution when the victims are Falun Gong. Many people are suspicious of these meditators and slow-motion exercisers, with their strange philosophy. And massive Communist propaganda against them has not been without an effect. Western business leaders see Falun Gong standing in their way, or at least irritating them.
I have no idea what will happen to Jin Zhong, or to the wife of the doctor, or to the prisoners who remain in Sujiatun. It may well be that, with some international attention, the Chinese government will Potemkinize the place. They have done as much before, as have many governments like them. And it could be that people will simply not care about Sujiatun, no matter what is proven.
My main hope, at the moment, is that readers will glance at the reports I have mentioned, especially those in the Epoch Times. Because, sometimes, the unthinkable needs to be thought about, just a bit.