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It’s for the Sake of Humanity, Says Protester at the White House

Sporadic, accidental events sometimes can change the course of the history. On April 20, 2006, a petite female journalist shouted out loudly on the White House lawn during Hu Jintao’s speech at the welcoming ceremony. This surprising incident turned the world’s attention from Hu Jintao’s lip-service remarks to the atrocities taking place in China today.

That petite lady was Wenyi Wang, a 47-year-old pathologist based in New York, a Falun Gong practitioner, and a volunteer photographer for The Epoch Times newspaper. On that day at the White House, standing on the reporters’ platform facing the Chinese communist leader, Dr. Wang called out in English, "President Bush, stop him from killing! Stop persecuting the Falun Gong!" Shifting to Chinese, she shouted, "Hu Jintao, your time is limited. No more time for the Chinese Communist Party."

Major television news channels quickly turned their cameras to Dr. Wang. CNN’s live broadcast used split screens to simultaneously show Hu’s speech and Dr. Wang’s protest. For about three minutes, the attention of the world’s people was shifted from the leader of China to a woman crying out for human rights in China.

Unused to facing protesters, Hu paused for a second, and then continued his speech after President Bush murmured to him, "You are OK."

To Hu’s regime, the outcry was not OK. The CNN signal was blacked out in China until Dr. Wang was taken away. The communist regime did not want the Chinese people to see or hear Dr. Wang’s protest—it would be too damaging to the Party’s image.

Still, Hu’s regime could not block CNN outside of China. Dr. Wang’s outburst reminded the American people that Hu represents the largest dictatorship in the world. In a phone call the next day to C-SPAN, an American woman said that she could see the agony in Dr. Wang’s eyes even though she could not hear clearly what Dr. Wang was saying.

Soon after she was released the next day, Dr. Wang had a chance to explain herself on CNN. In that brief interview, Dr. Wang said that, as a physician, her responsibility was to "save people," and she had to do what she did because of the killing going on in China. Dr. Wang said that she did not regret what she did because "humanity surpasses everything." Dr. Wang further explained in a press conference on April 26 what she meant by "humanity surpasses everything." She said, "On March 8, The Epoch Times disclosed the harvesting of organs from live Falun Gong practitioners and the subsequent mass killings in Sujiatun City’s concentration camp. Later it was revealed that such atrocities had been going on in all labor camps in China since the persecution of Falun Gong started in July 1999. Huge numbers of corneas, livers, and kidneys have been removed from live Falun Gong practitioners and sold to transplantation centers."{mospagebreak}

Dr. Wang drew attention to this horrific ongoing atrocity in China. On April 22, 2006, C-SPAN invited a Falun Gong spokesperson to be a guest on its live call-in program to discuss the issues that Dr. Wang wanted to expose. Time magazine published an article on April 23 in its Asia Edition, titled "The Cold Harvest in China." The Weekly Standard in early May published an article "Why Wang Wenyi Was Shouting." The article reported eyewitness accounts and included available evidence regarding the alleged live organ harvesting from detained Falun Gong practitioners.

If Dr. Wang only wanted people to pay attention to the atrocities in China, she has partly succeeded. But her original plea—"President Bush, stop him from killing"—has not been acknowledged. In fact, the government has charged her with "coercing, intimidating, threatening, and harassing" a foreign official, a crime that could put her in prison for six months and cost her a fine of US$5,000.

Almost at the same time Dr. Wang was shouting in front of the White House, the two Chinese witnesses (Peter and Annie) who initially exposed the organ harvesting crimes from live Falun Gong practitioners in China made a public appearance, further calling for the international community to help stop the atrocities that are still occurring. Both of them also toured around the country with Dr. Wang to address the media after the White House incident.

On April 22, The Washington Post published an editorial titled "Overreacting to Protest, Wenyi Wang Doesn’t Belong in Jail." It said, "Does Ms. Wang deserve to go to prison for six months? That might be the response to embarrassing and rude speech in Beijing. It shouldn’t be in Washington."

The Washington Times said that Dr. Wang "welcomed" the Chinese leader in a democratic way, and named her as the "noble" person of the week.

Many individuals and organizations have also expressed their support for Dr. Wang. On April 26, the Christian Defense Coalition and National Clergy Council held a press conference in Red Square at Georgetown University, asking the Bush Administration to drop the charges against Dr. Wang.

The reaction from Chinese pro-democracy and human rights activists has been even stronger. One prominent pro-democracy dissident, Mr. Xu Wenli, who himself spent a total of 16 years in Chinese prisons before the Bush Administration helped him come to America, wrote an open letter to President Bush. Mr. Xu asked President Bush to urge the Justice Department to drop the charge against Dr. Wang. He further wrote in his letter, "In the early morning of April 23rd, I solemnly pledged to Dr. Wenyi Wang: ‘If the Washington D.C. District Court sentences you to prison, I am willing to go to prison and serve the sentence with you or stand outside the prison gate while you are incarcerated.’"{mospagebreak}

Professor Sun Wenguang of Shandong University in China stated, "Believing that humanity surpasses everything is the manifestation of Ms. Wang’s noble character."

Several prominent human rights lawyers in China, including Gao Zhisheng, have accepted the invitation to join the legal team for Dr. Wang and defend her. Gao wrote in an open letter to the (potential) jury, "Ms. Wang’s courage and ethics provides a shining light on humanity."

China’s Organ Trade: Crime Under the Surgical Light

Sixty years ago, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called the Nazis’ deliberate and systematic extermination of European Jews a "crime that has no name." The world cried, "NEVER AGAIN!"

But since then, genocide—as the new crime came to be called—has continued to occur. Recently, a horrifying story leaked out of China: Thousands of detainees in a communist government-sanctioned underground concentration camp have had their organs removed for organ transplant operations before they were killed and secretly cremated.

Sujiatun in the Media Spotlight

Sujiatun, a quiet suburban town near Shenyang, a major city in northeastern China, has been in the news for the past month. On March 8, 2006, Jin Zhong, a journalist who fled China, revealed in an interview with The Epoch Times that there was a secret concentration camp in Sujiatun where organs from live Falun Gong practitioners were taken for organ transplant operations.

Mr. Jin said he came across the underground concentration camp while researching the regime’s response to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Mr. Jin then discovered that a large secret prison had been built and as many as 6,000 Falun Gong practitioners were incarcerated at the facility. "The hospital is harvesting the prisoners’ organs, including kidneys, livers, and corneas," he said. "The organs are then sold to patients, from both China and abroad, who need organ transplants."

Mr. Jin told the story again in an interview with Radio France International, which was aired on March 19 and 20. The news was also picked up by several other media, such as The Washington Times, National Review, and the Agence France Presse.

After Mr. Jin’s revealing story, a second witness—the ex-wife of a surgeon at the facility who was involved in harvesting organs from live Falun Gong members—came forward to testify that the concentration camp was actually under the auspices of the Liaoning Provincial Thrombosis Hospital of Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine, where she had worked. An interview with her revealed some of the brutal measures used at the camp in the treatment of the prisoners detained there:

"My ex-husband had the habit of writing diary notes. One of his notes described such a story: After the patient lost consciousness, a little bag dropped from the patient’s pocket when the clothes were cut open with a scissors. When the box was opened, there was a round Falun emblem inside and a piece of paper saying, ‘May Mommy [Have] a Happy Birthday!’

"My ex-husband was severely traumatized by the stimulus…{mospagebreak}

"Because I couldn’t accept the fact that he was involved in organ harvesting from live Falun Gong practitioners, we divorced. I myself was also severely hurt and traumatized. If it was not my husband who told me what he had done, I could not have believed there is such a thing. I am not a Falun Gong practitioner. …In the last couple of years, to tell you the truth, I have felt extremely guilty as a Chinese with conscience."

Drawing on sources within China, the World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong (WOIPFG), a U.S.-based NGO, released a report stating that the Sujiatun death camp is being steered by provincial-level Communist Party officials in Liaoning Province, as well as Shenyang City officials. Particularly involved are managers in health bureaus, who stand to gain the most financially. The report portrays an efficient machine driven by profit and a confidence born of state backing. The camp is said to be running "a systematic procedural practice" that began as early as 2001.

According to WOIPFG President John Jaw, the Falun Gong practitioners who were held in the Sujiatun camp were likely arrested on extra-judicial grounds and administratively sentenced. "They have been detained for their affiliation with the Falun Gong, as opposed to having committed some sort of criminal act," he said.

After three weeks’ silence, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang denied the existence of the concentration camp in a press conference on March 28, and termed organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners an "absurd lie." Qin also invited news reporters to Sujiatun to investigate. On March 30, the Sound of Hope radio station and WOIPFG announced their acceptance of the invitation, followed by other media organizations.

Organ Transplants a Booming Industry in China

Organ transplant surgery began in China in the early 1980s and has flourished in the past quarter century. Many top hospitals recently built new facilities or expanded existing organ transplant centers. Numerous other hospitals have followed suit in this lucrative business. There are 368 hospitals in China that engage in kidney transplants, and more than 200 of them can perform liver transplantation, according to official statistics reported by Phoenix TV on March 26, 2006.

For example, the Tianjin Orient Organ Transplant Center was founded in December 2000 as a spin-off of the Tianjin First Center Hospital.[1] It is the largest organ transplant center in Asia, with the capacity to handle nine liver transplant operations and eight kidney transplant operations simultaneously. The number of kidney transplants increased from 77 in 2001 to 436 in 2005, while the number of liver transplants ballooned from eight in 1998 to 647 in 2005.{mospagebreak}

Some Major Organ Transplant Centers/Institutions Established or Expanded After 2000
 
Tianjin Orient Organ Transplant Center
Organ Transplant Center of the Chinese People’s Armed Police General Hospital
Organ Transplant Center of People’s Liberation Army Number 309 Hospital
The Transplantation Center of China Medical University
Organ Transplant Center in Zhongshan Hospital, Fudan University
Organ Transplant Center of Zhengzhou University First Affiliated Hospital
Peking University Third Hospital Liver Transplantation Center
Beijing Organ Transplantation Center (Beijing Chaoyang Hospital)
Shanghai Organ Transplant Center
Transplantation Center of Tongren Hospital, Beijing

With the recent rapid expansion of organ transplant centers around the country, hospitals are now actively going out to recruit foreign patients from rich countries. For example, the China International Transplantation Network Assistance Center (CITNAC) was founded in 2003 by the transplant institute at the First Affiliated Hospital of China Medical University in Shenyang.[2] This transplant assistance center mainly focuses on foreigners and recruits patients for several major organ transplant hospitals in China, including the Transplantation Center of China Medical University in Shenyang, Beijing Organ Transplantation Center (Beijing Chaoyang Hospital) in Beijing, and Zhongshan Hospital of Fudan University in Shanghai.

According to information posted on the official website of the People’s Liberation Army’s Number 309 Hospital, the organ transplant center is an important profit-making department. The center, with a staff of 78, brought in revenues of 16 million yuan (US$2 million) to the hospital in 2003, an amount that was expected to reach 30 million yuan (US$3.75 million) in 2005. "The organ transplant center is our revenue leader. In the first half of 2004 we received 13.57 million yuan (US$1.7 million) and will break 30 million yuan (US$3.75 million) by year’s end."[3]

The reason behind such high profitability is the scarcity of human organs available for transplant. The information posted on the CITNAC website describes the difficulties of getting an organ transplant in Japan:

"There are now about 13,000 patients who want to receive an organ transplantation in Japan. Japan Organ Transplantation Network Center handed out approximately 70,000,000 voluntary organ donor cards in April 2001, but there were only 14 brain-dead patients who had donated their organs for transplantation. There are many patients facing death because they cannot obtain the organs they need. The cost of a liver transplant abroad is about 50,000,000-60,000,000 yen, and even then it is not certain an organ donor can be found, even in the U.S. It is the regrettable fact that it is difficult to find donors for patients who need organ transplantation. And many patients die while waiting."[4]{mospagebreak}

CITNAC then makes the sales pitch:

"Do you know that over 100 kidney transplants and more than 20 liver transplants are successfully completed in the China International Transplantation Network Assistance Center annually? And quite a number of Japanese patients are helped." "Viscera providers can be found immediately! Please contact us before the state of your illness gets worse. (In accordance with Chinese law, the viscera are provided by state-owned hospitals.)" "When you want to apply for an organ, you should make a payment of $5,000 to our appointed account. Once we confirm the money has been deposited in our account, we can provide you with a formal organ application. It may take only one week to find a suitable donor, the maximum time being one month because kidney transplants require a HLA tissue match. We will send the information about the organ donor to you one week before the operation."[5] (Underlines added by Chinascope for emphasis.)

Table 1. CITNAC Price List for Organ Transplants

Organ(s) Cost of Transplant
Kidney US$62,000
Liver US$98,000-130,000
Liver-kidney US$160,000-180,000
Kidney-pancreas US$150,000
Lung US$150,000-170,000
Heart US$130,000-160,000
Cornea US#30,000
Source: CITNAC websote.

Behind these successes in organ transplantation, however, lurks a serious problem. International human rights organizations and the U.S. Congress have long suspected that the Chinese communist regime systematically takes organs from executed prisoners without their consent.

Furthermore, Tsing Dao Daily reported in November 2005 that Huang Jiefu, Deputy Minister of Health, acknowledged that the majority of organs for transplant came from executed prisoners.[6] It further reported that less than five percent of organs for transplants came from donors while over 95 percent came from executed prisoners.

Sources of Human Organs In China{mospagebreak}

Efforts have been made to investigate, report on, and discuss China’s organ harvesting practices since 1995 by human rights organizations, public media, and Western governments.

Table 2. Samples of Investigative Reports on Organ Harvesting in China

Date Investigations Location in China
3/2006 WOIPFG Investigation Report [I & II] Sujiatun, Liaoning Province
6/27/2001 U.S. Congressional hearing: Dr. Wang Guoqi of the Tianjin Military Hospital spoke of his direct involvement with organ harvest Multiple locations
1/9/2000 The South China Morning Post, Hong Kong Guangzhou, Guangdong Province
11/1997 Penhouse: November issue feature by reporter Catherine Field Guangzhou, Guangdong Province
10/15/1997 ABC News Prime Time Live broadcast detailing evidence of organ harvesting in China’s military hospitals Nan Fang Hospital, First Military Medical University, Guangzhou
1995 U.S. Congressional hearing: Illegal Trade in Huamn Body Parts Multiple locations
8/1994 Human Rights Watch: China Organ Procurement and Judicial Execution in China Multiple locations

Role of the Chinese Communist Government

Regime officials play integral roles in every step of the organ harvesting procedure-from the sentencing of prisoners to death, to the extraction and transplantation of their organs without their consent. The entire process requires coordination by various government agencies. Doctors screen death-row prisoners’ blood tests before their executions to determine blood type and a prisoner’s suitability as a potential organ source. Once results are confirmed, the courts set an execution date and doctors are notified to ready their patients to receive the transplants. Directly after the prisoner receives a single shot to the head, officials confirm death, and organs are quickly removed and placed in a solution for transport to a nearby hospital. Patients pay a great deal of money for such surgeries. The money that flows into the hospitals is also shared by the courts and prisons for bribes, information on upcoming executions, and blood tests. In China’s "organ business," the courts, the police, the prisons, and the hospitals work hand in hand.{mospagebreak}

The Chinese communist government’s involvement in the practice of organ harvesting began with the promulgation of the Rules Concerning the Dissection of Corpses in 1979 from China’s Public Health Ministry. This document asserts the legality of using corpses and organs of executed prisoners in experimental research. In the 1981 Reply Concerning the Question of the Utilization of Corpses of Criminals Sentenced to Death, the Chinese Ministry of Justice made clear its approval of the practice. This document describes organ harvesting as "very necessary from the standpoint of medical treatment and scientific research." These earlier rulings were soon followed by China’s first national directive on executed prisoners and organs for transplant. This document, the Provisional Regulations on the Use of Dead Bodies or Organs from Condemned Criminals, was signed in 1984. It stipulates the conditions under which health personnel may harvest organs from executed prisoners, the procedures for coordination of prison and public security officials with transplant doctors, and the confidentiality of the process. Although it was promulgated at the national level, it is a directive. It is not a law and has never been passed through the Chinese People’s Congress (See appendix on page 18).

The Strike-Hard Campaign: Capital Punishment Used to Supply Organ Demands

The entire system of organ harvesting in China would not be possible were it not for the Chinese communist regime’s policies regarding capital punishment. Since Amnesty International began publishing records of worldwide executions in 1993, China has continuously held the distinction of conducting more executions every year than the rest of the world combined. This figure remains constant despite the fact that Amnesty’s recorded executions are limited to those published in China’s open-source press materials. They represent only a fraction of the true number, which in China is considered a state secret.

One earlier, well-known case was Ms. Zhong Haiyuan. Ms. Zhong, a young political prisoner who was a teacher at a middle school in Ganzhou, Jiangxi Province, was executed. While she was still alive, her kidneys were removed. She was shot twice in the head but did not die, according to Lao Gui, a well-known Chinese journalist at the China Legal Daily who interviewed the police officer who executed Zhong, at her execution on April 30, 1978. Medical personnel were allowed to take her body into a specially erected operating facility on the prison premises and to remove both kidneys while she was still alive. One kidney was transplanted into the body of the son of a high-ranking military officer, a deputy battalion commander of the Nanjing Military Region who had earlier arranged for officials at the Jiangxi prison to facilitate the operation.[7]

The following is an excerpt of the testimony of Wang Quoqi, a doctor at the Paramilitary Police Tianjin General Brigade Hospital in Tianjin, China, given at the June 27, 2001, U.S. Congressional hearing:{mospagebreak}

"My work required me to remove skin and corneas from the corpses of over 100 executed prisoners… Once notified of an execution, our section would prepare all necessary equipment and arrive at the Beicang Crematorium in plain clothes with all official license plates on our vehicles replaced with civilian ones. … Each criminal had identification papers in his or her pocket that detailed the victim’s name, age, profession, work unit, address and crime. Nowhere on these papers was there any mention of voluntary organ donation, and clearly the prisoners did not know how their bodies would be used after death."[8]

Dr. Wang further testified that in October 1995 in Hebei Province, he administered a shot of heparin to the prisoner before execution to prevent blood clotting. The police told the prisoner that it was a tranquilizer to prevent suffering during the execution. The prisoner "responded by giving thanks to the government." After he was shot, "the prisoner had not yet died, but instead lay convulsing on the ground. We were ordered to take him to the ambulance anyway, where urologists Wang Shifu, Zhao Wingling, and Liu Wiyou extracted his kidneys quickly and precisely. When they finished, the prisoner was still breathing, and his heart continued to beat."

Penthouse reporter Catherine Field said in her investigative report in November 1997 that in Guangdong Province, which has a growing number of big-spending foreign customers, "there have been three cases of prisoners who were still alive when put on the operating table." On one occasion, "a surgeon was removing a kidney from a patient – a person who had been executed and proclaimed brain dead when the ‘corpse’ grabbed the doctor’s arm." She says the source for the story was the doctor himself, "still traumatized several months after the incident."[9]

The Strike-Hard Campaign is another tool China’s communist regime uses to enforce control throughout the Chinese population. The Chinese authorities’ Strike-Hard Campaign calls for heavy sentences in the crackdown on targets during major political events such as the opening of the Communist Party Congress. Prisoners are subjected to public sentencing rallies and public executions, and executed in large numbers during these crackdowns.

According to Radio Free Asia, rights groups have long charged China with a deliberate policy of linking the criminal justice system and local hospitals in an attempt to meet the growing demand for transplants, especially since Chinese hospitals became proficient at performing these operations in the early 1990s. They also accuse the authorities of skipping over the question of consent, either with coerced agreements before the prisoner is executed or simply by cremating the bodies of those executed so no evidence remains.{mospagebreak}

An Established Business

The harvesting of prisoners’ organs does not take a long time. "We are experienced; we have done this for many decades," said Yang Ailing, deputy director of the Kidney Department of Xuchang Central Hospital.

In an interview with Radio Free Asia’s Mandarin service, a nurse at the No. 3 Hospital in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, answered, "Mostly, yes," when asked if transplant organs were taken from the bodies of executed prisoners.

Asked if the organs were removed from the bodies before death, she replied, "Of course they are."

"They are living organs…very healthy," the nurse told RFA reporter Fang Yuan.

According to the official state-run media source CCTV.com, Zhongyang Shen, with the Beijing Armed Police Hospital, was the doctor who successfully completed the first Chinese liver transplant operation on May 14, 1994. Prior to this, 64 liver transplant operations were tried in China, but none were successful. The Armed Police Hospital’s own website reports that Dr. Shen has performed 1,600 liver transplants as of March 16, 2006. In April 14, 2005, the Armed Police Hospital conducted five liver transplant operations within 24 hours under Dr. Shen’s direction, a record for all the military hospitals.

It has also been reported that in emergency cases, patients were transferred from other hospitals to the Armed Police Hospital. In these cases, the doctors operated on the patients immediately. No difficulties in finding or matching the organs have ever been mentioned. No waiting time was ever specified or mentioned.

The Unexplained Abundance of Organs Available in China

The Donor-Recipient Matching Process

The United States has the most advanced organ transplant technology and citizen-supported organ donation system, yet it is still difficult for patients to get needed organs. Take kidney transplants as an example: A patient is usually on the waiting list for an available kidney anywhere from six months to years.

According to the National Kidney Foundation in New York, the transplant waiting list is for individuals who are waiting for a nonliving donor kidney transplant at a transplant center.[10] The median waiting time nationwide was more than three years for those listed in 1999. The number of transplants from nonliving donors remains around 9,000 per year, thanks to those Americans who generously donate their organs after death. Individual transplant centers across the United States maintain waiting lists with as many as 500 to 1,500 candidates.{mospagebreak}

Once a kidney becomes available from a nonliving donor, the transplant center conducts a matching process to decide who is eligible to receive it. Candidates are matched to kidneys based on such factors as blood group (A, B, 0, AB), tissue type (approximately 150 different kinds), length of time on the waiting list, and medical condition. According to the National Kidney Foundation, the chances of getting a perfect kidney match from a natural brother or sister (usually as a live donor) is about 25 percent, while from a nonliving donor (not related by blood), the chance is about 6.5 percent.

The same holds true for liver transplants. In the United States, there are more than 17,500 patients on waiting lists, with more added each day. Almost 5,000 patients receive transplanted livers every year, but more than 1,700 patients on the waiting lists die each year.[11] The matching requirements for liver transplants are less restrictive than kidney transplants; the minimal requirement is matching blood type.

What is the process in China? Organ transplantation in China requires the same match for blood type and tissue type, but the numerical relation between donor and recipient groups are different from that in the United States.

In the United States, a large pool of patients is waiting at any given time for a single available kidney. The matching process is to find the perfect recipient on the waiting list for the newly available kidney. The chances of finding a perfect match are very high.

In China, most of the Chinese patients cannot afford an organ transplant. The recipient pool is much smaller, and many in the pool are foreigners who come from other countries as new patients. The matching process in this situation is reversed: When a foreign patient has applied for and paid for an organ transplant, the organ transplant center needs to find a matching kidney for this particular patient. Taking the 6.5 percent average chance as the standard, the hospital needs to have access to at least 16 organ sources to find a match for one patient.

This reversed matching process presents another problem. A vital organ such as a kidney is only suitable for transplant within 24 to 48 hours after the demise of the donor. For that reason, American organ transplant centers require their patients to get to the center within a reasonable time (6 to 10 hours) once a matched kidney is found. However, according to the China International Transplantation Network Assistance Center (CITNAC), the reverse is happening in China-Chinese hospitals promise to find matched organs for foreign patients and then notify the patients a week before the operations. The only possible scenario for this type of reversed matching process-as horrible as it is-is that the hospitals have access to live organ donors waiting to be killed.{mospagebreak}

The Unexplained Organ Bank

The expansion of the organ transplant business in China has had to deal with the difficulty of obtaining the necessary organs. It is a tradition in China that one’s body must remain whole after death, so Chinese people are, in general, reluctant to donate their organs-neither live organ donation nor organ donation after death is considered acceptable. Live kidney donation accounts for only about one percent of all the kidney transplants performed in China, according to official statistics.[12]

Chinese law currently does not recognize "brain death," so organs can only be obtained from cadavers. For all these reasons, China should be facing an extreme shortage of organs for transplant. Yet in reality, the organ transplant centers appear to have an abundant supply of live organs that they are eager to sell to foreigners.

In the following information posted in a Q&A on the China CITNAC website, one can see how confident this Shenyang organization is that it can get live organs for sale:

Q: Are the organs for the pancreas transplant from brain dead patients?
A: Our organs do not come from brain dead victims because the state of the organ may not be good.

Q: How long does it take to find a donor for the operation after applying?
A: The time taken to find a donor may be as little as one week, but with a kidney transplant, where a HLA tissue match is needed, it may take up to one month to find a donor. December and January are the peak season for donors. Patients applying at this time experience the shortest waiting period for a suitable donor. For a patient who is still working, this is the best time to apply for transplant surgery
.[13]

At a press conference on March 25, 2005, in Jakarta, Indonesia, representatives from the Guangzhou Organ Transplant Center and the North Jakarta Hospital announced the establishment of a joint medical program, whereby the Chinese would supply human organs needed for the patients at the Indonesian hospital. Liao Dehuai, a representative of and a surgeon from the Guangzhou Organ Transplant Center, stated that each year over 200 Indonesian patients went to Guangzhou for kidney transplants.[14]

In a December 24, 2004, news report in the Chinese Chenbao newspaper, Associate Professor Wu Gang with the First Affiliated Hospital of China Medical University stated that there was an abundant supply of kidneys for transplant patients in Shenyang.{mospagebreak}

The source of that "abundant supply of kidneys" in those Chinese hospitals remains puzzling. Even if all the death row prisoners are counted as potential organ donors, there are only 4,000 to 10,000 of them each year, and most of them do not consent to be organ donors.[15] In addition, many factors can reduce the number of organs that qualify for organ transplant: Some of those prisoners are not suitable organ sources due to poor health or disease; a portion of them are executed in remote areas far away from the big cities; and most of the executions are conducted in groups at specified times (usually before big holidays), which makes it even more difficult to find a suitable match for the available organs at other times. Yet kidney transplants have reached over 5,000 per year since 2000, according to statistics by the Chinese Society of Organ Transplantation [Editor’s note: the number only reflects the transplants conducted in the hospitals registered in the Chinese Society of Organ Transplantation].[16]

Covering Up the Evidence?

It has been reported that, as a result of the public attention being focused on this matter—and as a result of overseas media and investigative teams shining a light on these surgical procedures—Chinese authorities have transferred all Falun Gong practitioners in the Sujiatun facility to unknown locations and have completed preparing the facility for an international investigation.

According to press reports, the U.S. government announced on April 14, 2006, that it had toured the facility at Sujiatun twice and found "no evidence that the site is being used for any function other than as a normal public hospital." While it is plausible that the U.S. government has now taken the first steps to try to uncover the truth about what has been happening in China’s hospitals and labor camps, it would be surprising if a couple of tours of the facilities had yielded any other result.

References:

[1] http://www.ootc.net/
[2] http://en.zoukiishoku.com/
[3] http://www.309yizhi.com/
Exchange rate:approximately 1 US dollar = 8 yuan.
[4] http://en.zoukiishoku.com/
[5] http://en.zoukiishoku.com/
[6] http://www.worldjournal.com/wj-ch-news.php?nt_seq_id=1275791
[7] "Baoshi Huangye de Nüfan" ("Female Prisoners Die Violent Deaths in the Wilderness"), by Lao Gui, China Spring, September 1992, pp.76-91.
[8] http://wwwc.house.gov/international_relations/107/73452.pdf
[9] "Chinese Takeout." Penthouse, November 1997.
[10] http://www.kidney.org
{mospagebreak}

[11] http://www.ucsfhealth.org/childrens/medical_services/organt/liver/conditions/ldonor/signs.html
[12] Min Zhilian: Journal of Transplant (in Chinese), March 2004 issue, Vol. 2, No. 1, page 21
[13] http://en.zoukiishoku.com/
[14] http://www.epochtimes.com/gb/6/3/27/n1268239.htm
[15] http://www.commondreams.org/cgi-bin/print.cgi?file=/headlines05/0405-07.htm
[16] Second Academic Exchange Conference of Organ Donation and Transplants, organized by Health Minstry of China, June 3, 2004

Appendix 1: 1984 Provisional Regulations on the Use of the Dead Bodies or Organs of Condemned Criminals

I. Those criminals who are sentenced to death and executed immediately must "be executed by means of shooting in light of the relevant provision in the Criminal Law. When the execution is over, the dead bodies could be otherwise dealt with only after death is confirmed by the supervising procurator on the spot.

II. The dead bodies or organs from condemned criminals after execution or the remains can be collected by their family members.

III. The dead bodies or organs of the following categories of the condemned criminals can be made use of:

1. The uncollected dead bodies or the ones that the family members refuse to collect;
2. Those condemned criminals who volunteer to give their dead bodies or organs to the medical institutions;
3. Upon the approval of the family members.

IV. The following provisions must be observed regarding the use of dead bodies or organs from condemned criminals:

1. The units making use of the dead bodies or organs must maintain the technical level of and be provided with equipment necessary for the medical scientific research or transplantation, they must be examined, approved and granted "special permits" by the Department (Bureau) of Public Health of the provinces or autonomous regions within whose jurisdiction these units are located, and they must go to Bureau of Public Health of the Municipality or District for record.

2. The use of dead bodies shall be arranged in an unified way by the Bureau of Public Health of the Municipality or Prefecture, which shall contact the People’s Court and the units using the dead bodies respectively in accordance with the order of importance and urgency and the principle of comprehensive use.{mospagebreak}

3. After the execution order of death penalty is issued, and there are dead bodies that can be directly used, the People’s Court should inform in advance the Bureau of Public Health of the Municipality or Prefecture, which shall pass on the information to the units using the dead bodies and grant them permits to use the dead bodies; copies should be sent to the People’s Court responsible for the execution of death penalty and the People’s Procuratorate in charge of the on-the-spot supervision. The units using the dead bodies should contact the People’s Court on their own initiative, within the prescribed time limits of the execution of death penalty by the People’s Court. As to the dead bodies that could be used only upon the approval of the family members, the People’s Court is to inform the department in charge of public health, which will consult the family members, and consequently reach written agreement in relation to the scope of use, disposal after use, disposal expenses and economic compensation and etc. The Bureau of Public Health of the Municipality or Prefecture shall, according to the agreement, grant the units the certificates to use the dead bodies; copies should be sent to the units concerned. When the condemned criminals volunteer to give their dead bodies to the medical institutions, there should be formal written certificates or records duly signed by the same, which should be kept in the People’s Court for future reference.

Appendix 2: Organ Transplants in China Surge During April

Following the testimonies in March by two witnesses who disclosed that live Falun Gong members were being killed in a secret concentration camp and that their organs were harvested for transplants, reporters from Sound of Hope Radio made phone calls to major hospitals in China. They contacted the organ transplant departments in the hospitals to assess the current situation. From their conversations with the doctors, the reporters accidentally discovered that the incidence of organ transplantation in China has suddenly surged in April, and major hospitals there are working overtime to perform organ transplants.

Most of the medical doctors who answered the phone gave the same guarantee—there will be an unusually large number of organ donors before May 1. After that date, the source of donors will be drying up. Following is an excerpt from the transcripts of the phone interviews conducted by reporter Tang Mei with medical doctors from various hospitals in China:

Doctor A: "April. We should have a lot of organs before the end of April. We are getting more and more supply of organs, but you have to seize the opportunity. Do you know what I mean? After this period of time, the supply will dry up. After the end of April, there will be a period where we will have nothing. We just won’t have any supply of organs! If you don’t have an organ transplant when there is a supply, you are leading yourself to a dead end when the supply disappears!"

Doctor B: "You will have to get it done by May 1. This week and next week! After May 1, we will have very few organs."{mospagebreak}

Doctor C: "If you want to come for an organ transplant, you must try to come before May."

Doctor D: "All of our donors are in their 20s and 30s. They are very healthy. We guarantee livers and kidneys from living human beings. The livers are whole livers. For some blood types, we have donors right now."

Doctor E: "Normally they are in their 20s and 30s. I can guarantee they are very healthy and the organs are fresh."

Reporter: "Is it a whole liver?"
Doctor E: "A whole liver. A whole liver."

Reporter: "I heard some of the donors are young and healthy people in their 20s and 30s."
Doctor F: "Yes! That’s right!"

Doctor G: "(We should be able to find an organ) from a donor of AB blood type. It should be available these days."

Reporter: "Do you mean kidneys from living people?"
Doctor H: "Yes. We also supply livers from living people!"

Reporter: "Livers from living people?"
Doctor H: "Yes! Yes!"

Reporter: "I heard you can supply organs from young, healthy people in their 20s and 30s?"
Doctor I: "Yes! Yes!"

Reporter: "I heard they are harvested from living human beings."
Doctor I: "Yes! Yes! Yes!"

Reporter: "Some labor camps imprison Falun Gong practitioners and then harvest their organs when they are alive?"
Doctor I: "…Right!"

Doctor J: "There are 30 patients right now waiting in line for organ transplant operations."

Reporter: "Are you all working overtime for organ transplant operations?"{mospagebreak}

Doctor K: "Yes! Yes! Yes! We have several organ transplant teams here working around the clock! We have a total of four teams that can perform organ transplants!"

Reporter: "Are you doing a lot of organ transplants lately?"
Doctor L: "Well, that’s that!"

Translated by CHINASCOPE from Audio recording available at
http://pkg.dajiyuan.com/pkg/2006-04-12/may1.mp3

State Police Kidnap Human Rights Activists for Participating in the Hunger Strike Movement

"Come home, come home! No matter where you are, come to me!" Zeng Jinyan cried on the phone. These were her words on March 28, 2006, when she heard the voice of her husband, Hu Jia, for the first time in 41 days.

For 41 days, Hu Jia, a well-known AIDS activist in Beijing, seemed to have totally vanished from the face of the earth. No one knew what had happened to him or of his whereabouts, despite his wife’s tireless appeals to the police authorities and attention from international organizations, including the United Nations. The security police, who had been monitoring him closely, denied having taken him away. When he was finally released, his captors dumped him in a remote area and he had to walk for an hour to get home. A preliminary medical exam found signs of cirrhosis of his liver, due to the harsh conditions and lack of medication while he was in police custody. This is a serious complication of viral hepatitis that can lead to liver failure and cancer.

Radio Free Asia interviewed Hu Jia after his release. On February 16, Mr. Hu planned to attend a non-governmental HIV/AIDS conference. Because he was under house arrest, the police were charged with keeping him in their custody. They put him into a police car and promptly headed off, but not in the direction of the conference. The police wrapped Mr. Hu’s head in a black cloth and took him to a village on the outskirts of Beijing, where he was interrogated for the next 40 days.

Hu Jia was not the only one taken into custody. At least several dozen others were also arrested.

Qi Zhiyong, a human rights activist who became handicapped as a result of the June 4th Tiananmen Massacre in 1989, disappeared on February 15, one day before Mr. Hu’s arrest. At about the same time, Wen Haibo and Ma Wendou, Attorney Gao Zhisheng’s assistants, were arrested on separate occasions. Ouyang Xiaorong, a 32-year-old computer programmer who helped Gao Zhisheng organize a hunger-strike protest, was arrested on February 16. Yu Zhijina, one of the "Three Tiananmen Square Gentlemen," was arrested in Changsha City, Hunan Province, on February 18. Meanwhile Zhao Xin, a 38-year-old June 4th activist, was taken away from his parents’ home by police on February 21.

It has become routine that each year, before and during Beijing’s annual so-called "Two Conferences" (referring to the People’s Congress, this year held on March 5-14, and the Political Consultation Conference held on March 3-13 this year) all of the well-known dissidents and human rights activists in China are put under surveillance or house arrest.

In previous years, police usually held such activists for only a couple of days during these so-called "sensitive periods," but this time police abducted them without notifying their next of kin. It was as if they simply evaporated into thin air.{mospagebreak}

Hu Jia was interrogated every day during his detention. The issue of concern was the massive "Hunger Strike Relay" initiated by Attorney Gao Zhisheng on February 4, 2006, to protest the regime’s brutal treatment of human rights lawyer Guo Fexiong when Attorney Guo was investigating the massacre of farmers in Shanwei Village, Guangdong Province.

All the people mentioned above who were arrested were participants or organizers of the Hunger Strike Relay. Hu Jia was one of the leading organizers.

The arrests seemed to have added more fuel to the flames of protest. As news of the Hunger Strike Relay spread, a worldwide hunger strike in support of Attorney Gao and against persecution began in homes and in public places, with tens of thousands of people participating. In Shandong Province alone, at least 3,000 people participated. The date was March 6, right before the opening of the "Two Conferences."

The arrest of a group of students from Lanzhou University in Gangsu Province, in early March after they announced their participation in the Hunger Strike Relay prompted another campaign against ongoing persecution by the Chinese communist government. Dubbed the "Blue Ribbon Movement," this anti-persecution campaign supports the students.

According to reports, about 10,000 people in Suozhou City, Shanxi Province, all wearing blue ribbons, conducted hunger strikes on March 16. Blue ribbons have been seen all over at least 12 provinces. The movement is now underway.

This is the first time in China’s history that large numbers of people are on hunger strikes supporting one another across the country, in opposition to the communist regime’s violations of human rights. The Hunger Strike Relay is done at home, and anyone can start at any time. The authorities have yet to find a way to quash it. After all, how effective could the tanks used in Tiananmen Square be in this instance?

From the Editor

Organ transplantation, once an improbable dream, has now become a common clinical procedure for patients with terminal organ failures, thanks to surgical innovations and biomedical breakthroughs. Each year, tens of thousands of patients worldwide are given such a second chance at a new life via transplant operations.

However, for each organ recipient, there has to be a matched donor, either someone who has passed away unexpectedly or a living donor. The latter usually comes from the patient’s close relatives and constitutes a small percentage of the cases. As a result, organ donors are always in short supply, and patients awaiting transplants in Western countries often wait months or even years before finding a suitable donor.

In China, organ transplants started in the 1980s. Initially, the operation was mostly for research purposes and only performed in a handful of the largest clinical centers. Unlike the rest of the world, the vast majority of the donor organs in China come from executed prisoners, with only one percent coming from other sources. Although this poorly kept secret has drawn questions from international rights organizations, little has been done to change the situation.

In the last few years, organ transplants have been taking off in China, with the numbers of operations dramatically increasing each year, and many new hospitals are rushing into the lucrative business. Many patients from outside China go to China for organ transplants, so much so that some clinical centers’ websites advertise in multiple languages. Most significantly, some websites explicitly advertise that one can get a matched organ within one month or as short as one week. This is certainly a welcome sight for someone in need of a transplant, but it points to a chilling question of where such a large pool of organ donors is coming from.

Few thought much of this question until two witnesses who fled China gave shocking accounts to The Epoch Times newspaper: Thousands of Falun Gong members were kept in an underground concentration camp in the northeast city of Sujiatun and had their organs forcibly removed for transplants. Recorded follow-up telephone calls by reporters to doctors at several hospitals suggest that there is truth to these allegations. According to a veteran military doctor in China, a third witness who chose to remain anonymous, the Sujiatun camp is just one of the more than 30 such camps involved in a thriving organ trade fueled by Falun Gong practitioners.

Such an allegation is serious business and warrants immediate attention and further investigation. If indeed true, what we are seeing is one of the most chilling examples of human cruelty and barbarity since the Holocaust-and it must be stopped immediately.

On Sino-India Relations

[Editor’s note: "The Thirteenth Summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)" was held in Dhaka between November 11 and 13, 2005. The meeting, attended by the leaders of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, marked the 20th anniversary of SAARC’s creation, and was expected to result in agreements on free trade, disaster management, and combating terrorism. India has been emerging as a regional power in South Asia in recent years and is regarded as a potential regional competitor by Beijing authorities. The article below on the SAARC meeting is reported by China’s state media Xinhua News Agency, reflecting the view of Beijing on India’s role in the region. The article titled "South Asian Countries Adore China While India Wants to Dominate and is on Guard Against China" is translated here.]"The Thirteenth Summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) concluded on November 13, 2005. Begum Khaleda Zia, Chairwoman of the summit and Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, announced that the SAARC officially admitted China as its observer.]

India Wants to Dominate

"China met repeated difficulties during its bid for the SAARC observer’s status.

"Earlier on November 9, 2005, at the SAARC preparatory meeting, Pakistani Foreign Minister and Chairman of SAARC’s Ministers Council Khurshid Mehmud Kasuri and Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran indicated that they supported Afghanistan to be admitted as a full member of SAARC. Saran said that a technical working group would be established to discuss the issue of cooperation with China. However, the proposal of accepting China as a dialogue partner met with India’s objection at the preparatory meeting and eventually failed.

"While the issue of the China-SAARC cooperation remained unresolved, India’s officials revealed before the SAARC summit, ‘If China obtains the status of dialogue partner, Japan will also express similar interest in the status.’ The reason provided by India was that the United States and Japan could propose to join the SAARC in certain capacity. If China were admitted as SAARC’s observer or dialogue partner, the SAARC would have no reason to reject requests from other countries for admission.

"At the opening on November 12, Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, Chairman of the last SAARC summit, said that he hoped this summit could discuss the admission of Afghanistan as SAARC’s new member and the admission of China as an observer or dialogue partner. But in his speech at the opening ceremony, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made no response to these issues. He just made general vague statements, ‘India is prepared to offer to all SAARC members, on a reciprocal basis, daily flights to our major cities. I would suggest establishing a South Asian University to improve the educational and academic level of this region and establishing a Regional Food Reserve for emergencies in times of natural disaster.'{mospagebreak}

"As to this issue, South Asia media reported on January 13 that ‘India supports Afghanistan to be admitted as a member of the SAARC, but strongly opposes China to be involved with SAARC,’ and ‘India’s position indicates that it does not want China to be overly active in SAARC’s affairs, demonstrating the mindset that India wants to protect its dominance in SAARC.’

Every South Asia Country Adores China

"India’s disrespect of most other countries’ opinions triggered an argument.

"According to Bangladesh media, Pakistan and Sri Lanka support Afghanistan to join the SAARC and support China to participate in the SAARC. Nepal also said, it hopes that China could participate in the SAARC.

"Immediately, the Indian media turned ‘the cannon’ to Nepal. The Indian media charged that during the two-day conference Nepal insisted that the qualification of Afghanistan’s membership and China’s position as an observer or a dialogue partner should be bundled together for consideration. As a result, the summit did not make decisions on the two items. During the summit, India’s Foreign Ministry also made a statement that there was ‘not any connection’ between Afghanistan’s joining the SAARC and the China-SAARC relations. India requested that SAARC discuss the issue of cooperation with China after ‘the related standards and procedures’ have been established.

"However in the end, with strong support from other SAARC member states, both China and Japan were eventually admitted as observers at the summit. At the same time, leaders of the SAARC also decided to accept Afghanistan as a formal member of the SAARC.

How to Avoid Getting on India’s Nerves

"Wen Fude, Director of South Asia Research Institute at Sichuan University, believed that by actively developing relations with middle or small states in the SAARC, China tends to get on India’s nerves. Therefore, China may start to first develop trade relations with small countries in South Asia such as by increasing investment in these countries to increase their exporting capability, particularly in the textile industry. Since the textile industry is not a sensitive industry, it would not raise India’s suspicion."

Translated by CHINASCOPE from
http://news.xinhuanet.com/world/2005-11/17/content_3794220.htm

My Daughter Calls Me “Ghost Daddy”

On the morning of April 12, 2006, a young taxi driver died suddenly in his taxi, leaving behind two young children, his wife, and two elderly parents. According to his co-workers, the man had been in good health and had worked at least 12 hours a day. They could not believe that he had died so suddenly.

Only 10 days before, another taxi driver from Miyun County died a sudden death while driving customers. He had been on the job for less than a year.

At least seven such sudden deaths of taxi drivers have occurred in Beijing in the past two years, according to incomplete statistics.

A veteran taxi driver expressed his grave concern: "Every time I hear about a sudden death due to a heart attack, I feel a sharp pain in my chest. I fear that it may strike me next."

Last year, physical examinations were conducted on more than 200 taxi drivers in Beijing. The results were shocking: 40 percent of them suffered from enlarged prostate gland problems; 38 percent had high blood pressure; 32 percent were overweight, and 31 percent had high cholesterol. Less than two percent were completely healthy.

What is the life of a typical taxi driver in China? Here is one driver’s story:

"I share a car with my wife. One of us runs the day shift, and the other the night shift, so the car is never idle. My wife gets up every day at 4 a.m. and runs the early shift; I take over the car at noon and work until 2 a.m. or later. As a result, I suffer from all kinds of diseases, such as enlarged prostate gland, stomachache, and protrusion of intervertebral disc.

"My wife has a blood circulation problem in her brain and often feels dizzy. One day after she dropped off a customer, she was hit by a strong dizzy spell and could not drive the car anymore. She had already passed out on the steering wheel by the time the ambulance arrived.

"It cost us more than 2,000 yuan (US$249) for the hospital visit and prescription. My wife was so upset about the cost that for several days, she worked well past noon, trying everything to drive more customers. Now she carries medicine with her whenever she’s behind the wheel.

"Ever since that incident, we’ve not dared to see the doctor even when we got sick. It’s simply too expensive to visit the hospital. We have to endure and suffer. The revenue quota set by the company cannot be missed.{mospagebreak}

"When my stepdaughter was little, she couldn’t understand the situation. She would ask around on the quiet: ‘Is he a ghost? He sleeps during the day and gets out at night.’

"This has been a standing joke among our families. Even to this day, she sometimes still jokingly calls me ‘Ghost Daddy,’ which should be interpreted as ‘Ghost-like Daddy’ because I look awful.

"She constantly complains: ‘Other kids always do things with their parents, going on a trip or playing in the park. But you spend all your time in the taxi. I can only picture our family outings in my school essay.’

"I know my kids are not happy with me. Since my wife and I became taxi drivers, we have not had dinner with our two kids together even once. My parents are over 80 and still pretty healthy. I have no time to take care of them, so they have to fend for themselves. My mother has bound feet. Whenever I think about her standing and tottering on her small feet, cooking and doing laundry, I always feel sad and am in tears.

"Over the years, we’ve run into all kinds of people. From time to time, there are those who, for various excuses, refuse to pay the full amount or anything at all. It happens too often to remember every case.

"Still, this is nothing compared to robbery. One time, I drove two customers to their destination. The one in the passenger’s seat handed me a 100 yuan (US$12) bill. I could tell at first look that it was counterfeit, but I did not dare to say that. Instead I said: ‘Sorry. But I don’t have any change. Can you pay me in smaller bills?’

"I was not comfortable with the looks on their faces, so I said, ‘Never mind. It’s a short ride anyway. Don’t worry about the money.’

"There was a public restroom nearby. After they got out of the car and went into a side alley, I parked my car and went to the restroom. When I came out, I was surprised to see these two men waiting outside, each holding a brick. Next I felt a wave of dizziness and everything went dark.

"When I woke up, my cell phone and 700 yuan (US$87) in cash were gone. My driver buddies later told me that I was a lucky guy. At least my car was still there, and my injury was minor. Compared to those who had their cars hijacked and were killed, I was pretty lucky.

"Although the price of fuel is getting higher and higher, the company’s revenue quota is fixed. The only variable is our driving hours. It’s very common to see drivers working under extreme fatigue.{mospagebreak}

"Now my biggest dream is to drive an unmarked car so there would be no pressure to pay the company. After paying for fuel, the rest of the money would go into my own pocket. Nowadays there are too many unmarked, or illegal, taxis. Just look around the entrance of each subdivision and the long-distance bus stations, and you’ll see how many unmarked taxis there are in Beijing."

So now you know what’s on a taxi driver’s mind. He’d rather drive an unmarked car than a legal taxi.

According to statistics, there are as many as 260 taxi companies in Beijing, employing close to 100,000 drivers, 90 percent of whom live on the outskirts of Beijing. On average, these people work over 14 hours a day and go back home two to three times a month. They are the major breadwinners of the household.

With gas prices continuing to rise and concern over their health, taxi drivers are becoming more and more discontent with company revenue quotas. Almost all of them think that the quotas are too high and want them to be lowered. Most of them also believe that the majority of the taxi companies do not care about the welfare of the drivers. Physical exams and benefits are out of the question.

Yet what the drivers resent the most are the various fines that the taxi companies impose on them. Each major taxi company has a rule that if a driver is fined by the police for a traffic violation, the company will impose an additional fine. The amount ranges from 40 percent to 100 percent of the police fine. This is to "reinforce the discipline of the taxi drivers," says the company. But many believe that this is extortion in disguise.

It is estimated that companies typically collect 70 percent of a driver’s income as their revenue quota. In other words, companies make a windfall without doing anything. The companies can collect such high quotas because the drivers do not have much negotiation power. They have to accept their company’s harsh terms. In order to meet these terms, the drivers have to work long hours before they can make any money.

The bottom line is: Taxi drivers work harder than coal miners. Their job forces them to work under constant pressure and fatigue. The demand on their physical and mental strength is unparalleled.

Why can’t the revenue quota be lowered?

A hearing on adjusting taxi fares was held on April 26. An adjustment in taxi fares would have a direct impact on most residents in Beijing. It would have an even greater impact on the 100,000 taxi drivers. Yet, how many of these drivers were invited to the hearing?{mospagebreak}

On May 20, for the first time in six years, Beijing’s taxi fare was increased from 1.6 yuan (US$0.20) to two yuan (US$0.25) per kilometer after the four-kilometer base. But few drivers were optimistic.

On the surface, fare adjustment seems to increase drivers’ income. However, the rapidly improving city bus and subway systems provide customers with transportation alternatives. With the current taxi idle rate at above 50 percent, higher fares may result in fewer people taking taxis, or pushing more passengers into illegal taxis, whose number is estimated at 70,000. That outcome would make things even harder for taxi drivers.

Lao She (1899-1966), a famous Chinese playwright and author of humorous, satirical novels and short stories, is perhaps best known for his story "Camel Xiangzi" or "Rickshaw Boy," in which he traced the fall and ruin of a Beijing rickshaw puller named Xiangzi.

Xiangzi was from the countryside. The dire conditions there forced him to move to the city, where he dreamed of establishing a new life through his honest and hard labor. He tried all sorts of odd jobs and in the end settled on pulling a rickshaw. Although he had left the farmlands, he was still a farmer at heart. He was used to hard physical labor and longed to own a rickshaw cart as reliable as the land.

The city of Beijing seemed to offer Xiangzi an opportunity to fulfill his dream—buying his own cart and being his own boss. After three years of hard work and saving, Xiangzi finally bought his own cart, only to have it stolen less than six months later. But Xiangzi was not ready to give up his dream. He had his doubts, wavered at times, but always managed to pick himself up and try again. In the end, Xiangzi’s struggle was met with defeat. He never fulfilled his dream and died one snowy night.

In China today, how many Xiangzis are chasing their dreams, driving a taxi days and nights?

Helen Chou is a freelance writer based in New York.

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