Reports of surgeons-turned-executioners in China are nothing new. But it’s the first time a Chinese doctor is stepping forward with his real name to tell a deeply personal narrative, accompanied by profound horror.
Zheng Zhi, a then-resident doctor at one of China’s largest military hospitals, recounted how he witnessed a man’s kidneys and eyes being carved out for transplant—while he was still alive. Now, he’s shedding light on the horrifying forced organ harvesting industry in China.
“I was ordered to take one of his eyeballs by the soldier on the other side, and the nurse handed me a hemostat. I really couldn’t stand it, and I said ‘I can’t do it, I can’t,'” Dr. Zheng said.
The horror he witnessed took place in 1994 inside a van guarded by armed soldiers, and staffed with five surgeons and nurses. He thought they were on a “secret military mission” near a prison around China’s northeastern Dalian city.
But what followed has stayed with him for decades.
“I looked at him, he was looking right at me. This man at my feet [during the operation], he was really looking at me, his eyes were moving.”
Dr. Zheng says the man was no more than 18 years old. Carried into the van by four soldiers, his limbs tightly bound by ropes. A doctor first sliced open the man’s stomach, and two others extracted a kidney each.
The man’s legs twitched, his throat moved, but no sound came out. Then a doctor instructed Dr. Zheng to “step on” the man’s legs and “don’t let him move.”
“As I pressed down, his still-warm body made me think he was alive. A surgeon took a scalpel and made a large incision directly under the xiphoid into the umbilical cord. When the abdomen opened, the intestines came out, and I was really terrified. Another surgeon pushed the intestines aside and retrieved a kidney. Then another got the second kidney. The head nurse swiftly placed both kidneys in a temperature-controlled box,” Dr. Zheng said.
Next, Dr. Zheng got the order to extract the man’s eyes, but he was too sickened to do so. Another doctor swiftly carried out the procedure instead.
The now motionless body was then placed in a black plastic bag and carried away by soldiers.
The organs were taken to the General Hospital of the Shen-yang Military Region, where Dr. Zheng did his residency. A team waiting there then used the organs in transplant operations.
By then, the procedure was long over. But for Dr. Zheng, the haunting image of those desperate, fearful, and pained eyes plagued him.
“At dinner the previous evening [before the operation], an officer introduced the boy, who was less than 18 years old. His parents paid 10,000 yuan to get him an army spot. Through the window, I looked at the gun-wielding soldiers, guarding this heinous act. No military in the world would plunder and sell its own soldiers’ organs. My ambition as a military doctor was to save lives and serve my nation, but I couldn’t fathom the depth of my country’s atrocities.”
Soon after the horrific event, Dr. Zheng left the hospital.
“This incident had a great impact on me at that time. After that, I rarely spoke, and I didn’t like social interactions,” he said.
But little did he know, what happened in that van in 1994 would soon become an industrialized killing apparatus in China, set up to extract organs from prisoners of conscience and sell them on demand.
Within two decades, the mass-scale, state-sanctioned forced organ harvesting ballooned into a billion-dollar industry.
In the 2020 China Tribunal Judgment, it’s said “Falun Gong practitioners have been one—and probably the main—source of organ supply.”
“They don’t consent. They don’t even know what’s happening…we call it a cold genocide in the sense that it’s not happening all at once it’s happening slowly over time,” said David Matas, an international human rights lawyer and one of the world’s leading researchers of forced organ harvesting.
In 2002, while accompanying a military official for a medical check-up, Dr. Zheng first learned that Falun Gong adherents were used as an organ source.
Doctors at the hospital where Dr. Zheng once interned told the official that he needed a new kidney to survive.
“‘Shenyang Army General Hospital will pick a top-quality one for you, a fresh one, from Falun Gong practitioners.’ I told him, ‘Don’t do it, isn’t that committing a murder?’ He nodded to me and said, ‘I am not going to get this kidney transplant.’ But he suddenly said to me in a particularly stern manner, ‘You should leave as soon as possible, and the farther the better.’ I realized I might be ‘silenced’ if the story got out.”
Another acquaintance, an aide to officials at the core of China’s most elite leadership body, told Dr. Zheng something even more shocking.
“During [his] visit, I said the persecution of Falun Gong in northeastern China was quite severe. He seemed attentive but stayed silent. But before we parted, he suddenly told me that Falun Gong practitioners, including minors, were held beneath the Hubei Provincial Public Security Bureau’s backyard in Wuhan City. He said he had been there. Then he left abruptly. At that moment, I said to myself: ‘I must go abroad!'”
Dr. Zheng added that to boost transplant profits, the military set up “green passages” at airports to aid the swift transportation of organs across the nation.
He also said infectious disease units inside military hospitals had all become “dens” for forced organ harvesting.
To avoid citizens becoming complicit, U.S. lawmakers have taken steps to prevent Americans from engaging in “transplant tourism” to China.
But Mr. Matas says the killing of prisoners of conscience for their organs is still ongoing.
“They’re continuing to add advertise transplant tourism, and the institutions are still functioning. I mean, they haven’t closed on these transplant hospitals,” he said.
Dr. Zheng obtained refugee status while in Thailand, and moved to Canada in 2007. He said he’s been looking for the right media outlet to share his story because should he make the wrong choice, not only would he get himself into trouble, the issue wouldn’t get the spotlight it needs.
He acknowledged the concern of potential retaliation from Beijing, but said the issue is bigger than himself.
“I want to speak publicly—the Chinese Communist Party is slaughtering Chinese people, harvesting their organs, and selling them for money. This is a crime, and it is intolerable to mankind.”
He said that he has carefully preserved his records, and that when the Chinese Communist Party falls and faces judgment, he will take the witness stand—adding that “justice will prevail.”