Wu Hongda's Statement on the Sujiatun Concentration Camp
Harry Wu, also known as Wu Hongda, heads the China Information Center, which is a dissident website based in the United States. The following is a summary of his investigation and travails in the matter of the Sujiatun affair. This essay is being translated here because it is not the kind of thing that will be published in English otherwise.
(Observechina) My Knowledge and Experience with the Falun Gong media reporting on the Sujiatun Concentration Camp problem. July 18, 2006.
First of all, my personal beliefs and political viewpoints are different from those of the Falun Gong.
Secondly, I respect everyone's freedom of belief and the right not to be persecuted. From the moment that the Beijing government announced that Falun Gong is an evil cult and persecuted its members, I have firmly and resolutely stood on the side of Falun Gong.
Thirdly, no matter from personal experience or scholarly knowledge, I should know more about the brutal nature of the Chinese government than the Falun Gong practitioners, especially their senior members.
Fourthly, I do not want my words to be used by the Beijing authorities to conceal or lessen their evil deeds.
Fifthly, I hope that everybody (including myself) respect the facts and put the truth above everything else.
In the following, let me use the narrative technique to describe my experience and knowledge about the Sujiatun affair in chronological order:
(1) At the end of February 2006, after an investigation of six months, our team wrote a report about how the Huaxi Hospital in Chengu, Sichuan, was extracting organs from death-sentence prisoners for transplanting. I was prepared to publish the report when Hu Jintao arrives in late April so that I can remind the world that the Chinese government has "used" the organs of death-sentence prisoners on a large-scale, long-term basis in violation of the basic principles of human rights. This is one of the brutal acts of the Communist government.
(2) In February, the China Information Center and one of the Falun Gong media "Secret China" went into a preliminary stage of cooperation. China Information Center was not only published on the "Secret China" website, but also in the print media.
(3) On March 10, 2006, the front page of Epoch Times carried a headline story titled "Shocking Inside News: Shenyang Concentration Camp Has Body Crematorium." The article said: "There is a secret concentration came in the manner of the Nazis in Sujiatun, Shenyang. More than 6,000 Falun Gong members are being held. The secret prison has a 'body incinerator' as well as many medical doctors. Nobody who goes in there comes out alive. Their vital organs are extracted and then their bodies are incinerated."
The following is an extract from the Falun Gong media about the Sujiatun concentration camp:
Of the 6,000 Falun Gong practitioners, three-fourths had their hearts, kidneys, cornea and skin extracted before they died and then their bodies were incinerated ... since 2001, this concentration camp has extracted the kidneys, livers, hearts, brains, cornea and other organs from thousands of kidnapped Falun Gong practitioners. The extracted organs were sold to many "biological model factories" that sprung up and then the bodies were destroyed ... The investigation verified that the organs were extracted from people who were still alive, and the process was extremely cruel. Most of the participating medical personnel suffered severe psychological problems, including committing suicide ... the Falun Gong practioners are the principal source of the organ transaction black market in China (March 17, Dajiyuan, "Witness appears to testify about organ extractions on live persons at Sujiatun.").
(4) After reading the Dajiyuan report carefully, I felt that the two "witnesses" were unreliable and this story may be intentionally fabricated. I attempted to contact Falun Gong spokesperson Zhang Erping on his mobile phone and asked him to talk to me about the Sujiatun affair, but I never got a reply from him.
At the same time, I arranged for people inside China to visit the Sujiatun scene. From March 12, the investigators canvassed the entire Sujiatun area. On March 17, the investigators visited two military barracks in Sujiatun. On March 27, the investigators secretly visited the Chinese Medical Blood Clotting Treatment Center in Sujiatun. On March 29, the investigators went to the Kongjiashan prison near Sujiatun. None of the aforementioned investigations revealed any trace of the concentration camp. The investigators provided me with photographs and written reports on their investigation and results on March 15, 17, 27, 29, 30 and April 4.
(5) At the same time, Dajiyuan and other Falun Gong media (including the English editions) continued to report on the Sujiatun concentration camp on their front pages. Sound of Hope Radio and New Tang Dynasty TV, which are related to Falun Gong, followed up extensively. New Tang Dynasty TV interviewed me, and use my related videotapes on organ transplants (with my permission). Various media and political people asked me about my views on the Sujiatun affair.
(6) On March 19, at the invitation of Falun Gong's representative Professor Nie Sen in Washington DC, I made a speech to support the resignation campaign from the Communist Party to the Falun Gong assembly in front of the Lincoln Memorial after the St. Patrick's Day parade.
At the assembly, I met Ms. Wang Wenyi for the first time. She claimed to be the person responsible for public relations at Dajiyuan. According to her self-introduction: (1) she is a graduate of a mainland Chinese medical university and she has received a doctor of medicine in the United States; she recently moved from California to New York to do medical research; (2) she was the Falun Gong person who scolded Jiang Zemin in Malta, Europe; (3) when she doing medical work in China, she had gone to the killing field and extracted organs from executed prisoners.
Based upon the above, since I was writing the report about the Huaxi Hospital extracting the hearts of death-sentence prisoners and I was hoping to get a US Congressional hearing on how the Beijing government is extracting organs from death-sentence prisoners, I invited Ms. Wang Wenyi to go to Congress because she was a Chinese doctor who participated directly in the extraction of organs from death-sentence prisoners. She gladly agreed and she said that she would email her testimony very soon.
(7) On March 22, I wrote certain US Congress Representatives and other people about the Sujiatun situation and I told them what I thought. The recipients of this letter were about 20 or so people who were either US Congress Representatives or media people. There were three main points in the letter: (1) according to my recent investigation, the Sujiatun concentration camp holding 6,000 people does not exist; (2) for over more than 20 years, the Chinese government had extracted large numbers of organs from death-sentence prisoners. But a scale of 4,500 live organ extractions is impossible in theory and infeasible in practice: (3) the report "The Communists are stealing organs from Falun Gong members to export to Thailand and other countries" is completely not credible. In the letter, I reiterated clearly that I have always opposed the oppression of Falun Gong by the Chinese government and that I will continue as always to support the Falun Gong group to have the right to observe their own beliefs. In order to avoid being mistaken as holding the same position as the Chinese Communists, I asked the recipients not to distribute the letter or publicly describe or quote its contents.
This letter has never been translated into Chinese nor has it been published at this time.
(8) After the letter was published, Falun Gong representative Tang Zhong (the president of New Tang Dynasty TV), Guo Jun (chief editor of Dajiyuan), Wang Wenyi (the public relations person for Dajiyuan) and Ms. Judy visited the China Information Center on March 28. In the presence of China Information Center editors Liao Tianqi and Chen Kuide, I delivered the following viewpoints to the Falun Gong representatives:
(1) I hope and I recommend that Dajiyuan and other Falun Gong media not use the term "concentration camp." I pointed out that this term contains specific meanings, and can be used for comparative purposes. But to cite or use it directly may lead to side effects.
(2) I quoted the example of the German Nazis using live persons for medical experiments at the Auschwitz concentration camp to the Falun Gong representatives. If 4,500 live persons had their organs removed and then their corpses were destroyed, then this is an unthinkably big deal in world history. There has to be enough solid eyewitnesses, evidence and investigation. Based only upon the indirect testimony of two witnesses, the outside world will think that this was just "propaganda." In the western world, "propaganda" has negative meaning. Only Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Soviet Russia and China have a "propaganda department."
(3) 4,500 persons in total would mean 1,500 persons per year, or at least 120 persons per month whose organs were removed and then they were murdered. This was technically infeasible and impossible to accomplish in an environment such as Sujiatun.
(4) The exporting of organs to Thailand and other countries is even more preposterous. Even though it is possible for sick people in Thailand and other countries to go to China to get organ transplants, there has to be some data. To export the organs would be impossible both technically as well as being prohibited by other nation's laws and conditions. I have been to Thailand many times to investigate the situation of Thai nationals going to China to receive organ transplants, the attitudes of the Thai officials and medical professionals and the relevant regulations. Thai patients who have received organ transplants and the Thai Royal Medical Society chairman had been invited by me to testify at the US Congress.
(5) The Falun Gong representatives admitted that the evidence about the Sujiatun concentration camp was still inadequate, but they firmly believed that the Sujiatun concentration camp exists and that the report was truthful. They were in the process of going in to collect the relevant evidence. Their reasoning was this: the Chinese Communists is a brutal regime and capable of any brutality. Therefore, one should not doubt the Sujiatun affair. In order to prevent further massacre (supposedly another 2,000 people were going to have their organs extracted immediately), they publicized this affair and the purpose was to call for the attention of the international community to investigate and hence save lives.
During the discussion, I asked whether I can meet with the two witnesses. Wang Wenyi replied that the two witnesses have issues with personal safety, and the representatives don't even know the whereabouts of the witnesses. She said that she will contact them and make the arrangements. The meeting finished at noon that day. I learned from the US Congress that the two witnesses had already met with many people at the US Congress through the arrangement of Wang Wenyi and other Falun Gong lobbyists.
(9) On the morning of March 31, Falun Gong representatives in the Washington DC area Professor Nie Sen and Ms. Amy came to the China Information Center without prior notice. At the time, editors Liao Tianqi and Chen Kuide were present. Ms. Amy did not say anything. Nie Sen said that he knew that I had written a letter and he told me three points in a direct manner:
(1) If you (Wu Hongda) do not have sufficient evidence and you don't know the facts, it would be best for you to maintain neutrality.
(2) This way, you can maintain your reputation and continue your significant work. We have always respected you, etc.
(3) Your letter was aiding the Communists. Please don't do that.
At the time, I told Nie Sen: "You are threatening me."
He said, "No. This is not a threat."
I asked: "This is persuasion or advice, right? Who are you to talk to me this way?"
He said: "I read your letter."
I said: "According to my understanding, that was a private letter from me to the Congressional representatives. You have not brought the two witnesses to lobby Congress yet. How did you see it?"
Nie did not reply. I asked further: "If you did not see the letter, then someone else told you about it and therefore you must have discussed it among yourselves and they ordered you to come here and give me advice. Right?"
Nie did not reply.
I said; "You can leave now. Please." Nie then left the office of the China Information Center.
(10) After Nie's visit, I called Zhang Erping again and he finally responded. He said that he will come to see me next Monday to talk. On the morning of April 3, Zhang Erping and Wang Wenyi came to the office of China Information Center. Editors Liao Tianqi and Chen Kuide were present.
Zhang Erping said: "I respect you, and you have the right of freedom of speech. But what you wrote in the letter was wrong and objectively helped the Communists as well as hurt our feelings. You know that many Falun Gong members came to Washington DC to demonstrate in front of the White House. They are extremely mad at you."
I asked, "Please tell me whether you personally read my letter to the Congress?" Zhang did not respond directly.
I said: "There is no Chinese-language version of the letter. The English-language was only sent by email to twenty or so people and it clearly said 'Confidential: not to be distributed or cited; for advice only.' Can you tell me how the Falun Gong members learned about it? You ought to know Nie Sen was ordered to come here. It seems that you have made a systematic communication and plan." Zhang did not respond.
I was deeply disappointed. Although Zhang Erping was gentle and proper and we got along well privately, he showed that Falun Gong was "angry at me." At that point, I realized that Falun Gong would be taking hostile action against me. Of course, they can claim that I was hostile to them first.
That evening, I wanted to express my thoughts again and so I called Zhang Erping. It was impossible to communicate even after a one-hour conversation. In the end, I said, "Erping, please shove me aside and ignore me. Will you please consider the following two problems? First, did the Sujiatun affair give credit or discredit to the reputation of Falun Gong? Second, based upon the current situation, is Falun Gong rising or falling compared to 1999? You don't have to answer me. No matter what the answers are, it does not concern me. You are the responsible person at Falun Gong. You better think about it."
(11) On April 6, the Falun Gong groups wrote a letter to the US Congress to urge an investigation of the Sujiatun affair.
(12) On April 8, the Falun Gong medium Renminbao published two articles, "Chaos at the senior level of National Security" and "The butcher Wu Hongda." The articles named me directly as interfering with the Sujiatun investigations. Therefore, I am the "butcher" and "National Security senior-level spy." The articles included my photograph.
On that day, I emailed the two articles without adding or subtracting one word to Zhang Erping. Upon information, on the next day, the two articles disappeared from the Renminbao website. There is no proof whether Zhang Erping gave the order. Individual Falun Gong people explained to me that the two Renminbao articles were written by individual Falun Gong persons and do not represent the opinion of "Falun Gong."
(13) On April 12, Reuters and Agence France Presses reported that China's State council held a press conference on April 11. At the conference, the Shenyang Sujiatun district officials and the Sujiatun Blood Clot Treatment Center leaders came forward to refute Falun Gong and denied that they had imprisoned large numbers of Falun Gong practioners.
(14) On April 13, Falun Gong declared that "after further investigation, we are more inclined to believe that the Sujiatun affair is true ... faced with these brutal murders, we hope the international community will not hold onto a rigorous or skeptical attitude. The world cannot wait until all the evidence become available because the crimes will worsen. Even if there is a 1% probability that this is true, it is worth the whole world to carefully and fully investigate the matter and deal with it."
(15) On April 14, the US Department of State released its report of the investigation about Sujiatun by the Embassy in Beijing and the Consulate in Shenyang. The report said: "No evidence was discovered that says the place is used for any other purpose other than as a public hospital."
(16) On April 16, the Falun Gong medium Renminbao published the articles "Agence France Presse and Associated Press colluded with Xinhua" and "On Easter, God questions Bush." In the essays: "More than three weeks after the affair of the Sujiatun concentration camp is exposed, the place has been vacated. The Chinese Communist Foreign Ministry spokesperson Qin Kong said that the outside world is welcome to investigate. More than a month later on April 14, US State Department Sean McCormack claimed that American investigators (under the detailed arrangement and guidance of the Chinese Communists) found no evidence of the Falun Gong charges when they investigated the Sujiatun area in northeastern China. The Agence France Presse and Associated Press reports about Sujiatun were very similar to the Chinese Communists' Xinhua releases." "The American government elite ignored the usual fakery of the Chinese Communists and were led on a guide tour of Sujiatun as arranged by the Chinese Communists. This was how they readily came to the conclusion of that there were no 'abnormal' activities at the hospital."
(17) On April 16, a Congressional aide called me and said that Falun Gong was extremely dissatisfied with me because I opposed the attendance of Falun Gong members at the schedule April 19 congressional hearing.
He said; "A certain Congress person said that if Wu Hongda does not agree, then Falun Gong cannot attend the Congressional hearing."
I replied: "That is not true. I have never told anyone (including people at Congress) that Falun Gong cannot attend congressional hearings."
The aide said: "Zhang Erping said that he learned about it from someone at Congress."
I told the aide: "I am willing to confront Zhang Erping and that person at Congress."
I also said: "I do not have the power and standing. I don't know why Zhang Erping or the person from Congress would say that. You are someone from the Hill. Please verify with them."
The aide said; "If you are willing, I can arrange for you to meet with the two witnesses. This may be of assistance to you."
I said: "I will be glad to meet them. But this is not connected to the congressional hearing. This is something completely different. I must find out why Zhang Erping said that I obstructed the Falun Gong from attending the hearing."
The aide asked me to wait because Zhang Erping was right there next to him. Moments later, the aide said: "Please come to the office tomorrow morning at 11am."
The next day, I went with my aide to the Hill. At the office of the congressional representative (note: Congress was on vacation and no representative was working), I saw the aide and Zhang Erping, but not the two witnesses.
I said that the purpose of my coming to the office was to meet the two witnesses. If the two witnesses were not there, then I should leave. As to why my so-called "unwillingness" to let Falun Gong members attend the congressional hearing, I reiterated once again -- in the presence of Zhang Erping -- I have no right to agree or disagree with the presence of any person or group to attend. I have no intention of interfering with the affairs of the US Congress. Please check with all the parties concerned.
The aide said that he wanted me to sponsor and arrange for the Falun Gong people to attend to the hearing. I emphasized that I did not have the power. The aide wanted a deeper exchange and I requested Zhang Erping to leave.
After Zhang Erping left, I told the aide about my position (namely, points 1 through 16 above). I showed the aide certain investigative photos from Sujiatun (he was the first outsider to have seen those photographs). The aide immediately said that he was unaware of the circumstances and he said, "I had provided a copy of your March 22 letter to Zhang Erping." He apologized to me formally (this was in violation of personal conduct code for Congressional personnel as well as violating my personal rights). I have had a friendship and understanding with this aide for more than ten years. Although I was not happy that he leaked my letter, I knew his character and views. I thought that he may have over-reacted as he did not understand the situation. So I spent almost one hour to relate the circumstances to him again and again. He told me what he went through and how he saw it, and he apologized many times and begged for my forgiveness.
(18) On April 17, Falun Gong spokesperson Zhang Erping made a public statement: "All investigations under the control of the Chinese Communists are meaningless." He said: "Falun Gong has started a Committee to Investigate the Truth of the Oppression. We welcome international organizations including the American government to join this independent investigative group."
(19) On May 6, I went to the Human Rights Conference in Frankfurt, Germany. The previously friendly Falun Gong leader in Germany named Wu ignored me totally, and I was surprised.
Wu spoke about the extraction of organs and incineration of bodies, but four Germans dissented. In order to avoid a public clash, I left the conference hall using an excuse.
Two veteran Falun Gong representatives from Sweden and Belgium spoke to me extensively. They did not say that they were "angry" with me, but they said that it "broke their hearts." They all knew about the March 22 letter and they said that they "did not understand." I gave them the detailed explanation (points 1 through 16 above). They were sorry that Renminbao had called me a spy and a butcher.
(20) Many mainland Chinese friends and relevant persons showed concern about my being labeled "butcher" and "Chinese Communist senior-level spy."
(21) Many overseas websites carried the two Renminbao articles as well as other strange and weird opinions.
(22) According to various channels, Falun Gong accused me of being a senior-level Chinese Communist spy because Gao Zhan once worked at China Information Center. Furthermore, I had gone through a similar experience like Gao. I had been arrested, sentenced and exiled by the Chinese Communist government. That was their inference.
(23) Two veteran political figures in Canada announced that they will conduct an investigation of the Sujiatun affair. On May 20-21, they met with me in Washington DC. They somehow had a copy of my March 22 letter in their hands (where did it come from?).
They knew me from before and they have always respected me. They said that they did not understand why I was "against" the Sujiatun affair. I narrated the history (namely, the events from points 1 to 16 above).
They asked me if I had met the two witnesses. I said that I had not. They were surprised why I hadn't met them and they immediately said that they would arrange it. The next day, they told me that it was impossible. They said that the two witnesses refused to meet with me because I said that they were fabricating stuff. I told the two Canadians that I had wanted to meet with the witnesses prior to the March 22 letter, but I was refused.
At this point, the conversation with the Canadians reached a dead end. Suddenly, they wrote on a piece of paper the name "Gao Zhan" and they asked me, "Do you know this person?" I said, "Yes, Gao Zhan is presently in an American prison awaiting expulsion." I asked them, "We are talking about the Falun Gong affair at Sujiatun today. How did Gao Zhao come in?" The two sides had a laugh.
Related Link: Dissecting An Unfair and Unbalanced Report
(SCMP) Activist Harry Wu challenges organ harvesting claims. By Paul Mooney. August 9, 2006.
A prominent Chinese human rights activist in the US has challenged Falun Gong claims that mainland hospitals have harvested organs from thousands of its members.
Harry Wu challenged a report in the Falun Gong newspaper Epoch Times in March that claimed that 6,000 Falun Gong practitioners had been sent to a secret concentration camp in the Sujiatun district of Shenyang, Liaoning, and that "three-fourths had their hearts, kidneys, corneas and skin extracted before they died". Mr Wu is head of the China Information Centre in the US and a veteran of 19 years in the Chinese gulag.
Falun Gong - banned in 1999 as an "evil cult" - claimed the organs were sold for large sums of money to Chinese and foreigners in need of transplants.
Mr Wu, who has spent 15 years gathering evidence on the harvesting of organs from executed Chinese prisoners, said the information was based on the testimony of two witnesses, neither of whom had first-hand information. He believed the reports were fabricated.
Mr Wu, who was on friendly terms with the Falun Gong until he challenged its claims, said he asked to interview the witnesses, but was refused permission by Falun Gong officials. "I tried several times to see the witnesses, but they said no," he said. "Even today, I don't know their names."
Mr Wu said he sent his own investigators to two prisons in the area mentioned by the Falun Gong, observing the institutions from the outside and interviewing people coming out of the prison and local residents.
He said he discovered there were Falun Gong practitioners being held in the prisons. But his team could not locate any trace of the concentration camp or corroborate the claims of forced organ removals.
Investigators also visited two hospitals in the area, but again found no evidence.
US officials from the embassy in Beijing and the consulate in Shenyang also visited the area twice in April, but came up empty handed.
"US representatives have found no evidence to support allegations that a site in northeast China has been used as a concentration camp to jail Falun Gong practitioners and harvest their organs," the US State Department said in April.
Mr Wu questioned the feasibility of the claims. He said a total of 4,500 victims "would mean 1,500 persons per year, or at least 120 persons per month whose organs were removed".
"This would be impossible to accomplish in an environment such as Sujiatun," he said. "China takes organs from many executed prisoners every year, but to kill 4,000 or 5,000 people, I don't think so. Professional doctors would not do this." He also cast doubt on claims that a doctor removed corneas from 2,000 followers in less than two years.
David Matas, an international human rights lawyer who co-authored an independent report which supports the Falun Gong claims, countered Mr Wu's argument that it would be impossible to remove the corneas from 2,000 people in such a short time span.
"The process of removing the eyes takes only 20 minutes," he said, adding that one surgeon could remove the corneas from 2,000 bodies in just 83 days.
He said further that he and co-author David Kilgour had obtained more information since their first report came out last month that would be incorporated into a new report next month.
(Observe China) 《南华早报》报道苏家屯事件的争论 劳改基金会
国际人权律师，同时也是一份独立报告的作者之一的David Matas，则支持法轮功关于对苏家屯集中营的指控。他反驳吴弘达的质疑，他认为摘取眼球只需20分钟，一个专业医生可以在83天内从2000人身上摘取眼角膜。他透露，他与报告的另一作者David Kilgour已经在上月的第一份报告的基础上，又收集了更多的资料，新的报告将在下月公布。
（原载South China Morning Post，8/9/2006，PAUL MOONEY著/劳改基金会编译）
(The Australian) Chinese dissident doubts organ harvest claim. By Rowan Callick. August 14, 2006.
HARRY Wu, one of the most respected Chinese dissident leaders, has cast crucial doubt on Falun Gong claims that body parts have been extracted from 6000 followers of the sect at a secret concentration camp in northeast China. In response, Falun Gong has branded Mr Wu, who spent 19 years in Chinese labour camps, a "butcher" and a "senior-level Chinese Communist spy".
The religious sect's organ transplant claims have become a pivotal part of its fierce campaign against the Chinese Government, which has outlawed the group since 1999.
Australian Foreign Affairs Department deputy secretary David Ritchie said after the annual Australia-China human rights dialogue in Canberra last month that Australia had raised the issue of organs being removed from people executed in China. Mr Ritchie, leader of the Australian team at the talks, said about the extractions claim: "We think the evidence is not necessarily there, it's still open - which is one of the reasons why we raised the issue; we don't know one way or the other."
Since then, for the first time in four years, the federal Government has stopped banning the use of large banners by Falun Gong demonstrators outside the Chinese embassy in Canberra.
The horrific Falun Gong claims were prominently presented by a newspaper associated with the group, Epoch Times, which on March 10 said there was a "secret Nazi-style concentration camp at Sujiatun", a suburb of Shenyang, capital of Liaoning province. The paper said 6000 Falun Gong followers had been sent to the camp since 2001, and that three-quarters of them had had their hearts, kidneys, corneas and skin extracted, after which the remains of their bodies were incinerated.
According to Amnesty International, China killed at least 1770 of the 2184 people executed worldwide last year. But it could obtain no proof of more executions than that.
Falun Gong claimed its investigation "verified that the organs were extracted from people who were still alive". The body parts had become the principal source of China's thriving transplant market, its report said. The grim story has been raised internationally by two prominent Canadian human rights activists, former parliamentarian David Kilgour and lawyer David Matas, who are not practitioners of Falun Gong.
They published a report on the issue last month after research on behalf of a Falun Gong support group, the Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of the Falun Gong in China. They say in their report: "We would like to pursue further research before we come to any firm conclusions. But based on what we now know, we have come to the regrettable conclusion that the allegations are true. "We believe that there has been and continues today to be large-scale organ seizures from unwilling Falun Gong practitioners for sale at high prices, sometimes to foreigners who normally face long waits for voluntary donations of such organs in their home countries."
Mr Kilgour and Mr Matas say that of 60,000 transplants registered by the China Medical Organ Transplant Association from 2000-05, just 18,500 sources could be identified.
But the Canadians did not visit China, and thus relied on second-hand evidence.
Mr Wu, 69, was first arrested in 1956 for criticising the Communist Party during the feigned period of liberalisation after Mao Zedong said "let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend".
From 1960, Mr Wu was sent as a "counter-revolutionary rightist" to 12 different labour camps (laogai), where he was beaten, tortured and starved.
Earlier this year, Mr Wu's US-based Laogai Research Foundation spent six months investigating how the Huaxi Hospital in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, was extracting organs for transplants from executed prisoners.
The foundation and Falun Gong discussed further co-operative investigations. But then the Falun Gong media published its shocking claims about the Sujiatun "concentration camp". Mr Wu said: "After reading the report carefully, I felt the (indirect testimony of) two witnesses cited was unreliable, and that this story might be fabricated."
He tried to contact Falun Gong's US spokesperson Zhang Erping about the issue, but did not get a reply. He then arranged for trusted contacts inside China to visit the Sujiatun area, where they stayed for more than three weeks. Their inspections included all the potential sites for forced extractions, including two military barracks, a hospital that specialises in treatment for blood clots and the Kongjiashan prison.
Mr Wu, who received photographs and written reports on each visit, said: "None of the investigations revealed any trace of the concentration camp."
"For more than 20 years, the Chinese Government has extracted large numbers of organs from death-sentence prisoners," Mr Wu said. "But a scale of 4500 live organ extractions is impossible in theory and unfeasible in practice."
Falun Gong said four months ago: "The world cannot wait until all the evidence becomes available, because the crimes will worsen. Even if there is a 1 per cent probability this is true, it is worth the whole world carefully and fully investigating."
Inside China's 'crematorium' Few argue that China does not imprison, torture and even kill practitioners of Falun Gong.
Glen McGregor The Ottawa Citizen
Saturday, November 24, 2007
It is illegal there to be a member of the group. The medical facility at Sujiatun is supposed to be ground zero of the worst abuses, a hospital of horrors where doctors extracted organs from more than 2,000 Falun Gong adherents before incinerating their bodies in the boiler room. But after visiting the hospital, Glen McGregor is unconvinced that these atrocities ever occurred
SHENYANG, China - On a sunny morning last month, two men in blue suits ferried wheelbarrows full of coal into the boiler room that heats the wards of the Liaoning Provincial Thrombosis Hospital. Inside the room, the workers shovelled coal into the chutes to keep the furnaces burning.
Four years ago, it is alleged, these hospital boilers served a sinister purpose. They were used to incinerate the bodies of practitioners of the spiritual movement Falun Gong, it is claimed.
This hospital, in Sujiatun district of the Shenyang City in northeastern China, allegedly functioned as a death camp, where thousands of Falun Gong prisoners were killed and their body parts stolen.
At Sujiatun, surgeons removed the corneas of living prisoners for transplantation, the allegation maintains. More than 2,000 Falun Gong practitioners were killed at Sujiatun, it is claimed, with their bodies burned on site and the furnace chutes stuffed not with coal but cadavers.
If true, the charge would make Sujiatun the point where two insidious human-rights abuses converge: the harvesting of organs from the unwilling, and the persecution of religious minorities.
And while the numbers alleged don't come anywhere near the death tolls of Treblinka or Auschwitz, the sheer evil of these purported crimes at Sujiatun certainly evoke Josef Mengele and the worst of the Nazi atrocities.
Still unknown, however, is whether the systemic execution and organ-harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners at Sujiatun -- or elsewhere -- has ever actually happened.
With the 2008 Beijing Olympics approaching and China increasingly in the crucible of global media attention, the allegations are fiercely argued by the Chinese government on one side and Falun Gong on other.
That Falun Gong practitioners have been abused and mistreated is without doubt. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the UN's Special Rapporteur on torture have all documented credible reports of arrests, detention and torture of Falun Gong in China.
Yet, the accusation that China systematically executed Falun Gong prisoners to harvest their organs is a substantial escalation that none of these groups have confirmed.
The charge is supported, however, by two prominent Canadians, former MP David Kilgour and Winnipeg lawyer David Matas, whose 2006 report (updated this year) concluded that Falun Gong practitioners were being killed for their organs.
Since the report, Mr. Kilgour has travelled the world to decry organ harvesting and the treatment of the Falun Gong. Western journalists routinely repeat the Kilgour-Matas findings as fact.
But what actually happens behind the walls of Chinese prisons and labour camps is difficult to ascertain. China and its government are often impenetrably opaque to western reporters, who have come to regard its official messages on Falun Gong as little more than state-controlled spin.
China offers blanket denials that Falun Gong members are executed for their organs. But it also contests many of the well-documented charges about the mistreatment of Falun Gong, an apparently benign spiritual movement.
It is also difficult to report objectively on Falun Gong. The Falun Gong adherents I have encountered seem allergic to criticism and react harshly to media coverage that contradicts them.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation set off an international furore this month when, at the last moment, it postponed the airing of a documentary on Falun Gong after being contacted by the Chinese Embassy. The CBC says the film required editing in certain contentious segments. For its intervention, the CBC was denounced as a mouthpiece of the Chinese government and accused of political interference. A version of the film aired on CBC Newsworld this week.
My own interest in the Falun Gong was piqued several years ago, when I passed one of the demonstrations its practitioners regularly stage on the front lawn of Parliament Hill. They stood holding banners that depicted gruesome scenes of torture and death at the hands of Chinese police.
Falun Gong is a spiritual movement that combines exercise and mediation. It was developed in 1992 by a former trumpet player named Li Hongzhi. He based his system of mind and body "cultivation" on qi gong, ancient exercises that enjoyed a popular resurgence in China in the 1980s.
By 1999, the Chinese government had labelled Falun Gong, or falun dafa, as it is also known, an "evil cult" and banned its practise. Practitioners say the Chinese Communist Party was threatened by its growing popularity. The government contends that Falun Gong encourages followers to resist medical treatments for illness.
The Internet is swamped by stories detailing the imprisonment and alleged murder of Falun Gong in China. The tone of the reporting often seemed highly partisan, especially coverage from the U.S.-based Epoch Times, a newspaper that bills itself as an independent voice of news from China, but appears chiefly interested in anti-Communist commentary and cataloging crimes against Falun Gong.
My first professional contact with the Falun Gong came in January when I wrote a story for this paper about a Chinese New Year's show held at the National Arts Centre. The performance was promoted as a celebration of Chinese culture, but several audience members I spoke to were dismayed by a segment depicting the murder of a Falun Gong practitioner by Chinese police. The Chinese Embassy called the event "propaganda" and decried the attendance of several Canadian politicians at the show.
The organizing committee of the event responded angrily, holding a press conference to denounce my story and repeatedly demanding to meet with my editors to discuss rectification of unspecified errors.
In August, I wrote another story about Falun Gong after Mr. Kilgour joined with other western politicians to call for a boycott of the 2008 Beijing Olympics over organ harvesting.
The story noted that while the conclusions of Kilgour-Matas report have been widely circulated, they are not universally accepted. The Chinese government had dismissed their work as a fabrication, but more neutral criticism came from the U.S. Congressional Research Service, which concluded the report for the most part "did not bring forth new or independently-obtained testimony and relies largely upon the making of logical inferences." This story also drew intense criticism and charges of bias against me from Falun Gong members. After it was published, I met with two Ottawa Falun Gong practitioners to discuss their concerns. They dumped a pile of printed material in my lap and insisted I watch a video that they claimed proved the self-immolation of Falun Gong in Tiananmen Square was a conspiracy orchestrated by the Chinese government to discredit Falun Gong.
Getting unbiased information about the issue was not going to be easy.
In March 2006, Sujiatun became ground zero for human rights concerns about China when the Epoch Times published an interview with a woman who said she was a former employee of the hospital.
The woman, identified only as "Annie," claimed her ex-husband was a surgeon who told her that he had removed the corneas of 2,000 Falun Gong practitioners in the Sujiatun hospital over a three-year period.
As many as 6,000 Falun Gong practitioners had been imprisoned in the hospital, the story said. Corneas were removed, some while the patients were alive, then the bodies cremated in the hospital boiler.
The story strongly evoked imagery of the Nazi death camps.
"It is said by the employees in the hospital these jewelry and watches were collected from the Falun Gong practitioners whose organs had been removed when they were about to be thrown in the boiler to be burned," Annie was quoted as saying. "It is also said by the employees in the hospital, some were still alive when being thrown into the boiler." When Annie went public, her story made headlines across the globe. It was a fantastic charge: the most populous nation on Earth was murdering its own citizens for their religious beliefs and then selling their body parts to foreigners. With the Olympics two years away, comparisons to Hitler's 1936 Berlin Games came easily.
Shortly after the Epoch Times story, diplomats from a nearby U.S. consulate and the U.S. Embassy in Beijing visited the Sujiatun site and found nothing amiss. A few journalists from Japan and Hong Kong came to look around and also left empty handed.
If the Chinese government allowed anyone to visit the site, it would have been sanitized first, Falun Gong supporters responded. The evidence of the crimes Annie alleged occurred between 2000 and 2003 would have been long gone, they said.
After my story about the call for an Olympic boycott, the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa contacted me to discuss the references to Sujiatun.
Would I like to see the hospital for myself, an embassy official asked. The Chinese Medical Association would take me there, at their expense, if I agreed. The Chinese Medical Association MA is a non-governmental organization that represents more than 400,000 Chinese health-care providers. It predates the Communist takeover of China by over 30 years, and had recently made headlines for opposing Beijing and calling for an end of organ transplants from executed criminals.
Journalist often get escorted tours of facilities they write about, but I was uneasy about working in China under the watch of a minder. And I knew travelling as the guest of an organization that would be indistinguishable from the Chinese government to outsiders would expose me to more charges of bias from the Falun Gong.
Still, Sujiatun had drawn the world's attention to alleged crimes that amounted to genocide. If I was going to write about the issue, I should see the hospital, even if -- as claimed -- the evidence of atrocities had long ago been cleansed. I agreed to go.
From media reports, I had been led to believe that the Thrombosis Hospital was located in some distant outpost, where the awful crimes within could be conducted out of sight. When I visited the hospital in October, I was surprised to find it next to a busy street with snarling traffic, a constant flow of bicycles and pedestrians, and little security. Anyone could walk in off the street into the wards.
The hospital is about a 30-minute drive from downtown Shenyang, an industrialized, but cosmopolitan, city of seven million. Its location in a bustling suburb made it seem an unlikely spot to conduct the methodical extermination of 2,000 human beings. If one were planning to set up a death camp and intending to do it discreetly, one could find better locations. An extermination centre on Merivale Road could operate more covertly.
On the day I visited, most of the wards inside were full with patients receiving treatment for strokes or blood clots, the hospital's specialty. My tour was led by several hospital administrators and an obstetrician from a Shenyang hospital who had been recruited as an interpreter.
The CT scanners and MRI scanner were in constant use, as was the machinery in the pharmacy that mass-produced herbal balms based on traditional Chinese medicine. The busiest spot in the building was cashier's desk in the main lobby, where dozens of patients and family members were lined up to pay for services rendered.
The boiler building that was supposedly used as a crematorium was in plain sight, with windows and a door that open to the quadrangle at the centre of the main hospital building.
The door to the building could be seen from any of the wards that look out on the quadrangle from three of the four sides of the hospital. It seemed unlikely that 2,000 cadavers could be brought to the building unseen, if not by the patients in the wards, then by residents of the seven-storey apartment building directly across the street, which had a direct sight line to the quadrangle.
The cremation of so many bodies would have created other logistical problems. In a conventional cremation oven, which burns at between 1600 and 2000 degrees Fahrenheit, it takes about two or three hours to incinerate a human body. But cremation does not reduce a body to ash. Skeletal fragments remain that are "very identifiable," according to Michael Kubasak, a Nevada cremation expert.
"You would be able to say, Here's the femur, here are the toes, here's the pelvis, here's the skull," Mr. Kubasak said. Even if the boilers burned hotter than a normal crematorium, the bones would likely remain, he said.
"The human body is very tough." Could the bones have been removed from the boilers at the hospital? Would the perpetrators of the alleged crimes have taken the trouble to grind the bones up? Or could they be disposed of in another way? On the day I visited, an orthopedic surgery on a patient's leg was under way in the operating theatre. During a break, head nurse Chen Feng came out to greet us. When she was told why I was there, her face darkened. Ms. Chen had worked at the hospital since 1989. The claim that prisoners were slaughtered on her watch deeply offended her.
"If that's true, we're like butchers," she said angrily, through my interpreter. "Ridiculous," she snorted, then pulled on her surgical mask and went back to work.
When I returned to Canada, I called Mr. Matas and Mr. Kilgour to talk about Sujiatun and their findings.
After the allegations about the hospital surfaced in the Epoch Times, a group called the Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of the Falun Gong asked them to conduct an independent investigation of the issue.
They were unable to see Sujiatun, or anywhere else in China, they said, because the Chinese government refused their requests to visit while working on their report in May and June 2006.
Their first report, issued in July 2006, concluded there had been "large scale organ seizures from unwilling Falun Gong practitioners." They found Annie credible, but said her testimony was relied on only where it was "corroborative and consistent with other evidence." Their findings stood without Annie's claims about Sujiatun, Mr. Matas said.
Annie's original allegation was the reason they were asked to investigate, he told me. Her story was included in their work only as the "historical narrative," he said.
"We didn't rely on her," Mr. Matas said. "We looked at all the evidence together and came to that conclusion." I pressed him on whether he believed the story about Sujiatun.
"We don't have the records, we can't get into that level of detail," he said.
Mr. Kilgour was angered by the previous story I had written. In the first 20 minutes of our phone conversation, he called me "a lousy journalist," told me I don't "have any brains" and compared me to Holocaust denier David Irving.
"Essentially, in our view, that's what you're doing," he said. "You're a denier that this is happening to the Falun Gong community." This would turn out to be a familiar response to questions about the Falun Gong. Mr. Kilgour's co-author, Mr. Matas, wrote a lengthy submission to the Citizen about organ harvesting in which he referenced Holocaust denial. Lucy Zhou, one of the Falun Gong practitioners I met with, wrote to my editors in advance of this story to ask if the Citizen would have published in 1943 a similar story denying slaughter by a totalitarian regime.
It was a point that I had repeatedly considered. As a reporter, there is no risk in accepting the Kilgour-Matas conclusions at face value. Most of my colleagues in the Canadian media had, as evidenced by recent coverage of the CBC imbroglio. China couldn't sue for libel, after all.
The findings of the Kilgour-Matas report might never be proven by others, but there is little chance they will be disproved. By questioning the Falun Gong or their supporters, however, one risks unparalleled humiliation if the claims of organ harvesting are later corroborated. As Mr. Kilgour pointed out, I was among the few journalists, other than those working for state media in Beijing, who had written so critically of his report. History could make me into a modern day Tokyo Rose by asking for proof of a 21st century Holocaust.
And, Mr. Kilgour added, because I had gone to China as a guest of the Chinese Medical Association, I had been "bought and paid for." The Kilgour-Matas report presents what Mr. Kilgour calls 33 branches of evidence, including a statistical analysis of executions and transplants conducted in China.
It offers transcripts of telephone calls in which hospital staff across China are said to be confessing to the use of organs from Falun Gong prisoners. (The Congressional research service raised doubts about the authenticity of these calls, wondering why hospital officials would be so candid about such a sensitive issue with strangers on the phone. Mr. Kilgour explains that only a small percentage of the hospitals contacted admitted they used Falun Gong organs.) The Kilgour-Matas report also points to the extremely short time foreigners who were willing to pay for organ transplants had to wait in China, compared to other countries.
Not everyone would consider all these branches as compelling evidence. Among the 33 elements listed under "proof and disproof," the report counts contextual information, such as the absence of an organized organ-donation system in China and corruption across the country.
The report also counts as evidence the response from the government of China to the first edition of the report. The updated version claims China is "unable to contradict" the findings.
"It's the combination of all 33, including the Sujiatun evidence and the statement by Annie that persuaded me," Mr. Kilgour told me.
The most personally compelling, Mr. Kilgour said, was the testimony of an unnamed Asian man who went to a hospital in Shanghai, where his compatibility was tested for a match against a succession of eight kidneys during two separate visits.
"As he agreed, eight human beings died before he got a kidney," Mr. Kilgour said. "I was deeply effected by that." Among the unconvinced, however, is Harry Wu, a prominent Chinese dissident who spent 19 years in a Chinese forced labour camp.
Few have been more critical of the Communist Party of China and its human rights record that Mr. Wu. In the 1980s, he exposed the system of forced labour in China and did for the "laogai" what Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn did for the gulags of Stalin's Soviet Union.
Mr. Wu's Washington, D.C.-based organization, the Laogai Research Foundation, was also instrumental in proving that organs of executed criminals were used for transplants.
Mr. Wu's expertise makes him a highly credible source and, because of his personal experience, the Falun Gong could not accuse him of bias in favour of China's government.
Mr. Wu stands among the few to publicly deny claims that Falun Gong practitioners were killed for their organs. There is, he says, simply no compelling evidence to support them.
When Mr. Wu and his researchers were tracking death-penalty cases and organ transplants, they worked from court files, medical records and eyewitness testimony.
"In all these cases there is a number of the judges, prosecutors, policemen, drivers, nurses and doctors," he told the Citizen. The Chinese government had tried to keep the issue under wraps, yet still evidence could be obtained.
There is no such corroboration of the systemic execution of Falun Gong prisoners, he says.
"It is possible Falun Gong practitioners were killed by the security police. It is also possible that they were killed and removed the organs. But where are the documents?" he asked.
Mr. Kilgour says he met with Mr. Wu in Washington and tried to explain what was happening to the Falun Gong.
"He's an expert on the executed prisoners," Mr. Kilgour said, "but he knows nothing about the Falun Gong prisoners who don't get trials, don't get convictions. They just get executed after they go to work camps.
"He doesn't want to believe that. He wants to believe everybody that has had their organs taken in China is an executed criminal." But Mr. Wu remains unconvinced. To accept the Falun Gong claims, one must believe in a massive conspiracy that requires the co-operation of tens of thousands of participants to remain silent, he says.
"They can cover up one or two or three. Can they cover all of them?" he said.
With the Beijing Olympics less than a year away, the outrage about Falun Gong organs will likely be heard with increasing frequency, as will the denials from China.
Depending on who you believe, Sujiatun is either one of many sanitized crime scenes across China where Falun Gong were secretly slaughtered, or merely a shabby mid-sized hospital that treats bloodclots.
Depending on who you believe, the Kilgour-Matas report is either compelling evidence that proves the claims about Falun Gong, with or without support of Sujiatun, or a collection of conjecture and inductive reasoning that fails to support its own conclusions.
To Mr. Wu, the latter depends on the former.
"You can't say if Sujiatun is not true, I can offer other evidence.
"We have to talk about Sujiatun. It's not like one or two practitioners were killed. It's thousands," he said.
"You have to prove this first." The Kilgour-Matas report is available at: organharvestinvestigation.net The Chinese government response is online at: www.chinaembassycanada.org/eng/xwdt/t265055.htm
Glen McGregor is a Citizen reporter