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Wed 16 October 2019
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CJ Werleman reports on China’s horrific persecution of the Uyghur Muslim minority in Xinjiang.


It’s now beyond doubt to any reasonable person that China is carrying out the world’s largest industrial scale persecution of a religious minority since the Holocaust, but what remains in question is our ability to grasp the full extent of the horrors taking place against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.

China has established a hi-tech totalitarian system that gives the Communist Party total and absolute control of every citizen in the country, deploying GPS tracking and voice and facial recognition capabilities that allow the government to, not only track the movement and location of every Chinese ID card-carrying resident, but also control the behaviour of those it deems to be a pesky minority. 

China has taken the biometric data of each and every one of three million Uyghur it has detained throughout its network of concentration camps.

For the political leadership in Beijing, the Uyghur, the indigenous occupants of Xinjiang, pose a potential future threat to its ability to realise its goals via the ‘One Belt, One Road’ economic strategy, which aims to provide China unfettered access to markets in Europe and Asia, thus allowing it to mitigate the risk it views the Malacca Strait chokepoint to be to its long -term survival.

“In response to real and perceived instability, Party authorities have constructed a sophisticated, multi-layered network of mass surveillance in Xinjiang, part of Xi Jinping’s grand strategy for achieving ‘social stability and enduring peace’ in this strategic frontier region,” observes James Leibold, an assistant professor at La Trobe University, Melbourne. “The resulting surveillance society includes both covert and overt monitoring as well as the categorisation, exhortation and disciplining of its population in the name of safety, civility and progress. As it watches, the Party-state sorts its citizenry into those deemed ‘normal’ and thus trustworthy, and those who are ‘deviant’ or ‘abnormal’ in their thoughts or demeanour.”

In the collective mind of the Communist Party, the religion of Islam and Uyghur ethnic culture itself is deemed to be deviant behaviour, which explains why Beijing has established a ruthless and barbaric system that starts with identification before moving towards separation, detainment, indoctrination, and then reintegration.

For those who resist the indoctrination and reintegration into Chinese Communist ideology and the dominant Han Chinese culture, then forced labour, forced disappearances and execution await, according to an array of accounts that have emerged from Xinjiang in the past two years or so.

If these grisly realities don’t invoke memories of Europe’s darkest days, or more recently and more pertinently the horrors of China’s Cultural Revolution during the 10-year period spanning 1966 to 1976 – which left upwards of two million of Chairman Mao’s political opponents dead – then consider the recent findings of an independent, UK-based panel into China’s elaborate organ harvesting program.


Saudi Demand

“China continues to kill prisoners of conscience for organ transplants,” The China Tribunal, a panel of lawyers and experts, declared in June, adding that this heinous practice has been taking place over the past two decades and continues today.

According to the panel, murdered members of the Falun Gong spiritual group have “probably” been the “principle source” of organs for forced harvesting over the past 20 years but, given China’s crackdown on the Uyghur began far more recently, it’s highly likely that the Muslim ethnic minority were “being used as a bank of organs”.

“The conclusion shows that very many people have died indescribably hideous deaths for no reason,” said Sir Geoffrey Nice, the tribunal’s chairman, in the judgement. 

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When I spoke with Enver Tohti, an exiled Uyghur oncology surgeon who is credited by human rights groups with involuntarily carrying out the first known case of live organ harvesting in China, he explained how he removed the liver and kidneys from a prisoner who had been shot in the chest with the objective of, not to kill him, but to send his body into shock.

“I was called by my chief surgeon to go to a room near the Urumqi execution grounds to remove the liver and two kidneys from an executed prisoner,” Tohti told me. “It turned out he wasn’t fully dead because they [the Chinese execution squad] shot him through the right chest to knock him out, so I would have time to remove his organs” – a surgery his chief surgeon demanded he perform without giving the prisoner any anaesthetic.

Tohti saw the man’s heart beating as he removed his kidneys and liver.

The Uyghur, the indigenous occupants of Xinjiang, pose a potential future threat to its ability to realise its goals via the ‘One Belt, One Road’ economic strategy.

This deliberately botched execution of a Uyghur prisoner took place in 1995 and would be the first time Tohti unwittingly participated in China’s live organ harvesting program, telling a UK newspaper in 2013 that it wasn’t until years later that he realised what he had been a part of and just how widespread and systematic the practice had become in the Uyghur Muslim majority region.

Earlier this year, Tohti told Radio Free Asia (RFA) that he believes the main customers of live Uyghur Muslim organs are wealthy Saudi transplant recipients, with China grotesquely and preposterously marketing these illegally removed body parts as “Halal organs”, despite the fact there’s no such thing in Islamic ruling or practice.

When I pressed Tohti on this claim, he admitted to having no direct evidence – only unverified second-hand accounts – of China selling or marketing “halal” organs to wealthy Saudi organ recipients, and insisted it was something “best not spoken about until it could be confirmed”. But, when I asked why he no longer stands by the earlier assertion he made to RFA, he pivoted to expressing fear for his mother’s safety, who remains in Xinjiang.

What we do know for certain is that China has taken the biometric data of each and every one of three million Uyghur it has detained throughout its network of concentration camps. We also know that 10,000 organ transplants are carried out each year in China, according to the authors of a report that was presented to the UK government and titled Bloody Harvest/Slaughter. We also know that 410 Saudis purchased organs from “black markets”, including China in 2012-14, with another 7,000 Saudi patients in current need of kidney transplants, according to a statement made by the director of the Saudi Centre for Organ Transplants to Arabian News.

In the collective mind of the Communist Party, the religion of Islam and Uyghur ethnic culture itself is deemed to be deviant behaviour.

What Tohti can confirm is that the demand for Uyghur organs outweighs supply, which he speculates is why authorities in Xinjiang have mandated compulsory blood sample collection from Uyghur Muslims via the National Health Medical Examination, with the aim of creating a “live organ-matching database”.

Given that the European Parliament’s Public Health Committee and Human Rights Sub-Committee has said that illegally harvested kidneys fetch as much as €150,000 each, the motive driving China’s organ harvesting programme becomes self-evident.

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