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International Investigation Finds More Evidence of Human Organ Harvesting

In the March/April issue of 2006, Chinascope published a special feature article titled "China’s Organ Trade: Crime Under the Surgical Light." It may appear unimaginable that such an extreme human atrocity is happening on large scale while considerable increase in economic growth has taken place in China. The report below updates the new development in the latest international investigation of the organ harvest allegation.

Breaking News—Organ Harvest of Live Falun Gong Practitioners

On March 9, 2006, The Epoch Times, a Chinese language newspaper with global circulation, broke the news of a journalist of a Japan media that to his personal knowledge Chinese communist government maintains a concentration camp in Sujiatun, China, holding only Falun Gong practitioners.[1] On March 24, 2006, a second witness corroborated his statement and stated that the concentration camp was attached to a hospital harvesting detainees’ organs for transplants—while the victims were still alive—and cremating the bodies in an onsite furnace.[2]

In April 2006 Falun Dafa Associations and Minghui website founded the Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong in China (CIPFG) in Washington D.C. The Coalition invited two investigators, David Kilgour, former MP and Secretary of State for Asian Affairs from Canada, and David Matas, international human right lawyer, to investigate the allegations.

In July 2006, Kilgour and Matas published the results of a two-month investigation in which they implicated dozens of hospitals and jails throughout China in the transplant scandal, affirming large-scale organ seizures from unwilling Falun Gong practitioners in China for profit. Although 60,000 organ transplants were recorded in China from 2000 to 2005, sources for only 18,500 organs could be identified. The authors question where the rest of the organs came from and how that many organs could be found so readily in a country that traditionally prefers to bury its dead with the body intact.

Military Harvesting Organs

After interviewing organ recipients in 30 countries, Canada’s former Secretary of State for the Asia Pacific region David Kilgour and human rights lawyer David Matas published the second report on January 31, 2007, entitled Bloody Harvest.[3]

China’s military has been harvesting organs from imprisoned Falun Gong practitioners, for large-scale transplants including for foreign recipients, said the Kilgour-Matas second report.

"Recipients often tell us that even when they receive transplants at civilian hospitals, those conducting the operations are military personnel," the report states.

China International Transplantation Network Assistance Center website quotes a kidney transplant as US$65,000, a liver transplant US$130,000, a heart transplant US$130,000 to US$160,000 and a cornea transplant US$30,000.[4] {mospagebreak}
"The Organ Transplant Center of the Armed Police General Hospital in Beijing boldly states: ‘Our Organ Transplant Center is our main department for making money. This year (2004) there is a chance to break through 30 million yuan (about US$3.8 million),’ " said the Kilgour-Matas report.

Special Treatment to Class Enemies

Some question that organ harvest of Falun Gong practitioners are acts of state, believing it is the act of certain corrupted individuals.

Chinese communist government’s organ harvest of unwilling "class enemies" dated back to the notorious "Great Culture Revolution" in mid 60s of last century. As long as "revolution" needed, organs were taken, without consent.

Yu Luoke, male, 27, an apprentice at Beijing People’s Machinery, was arrested as "counter-revolutionary" because of his articles disagreeing with the Party line. He was executed on March 5, 1970. His corneas were removed before he was sent to be executed.

Li Lian, female, 18, a high school student was arrested and executed in 1970 as "counter-revolutionary" because of her doubts of the Party theories. On her way to execution she was pinned on the inside of the prison van, and her kidneys were removed without anesthesia. A high-ranking communist official was on the operation table waiting for the kidney.

This is how the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) treats its people whom it deemed a threat. Organ harvest of Falun Gong practitioners that CCP vowed to eliminate came no surprise. The transaction of organs harvested from Falun Gong practitioners is a merely an efficient and profitable use of a human resource that CCP would not want to see otherwise waste.

Eight Kidneys for One Patient

While conducting research in Asia, Kilgour interviewed a now 35 year-old man (name and nationality withheld) who received a kidney transplant at Shanghai No. 1 People’s Hospital in 2003. The man said that his surgeon was Dr. Tan Jianming, Secretary General of the Chinese Research Society of Dialysis and Transplantation. Dr. Tan also holds top posts in a number of Chinese military and civilian hospitals.

The patient suffered from a severe transplant rejection condition that made it difficult to find a suitable kidney. Over an eight-day period, four separate kidneys were brought to him and tested, said Kilgour. When none of those worked, three months later he tried another four—the last of which was a fit. The man was later transferred to No. 85 Hospital of the People’s Liberation Army to convalesce.
Dr. Tan told the man explicitly that these organs came from executed Chinese prisoners, and that at least some of the organs had been harvested secretly, against the donors’ will.[5]

The Organ Harvest Continues

Belgian Senator Patrik Vankrunkelsven from the Flemish Liberal Party carried out his own investigation into organ transplants in China in mid- November 2006. He called two hospitals in Beijing and presented himself as a patient in need of a kidney transplant.

"Now is a good time to come," the hospital staff said, according to Vankrunkelsven. "At the time of Chinese New Year we like our prisons to be emptied. After the New Year we startup again, but then of course the waiting time will be a bit longer." Both hospitals offered him a kidney on the spot for 50,000 euros.[6]

BBC broadcast a news piece on September 27, 2006, of an undercover investigation of the organ transplantation practice in China. The report disclosed that the sale of organs from executed prisoners appears "to be thriving." At a hospital in Tianjin, the BBC correspondent, Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, posed as someone in need of a liver for his sick father. He was told he could obtain one in three weeks. The hospital spokesperson said the organs from the executed prisoners were donated freely, but the BBC correspondent wrote, "…whether prisoners really are free to make up their own minds on organ donation just before they are executed is not at all clear."[7]

Mixed Bag—Denials and Admissions

Since early March 2006 when the live organ harvest issue was brought to light, the Chinese communist government has been unusually quiet. The first response came toward the end of March denying the allegations and extending invites to international communities for a guided tour of the Sujiatun facilities. However, application from Kilgour/Matas or members from CIPFG to enter China for an independent investigation has been repeatedly denied.

On February 1, 2007, after the second Kilgour-Matas report, Chinese Foreign Affairs Spokesman Jiang Yu stated at a press conference in response to a questions on the report that "the removal of organs are carried out with written consent of the executed prisoners." [8]

On February 2, 2007, Global Times, an official Chinese communist government newspaper, published a more elaborate article denying the involvement of Chinese military. It quoted an unknown surgeon in Beijing. The surgeon allegedly said that those overseas patients who received transplants in China are "unconscionable" when they expressed concerns of the sources of the organs used in the transplant.[9] {mospagebreak}
Here are some examples of conflicts in Chinese communist government reactions:

On November 7, 2005, China Deputy Minister of Public Health, Huang Jiefu, admitted at a WHO conference held in Manila, Philippines, that organs are indeed taken from executed prisoners.[10]

However, on March 26. 2006, Qin Gang, Spokesman of China Ministry of Foreign Affairs, denied at a press conference, "Information on China’s organ harvest from prisoners is a total lie." "It is a complete fabrication… to say that China forcibly takes organs from the people given the death penalty for the purpose of transplanting," said Qin Gang.[11]

On October 10, 2006, unnamed spokesperson from Ministry of Health commented via Xinhua, Chinese official news agency, on the September 27, 2006 BBC report on organ harvest, stating, "Certain overseas media are fabricating stories and are attacking maliciously Chinese legal system."[12]

Interesting enough, a month later in November 2006, China Deputy Minister of Health, Huang Jiefu, admitted one more time at a conference in Guangzhou that most organs for transplants are from executed prisoners.[13]

The latest statement came on January 11, 2007, from the China Health Ministry Spokesman Mao Qunan, who admitted, despite previous and repeated denials, that organs are being "harvested" from prisoners.[14] Mao managed to skirt the issue that this practice is extended specifically to Falun Gong practitioners.

United Nations’ Response

The numbers of organ transplants performed in China and the speed with which organs become available has also raised international concern about the source of organs.

In an interview with Profil Magazine (Austria), the United Nations Commission on Human Rights’ Special Rapporteur on Torture, a Vienna human rights lawyer, Mr. Nowak said, "It is a fact that Falun Gong has been subjected to severe persecution since 1999. Equally indisputable is the quantity of organ transplants increased substantially at the same time when Falun Gong was first cracked down on July 20, 1999. Chinese medical institution also published data indicating 60,000 total transplant operations from 2000 to 2005." [15] Nowak thought the statement that organs came from voluntary donors worth investigating. "For religious and cultural reasons, rarely anyone in the Chinese society is willing to donate organs." To Huang’s argument that organs came from willing donation of executed prisoners, Nowak replied, "According to estimates by non-governmental organizations such as Amnesty International, there are 1,500-4,000 executions each year."

Amnesty International is carrying out its own investigation on the Falun Gong organ harvesting.[16] {mospagebreak}
Voices of Doctors

What, then, are the human rights responsibilities of the international medical and research community?

Over 20 transplant specialists at Auckland Hospital, New Zealand, issued a letter addressed to the New Zealand government. Among their recommendations is a ban on training Chinese doctors in transplant surgery until they can be assured that the skills will not be used to harvest organs from unwilling donors.[17] The recommendation appears to gain support in the U.S. transplant community.

According to a survey conducted by Dr. Scott Biggins at University of California, San Franscisco, over half of the liver transplant specialists surveyed would not participate in the training of physicians who intend to practice in countries with unethical procurement practices.[18] In addition, over 67 percent would support an embargo on scientific reports coming from countries with unethical procurement practices.[19]

Dr. Kirk Allison, Program of Human Rights and Health at the School of Public Health, Medical School, University of Minnesota issued a call on July 24, 2006, for professional associations to place a moratorium on research support and collaboration with transplantation in China. He also urged academic journals and educational venues to reject papers and presentations relying on data derived from practices violating standards described in Helsinki Declaration of the World Medical Association Ethical Principles Regarding Medical Research Involving Human Subjects[20] and international instruments.[21]

On August 14, 2006, the New York based National Kidney Foundation issued a statement regarding Kilgour/Matas July report. If these allegations prove true, it said, "they represent a systematic and widespread violation of human rights against thousands, or potentially tens of thousands, of innocent persons." "The National Kidney Foundation is opposed to any persecution of individuals because of their religious or political beliefs."[22]

On November 6, 2006, The Transplantation Society (TTS), a global body dedicated to the development of transplantation science, education and ethics based in Britain, issued a statement on the use of organs from Chinese executed prisoners. TTS is opposed to the recovery of organs and tissues from executed prisoners and from any other individual where an autonomous consent for the procurement is lacking," said the statement.[23]

Two major organ transplant hospitals in Queens land, Australia banned training

Chinese surgeons because of concerns raised by the Falun Gong group in late 2006.[24] {mospagebreak}

In the 1930s the first steps on the road to the holocaust were taken with the complicity of doctors.[25] For example, Nazi doctors provided supervision of Auschwitz mass murder starting from the notorious "selections" of arriving Jews, determining which were to go directly to the gas chamber and which were to live temporarily and work in the concentration camp. After the horrors of the Holocaust, one cannot simply brush off reports of heinous crimes against humanity. How can we guard against it happening again?

The investigation of organ-harvesting allegations has been very difficult. There is little direct evidence left of organ harvest of unwilling Falun Gong practitioners, because the bodies of victims are cremated and no word is given to family members of their disposal. The operating rooms where the killings and transplants occur look like any others. Yet, the picture that the Kilgour/Matas report pieces together bears the mark of veracity.

In an effort to expand the investigation and to stop the human atrocity, a coalition of Falun Gong supporters is calling for a boycott of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing unless the Chinese government meets an August 8, 2007 deadline to allow an independent investigation of organ-harvesting allegations.


[3] Available at
[4] See price list at
[5] See F(a)(3) of the Report.
[7] Video at;
[10] Page 44
[13] See;; and;

[14] See
[15] Original at; English summary at
[19] Id.
[21] Expert Opinion: Mounting Evidence of Falun Gong Practitioners used as Organ Sources in China and Related Ethical Responsibilities.
[23] Transplant News, Dec, 2006
[25] Lifton R. J. The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing And The Psychology Of Genocide, 2000

From the Editor

As the opening of the 2008 Beijing Olympics draws near, the Chinese authorities are cranking on all cylinders to capitalize on the chance to showcase China’s rising political and economic power.

There is little doubt that Beijing can and will quickly turn the capital city into an Olympic-caliber host city. With the whole country’s resources at its disposal, Beijing can spend whatever is needed to construct stadiums, deploy security systems, and build up other associated facilities. So far, Beijing has put into play the largest Olympic budget in history, which is believed to be north of US$40 billion, easily eclipsing the 2004 Athens Olympics budget of US$12 billion. In order to address concerns about the city’s monstrous air pollution, Beijing can shut down factories and limit the number of vehicles entering the city during the Games.

It is even mulling the use of missile technology to dispel clouds over the city and ensure a sunny Games. However, China’s communist government has few answers for its biggest black eye. Being awarded the 2008 Olympics has not stopped the regime’s atrocious record of human rights abuses. A recent report by Amnesty International clearly suggests that the regime has not lived up to its promise of advancing human rights made back in 2001 to the International Olympics Committee. Dissidents and human rights activists are still being harassed, detained, and tortured. Media suppression and crackdowns are still going on, including the continued imprisonment of journalists and writers, shutting down of unsanctioned publications, and ever more pervasive Internet censorship. Faith-based groups remain a target for unrestrained repression. Case in point, members of Falun Gong have had their organs harvested while they were still alive and then killed, as revealed by David Matas and David Kilgour, noted human rights lawyer and former Canadian Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific in their investigative reports.

As the Games approach, voices of opposition are getting louder. Individuals and human rights groups in China and abroad are calling for a boycott of the Games. Reporters Without Borders put up on its website a poster using five handcuffs to replace the Olympics’ five-ring emblem. In an article for the Wall Street Journal, actress Mia Farrow popularized the term “Genocide Olympics,” referring to the Beijing regime’s financial support of Sudan in spite of the Darfur atrocities.

Even inside China, the initial rush of joy at being awarded the Games is being tempered by common citizens’ demands for rights and justice. About 3,000 Chinese farmers who lost their land due to development openly stated that they want human rights, not the Olympics, in an open letter. Separately, 40 high-profile Chinese scholars co-signed a letter calling for respect for human rights and amnesty for political prisoners.

Given the unique nature of China’s political environment, the 2008 Beijing Olympics promise to be memorable. The 1936 Berlin Olympics are remembered as a symbolic crossroads for tyranny and genocide. Conversely, the 1988 Seoul Olympics fostered the country’s liberalization from totalitarian rule. Fifty years from now, how will we remember the 2008 Beijing Olympics?

From the Editor

U.S. President Bush’s visit to China in November was a step to keep close ties with Asia and a perceived opportunity to nudge China’s reform toward Western democracy and freedoms. This was reflected by Bush’s remarks on the success of a democratic transformation in Taiwan and Mongolia, and his attending a church service in Beijing before meetings with Chinese leaders. These gestures, as usual, fell on deaf ears with the Chinese communist regime.

Shortly after Bush’s departure, gunfire erupted at Dongzhou Village in Shanwei City, Guangdong Province, where defenseless farmers and fishermen fell before bullets fired by the People’s Police. Dozens were left dead and many more injured, according to locals. This tragedy occurred on December 6, 2005, while some local residents were protesting the seizure of their lands by the government for power plant development. The protests had lasted for nearly half a year.

The timing of the incident was hardly accidental. Choosing to act shortly after Bush’s Asia trip, the Chinese regime thus gave a response to Bush’s "request" for a more democratic China. Meanwhile, it might also have served as a test to see how the world would react. Amidst the ever-worsening social unrest, the regime has probably felt increasingly insecure about its grip on power and turned to the tried-and-true method of ending a messy problem with bloodshed.

Amazingly, responses from the international community have been unusually indifferent. Perhaps Western democracies feel hopeless in trying to reason with an irrational regime, or they are simply desensitized after witnessing so many brutalities over the years. Meanwhile, various Chinese weiquan (rights protection) groups, both inside and outside China, have unanimously condemned the regime’s latest killings. The local residents turned to media based outside of China for help to expose the killings; the media then transmitted the news back to China. Two radio stations, Radio Free Asia and a recent upstart Sound of Hope (featured story in the current issue), were the first to report the incident and played a pivotal role in making the Chinese people aware of what had happened.

In the aftermath, the regime sent a delegation to investigate the incident, claiming that it was the on-site official who gave the open-fire order and that only three were killed. It’s pointless to argue with the regime over how many actually died, as the impartiality of the investigation is dubious at best. One thing is certain, however. With today’s communication tools, it’s nearly impossible to completely cover up the truth. Chinese weiquan activists are already conducting their own investigation. As the Chinese weiquan movement gains prominence, one can only hope that the regime will find killing off those that it finds troublesome, embarrassing, or simply inconvenient less and less attractive as an option for solving its problems.

The Mystery of the Terra Cotta Warriors

Xi’an, the capital of northeast China’s Shaanxi Province, is famous for its rich and deep-rooted historical and cultural heritage through a wealth of cultural relics, museums, and historical sites—including the world-famous terra cotta army of Emperor Qin Shihuang.

In 1974, while a group of peasants in Lintong County, a suburban area of Xi’an City, were digging a well, they discovered some pottery nearby the royal tomb. This instantly caught the attention of various archeologists, who then traveled to Xi’an, in hopes of further findings. The terra cotta warriors were discovered in rows, and three vaults have been excavated thus far.

A museum was built on the site in 1975. The entire museum is 16,300 square meters (175,451 square feet) and divided into three sections (pit No. 1, 2, and 3). The museum became a great attraction for tourists all around the world after the grand opening of pit No.1 to the public on October 1, 1979. Pit No.1 is the largest, extending 230 meters (755 feet) by 62 meters (203 feet) wide. Displays of life-size terra cotta figures of warriors and horses arranged in battle formations are the main features of the museum. They serve as an exact duplication of what an imperial guard would have looked like in ancient days.

Pit No.2, found in 1976, is 20 meters (66 feet) northeast of pit No.1. It contains over 1,000 warriors and 90 chariots of wood. Pit No.3, also found in 1976, is 25 meters (82 feet) northwest of pit No.1. It went on display in 1989 and exhibits 73 terra cotta warriors that carry hand weapons and stand around a chariot; similar to the command center of the armed forces. Overall, more than 7,000 pottery soldiers, horses, chariots, and even weapons are displayed in these pits.

It has long been believed that the terra cotta warriors are part of the accompanied burials surrounding the tomb of the Emperor Qin Shihuang, the first Emperor of China. When Qin ascended the throne at the age of 13 (in 246 B.C.), he began to work on two massive projects: his mausoleum and the infamous Great Wall of China. Situated at the North foot of Mount Li in Lintong County, Shaanxi Province, the mausoleum took 700,000 people and 11 years to complete. Qin is the most hated emperor in Chinese history because of his reputation of cruelty, burying alive several hundreds of highly respected intellectuals under his order.

This widely held theory is now being challenged. A report on (website for People’s Daily) on December 1, 2005, questioned that Qin Shihuang was the master of the terra cotta warriors. This report created a widespread commotion within the archeological communities in China. Chen Jing Yuan, a 69-year-old scholar of architecture provided three important points of evidence to prove that the artifacts were not associated with the Emperor Qin Shihuang:{mospagebreak}

1. The distance between the terra cotta warriors and Qin’s mausoleum is too great—over 1.5 km (about one mile). Usually, artifacts buried along with the dead are relatively close in proximity. Thus, the artifacts should have been buried close to Qin’s mausoleum.

2. The terra cotta warriors are facing the east side of Qin’s mausoleum. This is unusual because the mausoleums in all kingdoms customrily face a north-south direction.

3. When Qin Shihuang unified China, he demanded that everything be black. However, almost all the terra cotta warriors are in red and green robes with purple-blue pants. In addition, Qin only used soldiers who marched or rode horses. However, the terra cotta warriors are shown with combat vehicles and weapons.

4. In unifying China, Qin Shihuang also demanded that all war chariots be the same. The vaults, however, reveal various kinds of war chariots.

The debate will probably continue for a while. Research is still being conducted in China by a group of scholars. No matter what the result will be, this "World Heritage Site" named by UNESCO will always be a fascinating attraction for both tourists and archeologists.

The Resurgence of Organized Crime in China

When the authorities tried to seize farmland for a state-owned power plant, a group of farmers who thought they were treated unfairly pitched tents and dug foxholes and trenches in an attempt to prevent the seizure. Hundreds of men armed with shotguns, clubs, and pipes fitted with sharp hooks attacked the farmers, killing six of them and seriously injuring as many as 100 others. The Washington Post reported the incident on June 15, 2005.[1]

What took place was unusual because the attackers appeared to be hired thugs rather than police. It was reported that the assailants were well prepared. They arrived before dawn in six white buses, and most of them were wearing hard hats and combat fatigues. They fired on the farmers with hunting shotguns and flare guns, and struck using metal pipes fitted with sharp hooks on the end. Some have suggested the assailants were organized crime groups who regularly work with local officials. In fact, although the farmers contacted the police, law enforcement officers did no arrive until long after the assailants were gone.

During an earlier attempt by assailants to drive the farmers from their land, the farmers captured one of the attackers. The man, Zhu Xiaorui, 23, said a man he met at the Beijing nightclub where he worked had recruited him. He said he was taken to the village, given a metal pipe, told to "teach a lesson" to the farmers, and was promised US$12 for the job.

The incident occurred on June 11, 2005, in a wheat-and peanut-farming village named Shengyou in Dingzhou City, Hebei Province.

Organized Crime an Increasing Problem in China

Rounds of Government Campaigns

According to a report from on March 11, 2006, a total of 313 mafia-style or organized crime gangs had been destroyed in the five previous months in Zhejiang Province, an economic powerhouse on China’s coast, in a campaign to crack down on organized crime. Hong Juping, Deputy Director of the Zhejiang Bureau of Public Security, said that since October 2005, 2,375 suspects had been detained in the campaign. The police have dealt with 1,388 cases, seized 26 weapons and confiscated 23.05 million yuan (US$2.84 million) in the operation, according to Hong.[2]

Zhejiang Province is not alone. In late 2005, China launched a nationwide campaign against underground organized crime syndicates.

In late February 2006, Luo Gan, a Politburo member in the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and a state councilor, announced the onset of another round of the campaign. Unlike previous ones, this new round targets organized crime groups and their insiders in the government. The purpose is to prevent organized crime syndicates from infiltrating the government.[3]{mospagebreak}

Underground Organized Crime in China

As of November 2005, underground criminal organizations owned and operated 70 percent of entertainment businesses with an annual revenue of over 100 billion yuan (US$12.5 billion). For example, in Guangdong Province, over 95 percent of the over 123,000 nightclubs, karaoke, saunas and bars are controlled by underground criminal organizations.

Underground criminal organizations control 30 percent of highways in counties, towns and villages; over 60 percent of construction projects in small and medium cities; and over 60 percent of small coalmines; 90 percent of coalmines of 200,000 metric ton annual output are controlled by underground criminal organizations in collusion with local authorities.

Over 2,130 officials were investigated and reprimanded for aiding and abetting underground criminals.

Over 1,520 local officials were arrested and sentenced for aiding and abetting underground criminals.

As of October 2005, 1,920 companies, 2,180 casinos, 377 farmers markets, 117 construction projects and 250 coalmines owned by underground criminal organizations had been shut down.

As of 2005, 2,120 underground criminal organizations were destroyed and dissolved, and over 70,000 ringleaders were arrested and sentenced.

Source: Cheng Ming Monthly, December 2005 issue. First published on November 1, 1977, in Hong Kong, Cheng Ming is a magazine that provides exclusive reports and in-depth analysis on the political situations in mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Red Hats

According to Chinese media reports on March 12, 2006, Mr. Zhu Entao, Honorary Vice-Chairman of Interpol and former assistant to China’s Minister of Public Security, warned that organized crime syndicates are increasingly wearing "red hats," meaning more and more syndicate members are government officials.[4]

Zhu’s statement underlines an alarming trend. As shown in court proceedings, government officials acting as these red hats have been rampant. For example, in the 2005 case of the Chen Kai triad, the red hats included 76 government insiders—from high-level officials to local police. In the 2004 case of Chen Yi in Shenzhen, Chen, as chairman of his company, was also the official advisor to the Guandong provincial government and won the title of one of the top ten national champions in eliminating rural poverty.{mospagebreak}

Underground Criminal Organizations

The characteristics of organized crime syndicates in China include territorial control, wealth, infiltration of the government for political protection, and low turnover rate.

Based on official statistics, there are over 20,000 organized crime syndicates in China with over 15 millions members.[5]

According to a statement issued by the China Ministry of Public Security at a press conference held on February 14, 2006, 10,034 policemen were suspended in the past nine years because of their affiliation with organized crime.[6]

Organized crime syndicates have been collaborating with the police in suppressing political dissidents. Recent examples including Chinese weiquan[7] activist Zhao Xin who was beaten up by seven unidentified mobsters during a family vacation, Lu Banglie who was dragged out of his car and severely attacked when he accompanied a U.K. Guardian reporter to investigate government abuse in Guangzhou Taishi Village, and attorney Tang Jiling who was followed and assaulted after visiting another rights activist.

Well-known Chinese economist Ms. He Qinglian has summarized the behavior of organized crime in China: First, local officials have hired thugs to assist in official duties in matters related to commerce, tax and public security; second, Party officials are members of the organized crime syndicate; and third, the authorities have walked hand-in-hand with organized crime syndicates in business joint ventures.[8]

Ming Xia, professor in the Department of Politics at New York University, in his ongoing research project on organized crime in China, observed that Party officials at provincial and central levels are in control of state resources and are not involved in organized crime. Yet, Professor Xia stated that it is local officials at the municipal, county, and township levels among whom organized crime is the most rampant. It is not surprising that the Chinese communist regime, which rose to power through violence, is finding organized crime more helpful than democracy.

Rich Soil for Underworld Prosperity

High Crime and Disorder in China{mospagebreak}

Since the economic reform in 1978, the Chinese communist government has been confronted by two most serious challenges: corruption and crime. These are what have led to the underworld’s quick development. According to Professor Xia, for the past three decades, crime in China has grown much faster than China’s economic development. From 1973 to 2002, the annual rate of increase in criminal cases averaged 17 percent. In 1974, reported crime cases passed the benchmark of half a million, a record high compared to the previous 20 years. In less than 10 years, this number soon approached one million, coming close to 2.5 million in 1991, passing 3.5 million in 2000, and reaching 4.4 million in 2001. Official authorities have reported that the number of destroyed criminal groups swelled from 30,000 in 1986 to 150,000 in 1994, while arrested members also increased from 114,000 to 570,000. From 1992 to 1999, the public security agencies nationwide destroyed more than a million criminal groups with members totaling 3.76 million. In the first half of 2005, the Chinese Ministry of Public Security reported a conservative figure of 2.13 million criminal cases. Professor Ming Xia concluded that Chinese society has entered a stage of high crime and disorder.

Source: "Corruption and Organized Crime" by MING XIA, except for data from 2005, which was estimated based on a report by the Chinese Ministry of Public Security.


So-called "mafia capitalism" has increasingly become a large part of the Chinese economy. The economic activities controlled by the criminal underworld—the so-called "black economy"—have constituted a large portion of China’s economic growth, in addition to the gray income such as bribes and embezzlement. One scholar affiliated with the Ministry of Public Security estimated that in the late 1990s, the amount of money spent every year on drugs may have been as high as 100 billion yuan (US$12.5 billion). It was also estimated that the sex industry generated revenue of at least 500 billion yuan (US$6.25 billion) per year. For many places, "Prostitution promotes prosperity" (PPP) has been an open maxim.

For example, in 1998, the "sweeping out sex industry" campaign (sao huang) in Shenzhen drove out thousands of prostitutes and bar girls. Within a few days of their departure, at least 10 billion yuan (US$1.25 billion) in savings deposits was removed from local financial institutions. This gave an economic boon to the surrounding cities and forced the Shenzhen municipal government to temper its campaign. Due to the activity of such criminal groups, every year smuggling alone causes the nation to lose more than 30 billion yuan (US$3.75 billion); money laundering through underground private banks has resulted in 200 billion yuan (US$25 billion) being transferred out of the country. As for piracy, it is generating even more income.

Social Uncertainties and Moral Vacuum

Organized crime is much more than an isolated criminal phenomenon. There are interdependent links between the political, socio-economic, criminal justice, and legal domains. "Corruption," which is defined broadly as "the abuse of public power for private gain," usually goes hand-in-hand with organized crime. The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (General Assembly resolution 55/25, annex I) defines an organized criminal group as "a structured group, committing serious crimes for profit."[9] That very broad definition was favored over the listing of the most common types of organized crime such as trafficking in drugs, arms, persons, stolen cars, or protected species, and terrorism.

During Mao Zedong’s era, other than the organized crimes committed by the Chinese Communist Party itself in its quest for power, there was no other form of underground organized crime because the Communist Party and its ideology largely controlled the society. Indeed, China officially announced that there were neither sexually transmitted diseases nor drug problems in China in 1964. One of the reasons was that under Mao’s rule, people in the cities were put in a danwai (work unit); and in the rural areas, they were put in communes. Unless someone got permission, no one had the freedom to relocate to any other places in China, which in turn limited the opportunity for committing any organized crime.{mospagebreak}

At that time, anything not expressly permitted was forbidden, which is the opposite of Western law (in keeping with the Roman tradition) in which those things not expressly forbidden are permitted. In Chinese society, people’s acts are either legal (hefa), illegal (feifa), or somewhere in between-which is referred to as "not in the law" (weifa). Weifa refers particularly to situations where the law is intentionally ambiguous. The three terms have established three sets of behavior; yet, since the economic reform, the official definitions of being legal, illegal, and "not in the law" have constantly changed.

The economic reforms inspired by Deng Xiaoping opened the floodgates for a market economy. Testing the water as reform goes along not only allows but also encourages behavior that in the past was "not in the law." In order to create an impression that the old political rulings were still suitable for the capitalist market economic, Deng kept using socialism in describing the economic reform, indicating that the old political and social rules could still be used without much change.

Feifa (illegal) behavior was forbidden. But, because of the ongoing structural reforms, many things that were forbidden could in any given moment easily become hefa (legal). For example, city dwellers’ houses were allotted to them as individuals. However, they sublet or even sold these houses they lived in even though, in theory, they still belonged to their work units. Things like this occurred but were widely tolerated although they were not strictly legal, or hefa. Thus, throughout the whole society, changes in what actually happened preceded changes in the rules. Regulations were, and still are, drafted on the basis of concrete cases; regulators try to see how things work first and then regulate based on the actual occurrences.

Despite all the operational changes without a regulatory base, the general legal culture has moved toward the Roman concept-everything not expressly forbidden is permitted. There is general confusion between what is legal and what is illegal. There is an even larger confusion about what is morally right and morally wrong, as both Confucian and communist values have fallen apart and new values have not been established in their place. Many social actions—arguably most of them—in China are still weifa, as much social behavior was and still is in a no-man’s land.

In addition to the above-mentioned lack of definite laws and moral standards, there is a lack of transparency in the Chinese system. The communist regime doesn’t want to show its dirty linen, and it is afraid of the domestic political impact of this complex situation.

In an article in Asia Times, Francesco Sisci pointed out, "These difficulties take place while ongoing structural change moves the goalposts every few months, and while the burgeoning middle class would often rather side with the triads than with the police; thus the central government, certain that it must back the middle class for national development, tries to rein in some police action. In this situation the police, feeling left out and wanting part of the action, get into bed with the triads. Furthermore, the successful triads shed their criminal activities and turn 100 percent legal. In other words, it is a jungle."[10]{mospagebreak}

Ambiguous Law

China is ill-prepared to deal with the underworld of organized crime. Even though the word "underworld" (hei she hui) has been widely used in reporting the increasingly rampant organized crime, the judicial system does not even have a clear definition of it.

Is "underworld" a legal term? Some legal experts in China hold that the term is not a legal concept but a sociological concept. It is for this reason that it is impossible to interpret the term in the statutes. Penal codes of countries outside China define crimes such as assault, torts, homicide, and robbery, but no such crime as "underworld" exists.

As underground organized crime emerged and became rampant along with the economic growth in China, the term "organizations in the nature of a criminal syndicate" first appeared in Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China adopted in March 1997.

Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China adopted in 1977

Article 294

Whoever forms, leads or takes an active part in organizations in the nature of a criminal syndicate to commit organized illegal or criminal acts through violence, threat or other means, such as lording it over the people in an area, perpetrating outrages, riding roughshod over or cruelly injuring or killing people, thus seriously disrupting the economic order and people’s daily activities, shall be sentenced to a fixed-term of imprisonment of not less than three years but not more than 10 years; other participants shall be sentenced to a fixed- term of imprisonment of not more than three years, criminal detention, public surveillance or deprivation of political rights.

Another issue in dispute is how to define "organizations in the nature of criminal syndicates" in relation to the role of government official who may provide a "black umbrella" (illegal protection).

In 2000, when the authorities launched the first campaign against underworld criminal organizations, the Chinese Supreme Court issued an interpretation of Article 294 stating that the elements of the "organizations in the nature of criminal syndicates" should be defined as a tightly controlled structure with economic gains as its goal, government officials providing illegal protection, and violent disruptive capability.

However, confusion ensued particularly about the black umbrella (government officials providing illegal protection). Numerous cases were dismissed in court due to lack of evidence of a black umbrella.{mospagebreak}

In January 2001, the People’s Congress of China issued an interpretation of the legislation: the black umbrella is not required to find that an "organization is in the nature of a criminal syndicate."

In reality, an organization can hardly become an "organization in the nature of a criminal syndicate" without aid and assistance from government officials.

The above interpretation was passed in April 2002 at the 27th session of the People’s Congress of China.

Involvement of Government Officials and Police

In a large number of mafia-type organizations, government officers are often deeply involved in and benefit from the mafia-type business defined as the "red hats" of the underworld. They are well entrenched in the local political structure, particularly in law enforcement agencies, and thus are well protected by corrupt public officials. Below are several examples:

Zhang Wei is from Wenling, Zhejiang Province. Not only was he the boss of his criminal organization, but he also held eight public official titles in several provinces and municipalities:

Vice Chairman of the People’s Political Consultative Conference of Yidu City, Hubei Province

Member of the Municipal Youth League Committee of Taizhou City

Honorary President of a newspaper in Zhejiang Province

Vice President of the Young Entrepreneurs Association of Taizhou City

Legal Representative and Chairman of the East Sea Group in Zhejiang Province

Legal Representative and Manager of the Dongsheng Corporation in Shanghai

Legal Representative and General Manager of Wenling Hengji lndustrial Corporation

Legal Representative and General Manager of Taizhou New Century Decoration Co. Ltd.

He obtained the first four titles by bribing public officials, and those titles served him well. He was found to have connections with officials in key positions, including the mayor and the police chief. Of the 67 public officials having close ties with him, 42 were in government or Party offices, 15 were in the judiciary, and 10 were in banking. For this reason his organization was called the "Red-Black Gang," and this is indeed an accurate description.{mospagebreak}

Liang Xudong, head of the largest criminal organization in Jilin Province, was a police officer and also had ties with over 30 government and Party officials. Of these connections, there were political appointees as well as those holding offices in the Public Security Bureau. Liang Xudong had access to 35 public officials; his network included 12 department heads in the government, 10 police officers, five public procurators, and four judges. It was under the protection of these public officials that Liang Xudong and his gang developed into a powerful force in that region, in Jilin’s Helong City.

Gu Decheng and his gang had grown to a criminal organization with considerable notoriety when Gu himself was elected a member of the city’s People’s Political Consultative Conference and representative of the city’s People’s Congress.

Liu Yong of Liaoning Province was both a gang boss and a well-known public figure. To outsiders, he was a member of Shenyang City’s People’s Congress, in addition to being president of the Shenyang Jiayang Group, and year after year his company was granted the title of Advanced Enterprise by the municipal government. Of the 16 key members of this gang, three were police officers.

Zhou Shounan was head of a criminal group in Baise, Guangxi Province. The public knew him as general manager of the entertainment department of the Baise Hotel while in the underground he led a gang, the Hongxing Society, which controlled the gambling business in the city. When his criminal activities were brought to light, the involvement of several key officials became known, including the former chief of the city police, Nong Jiayi, and the police chief in office, Li Hongzhuan. Also involved were the political commissar of the police department Ma Sike, deputy police chief Huang Zhengxian, former commander of the public security team within the police department Liang Xincheng, and former deputy chief of the prefecture police department Tan Xueren.

People have been shocked by a criminal organization in Pingdingshan City, Henan Province. This organization had 11 members. Among them, six were members of a village committee, one was a probationary member of the Chinese Communist Party, and three were candidates for Party membership. In eight years they committed over 300 armed robberies targeted at private coal mine owners, victimized more than 120 innocent people of whom six were murdered, and got away with a total of one and a half million yuan (US$1.9 million). The fact that these people are able to hold dual roles-one in public and one in the underground-is more alarming than those criminals relying exclusively on the bribery of officials.{mospagebreak}

More disturbing is the fact that gangsters have infiltrated county- and municipal-level governing bodies. They pick their "surrogates" from other officials, even playing a role in assigning county and municipal administrative positions. In this way, social establishments controlled by corrupt officials have become a tool for organized criminals to prey upon their communities. In the worst-case scenario, the "good side" and the "bad side" merge. Then the public officials who rule society, particularly those in law enforcement, are those who collaborate with organized crime, which in effect gains control of society.

Organized Crime and the Chinese Communist Party

If the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had managed to completely wipe out prostitution, drugs, triads, and other organized crime in China before the 1980s, why has it allowed these crimes to reemerge and grow rampant in the underworld today? Where is the CCP going to lead China?

Minxin Pei, director of the China Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, believes that the CCP has turned into a neo-Leninist regime and that China’s future will be decay, not democracy. In his recent article in Foreign Policy (March/April 2006), Pei wrote, "Behind the glowing headlines are fundamental frailties rooted in the Chinese neo-Leninist state. Unlike Maoism, neo-Leninism blends one-party rule and state control of key sectors of the economy with partial market reforms and an end to self-imposed isolation from the world economy. The Maoist state preached egalitarianism and relied on the loyalty of workers and peasants. The neo-Leninist state practices elitism, draws its support from technocrats, the military, and the police, and co-opts new social elites (professionals and private entrepreneurs) and foreign capital—all vilified under Maoism."

Chinese scholar Yang Guang recently analyzed a series of changes in the CCP political ecology that could explain the reemergence of organized crime ("Political Decay in Present China," Contemporary China Study, third issue, 2005). Those gradual changes included: 1) The communist ideology has been weakened and has become ineffective. 2) The regime’s cohesive force is lax; the traditional bureaucratic power structure has become unbalanced and obstructive. 3) The relationship between the populace and the group holding power has deteriorated. 4) Alliances of common interest between regional bureaucrats and business have grown stronger. 5) Official authority has weakened while unofficial authority has prospered. 6) Conflicts between the low-level local authorities and civilians have developed into complete opposition.

In such a political environment, the get-rich-first class, the influential families, and the leaders of the underworld have gained more and more political influence and energy by forming alliances with bureaucrats or their family members. They even unofficially "subcontracted" some key public authority such as law enforcement. As a result, the totalitarian power structure of the CCP is facing unprecedented internal erosion and external resistance.{mospagebreak}

Political decay has accompanied the open and reform process in China. Even though the open and reform policy is meant to make China rich and strong, it comes with a constraining condition attached—the CCP’s power and monopoly must be preserved. The CCP has not allowed independent political parties, not allowed political debates or competition, not allowed free media, not allowed independent civil organizations, and not allowed freedom of belief and religion. In the absence of the basic ingredients for a civil society, the CCP’s absolute power has inevitably led to absolute corruption that has then become the rich soil for the growth of organized crime.

Beijing Spring magazine’s chief editor, Hu Ping, recently warned people that the CCP itself is in the process of becoming an underworld organization. "I once wrote an article to discuss the CCP becoming an underworld organization. It referred to the facts that the communist government disrespected the minimal law and procedures when it hired hoodlums or directed the police to physically attack human right activists and to threaten their lives in an underworld manner. There is yet another manifestation: the CCP itself acts more and more like an underworld organization," Hu wrote in March.[11]

In an underworld criminal organization, it is a ritual to ask new members to commit a crime; it excludes anyone clean. The CCP’s corrupt culture is similar. Hu Ping used two recent examples to illustrate the similarity. One example involves Huang Jingao, the former Party secretary of Lianjiang County, Fujian Province. Huang did not like the corruption inside the government. He tried to expose other officials’ corruption, but instead, in the end, he himself was charged with corruption. Another example involves a corruption case in Qianwei County, Sichuan Province. The county Party secretary, Tian Yufei, was tried in court for taking bribes and possessing a huge amount of wealth from unidentifiable sources. Yang Guoyou, the former county magistrate, was one of the co-defendants. Yang explained to the court why he took bribes: He said that he was protecting his position. If he had not taken bribes, he would have had to face retaliation from Party secretary Tian Yufei; it’s the unspoken rule in the CCP regime that they commit crimes together.

Hu Ping further commented that the CCP regime had become completely corrupt. It’s no longer simply totalitarian. In a pure totalitarian dictatorship government, most of the bureaucrats act according to the laws and rules that are written on paper. The bureaucrats just work for their salary. If the top dictator one day decides to reform and change the laws, the bureaucrats can simply follow without worry of reprisal. However, in a government that is completely corrupt, the bureaucrats are themselves guilty of breaking the law and taking bribes. Even if the top dictator wants to reform, it will not work because all the bureaucrats in the whole system will resist.{mospagebreak}

Hu Ping is not alone in his pessimism about the CCP’s reform. Minxin Pei certainly shared a similar view when he wrote in his recent article, "To most Western observers, China’s economic success obscures the predatory characteristics of its neo-Leninist state. But Beijing’s brand of authoritarian politics is spawning a dangerous mix of crony capitalism, rampant corruption, and widening inequality. Dreams that the country’s economic liberalization will someday lead to political reform remain distant. Indeed, if current trends continue, China’s political system is more likely to experience decay than democracy."

Leon Chao is an expert on China issues.

[1] Washington Post, June 14, 2005 article/2005/06/14/AR2005061401542_pf.html
[2] Xinhua News Agency, March 11, 2006 http://www. chinanews. cn//news/2005/2006-03-11 /20051.html
[3] Xinhua News Agency, Feb. 22, 2006 http:// politics. people. com. cn/GB/1 024/4132588.html
[4] China Daily, March 13, 2006 http://www.chinadaily. 541297.htm
[5] The Epoch Times, Dec. 12, 2005. http://www.epochtimes. com/gb/5/12/17/n 1157207.htm
[6] Hot topics, Feb. 13-Feb. 19, 2006 http://www.khbd. com cn/bbs/viewthread.php?tid=57907&extra=page% 3D1&page=2
[7] "Weiquan" is the Chinese word for rights movement.
[8] VOA News, Feb. 16, 2006 chinese/archive/2006-02/w2006-02-16-voa70. cfm
[9] The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the protocols thereto are available at cicp convention.html
[10] "The Triads and Emerging Legality in China" by Francesco Sisci, Asia Times, April 18, 2002