Testimony of Wang Guoql
Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights
United States House of Representatives
(June 27, 2001)
Wang Guoql was a doctor at a Chinese People's Liberation Army Hospital
who willingly participated in organ harvesting from executed prisoners.
However, after a particularly gruesome experience he experienced a
conflict of conscience and tried to avoid further involvement in the
process. His initial attempt was rejected and he was met with various
forms of pressure to continue his participation. He eventually left
China and appeared before a subcommittee of the US House of
Representatives, where he provided the following testimony. It is
reproduced here with permission from the website of the
Laogai Research Foundation
My name is Wang Guoqi and I am a 38-year-old physician from the People’s
Republic of China. In 1981, after standard childhood schooling and
graduation, I joined the People’s Liberation Army. By 1984, I was studying
medicine at the Paramilitary Police Paramedical School. I received advanced
degrees in Surgery and Human Tissue Studies, and consequently became a
specialist in the burn victims unit at the Paramilitary Police Tianjin
General Brigade Hospital in Tianjin. My work required me to remove skin and
corneas from the corpses of over one hundred executed prisoners, and, on a
couple of occasions, victims of intentionally botched executions. It is with
deep regret and remorse for my actions that I stand here today testifying
against the practices of organ and tissue sales from death row prisoners.
My involvement in harvesting the skin from prisoners began while
performing research on cadavers at the Beijing People’s Liberation Army
Surgeons Advanced Studies School, in Beijing’s 304th Hospital.
This hospital is directly subordinate to the PLA, and so connections between
doctors and officers were very close. In order to secure a corpse from the
execution grounds, security officers and court units were given “red
envelopes” with cash amounting to anywhere between 200-500 RMB per corpse.
Then, after execution, the body would be rushed to the autopsy room rather
than the crematorium, and we would extract skin, kidneys, livers, bones, and
corneas for research and experimental purposes. I learned the process of
preserving human skin and tissue for burn victims, and skin was subsequently
sold to needy burn victims for 10 RMB per square centimeter.
After completing my studies in Beijing, and returning to Tianjin’s
Paramilitary Police General Brigade Hospital, I assisted hospital directors
Liu Lingfeng and Song Heping in acquiring the necessary equipment to build
China’s first skin and tissue storehouse. Soon afterward, I established
close ties with Section Chief Xing, a criminal investigator of the Tianjin
Higher People’s Court.
Acquiring skin from executed prisoners usually took place around major
holidays or during the government’s Strike Hard campaigns, when prisoners
would be executed in groups. Section Chief Xing would notify us of upcoming
executions. We would put an order in for the number of corpses we’d like to
dissect, and I would give him 300 RMB per cadaver. The money exchange took
place at the Higher People’s Court, and no receipts or evidence of the
transaction would be exchanged.
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. This
was done on orders of the criminal investigation section. Before removing
the skin, we would cut off the ropes that bound the criminals’ hands and
remove their clothing. Each criminal had identification papers in his or her
pocket that detailed the executee’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.
We had to work quickly in the crematorium, and 10-20 minutes were
generally enough to remove all skin from a corpse. Whatever remained was
passed over to the crematorium workers. Between five and eight times a year,
the hospital would send a number of teams to execution sites to harvest
skin. Each team could process up to four corpes, and they would take as much
as was demanded by both our hospital and fraternal hospitals. Because this
system allowed us to treat so many burn victims, our department became the
most reputable and profitable department in Tianjin.
Huge profits prompted our hospital to urge other departments to design
similar programs. The urology department thus began its program of kidney
transplant surgeries. The complexity of the surgery called for a price of
$120-150,000 RMB per kidney.
With such high prices, primarily wealthy or high-ranking people were able
to buy kidneys. If they had the money, the first step would be to find a
donor-recipient match. In the first case of kidney transplantation in
August, 1990, I accompanied the urology surgeon to the higher court and
prison to collect blood samples from four death-row prisoners. The policeman
escorting us told the prisoners that we were there to check their health
conditions; therefore, the prisoners did not know the purpose for their
blood samples or that their organs might be up for sale. Out of the four
samplings, one basic and sub-group blood match was found for the recipient,
and the prisoner’s kidneys were deemed fit for transplantation.
Once a donor was confirmed, our hospital held a joint meeting with the
urology department, burn surgery department, and operating room personnel.
We scheduled tentative plans to prepare the recipient for the coming kidney
and discussed concrete issues of transportation and personnel. Two days
before execution, we received final confirmation from the higher court, and
on the day of the execution, we arrived at the execution site in plain
clothes. In the morning, the donating prisoner had received a heparin shot
to prevent blood clotting and ease the organ extraction process. When all
military personnel and condemned prisoners would arrive at the site, the
organ-donating prisoner was brought forth for the first execution.
At the execution site, a colleague, Xing Tongyi, and I were responsible
for carrying the stretcher. Once the hand-cuffed and leg-ironed prisoner had
been shot, a bailiff removed the leg irons. Xing Tongyi and I had 15 seconds
to bring the executee to the waiting ambulance. Inside the ambulance, the
best urologist surgeons removed both kidneys, and rushed back to the waiting
recipient at the hospital. Meanwhile, our burn surgery department waited for
the execution of the following three prisoners, and followed their corpses
to the crematorium where we removed skin in a small room next to the
furnaces. Since our director had business ties with the Tianjin
Ophthalmologic Hospital and Beijing’s 304th Hospital, he
instructed us to extract the executee’s corneas as well.
Although I performed this procedure nearly a hundred times in the
following years, it was an incident in October 1995 that has tortured my
conscience to no end. We were sent to Hebei Province to extract kidneys and
skin. We arrived one day before the execution of a man sentenced to death
for robbery and the murder of a would-be witness. Before execution, I
administered a shot of heparin to prevent blood clotting to the prisoner. A
nearby policeman told him it was a tranquilizer to prevent unnecessary
suffering during the execution. The criminal responded by giving thanks to
At the site, the execution commander gave the order, “Go!,” and the
prisoner was shot to the ground. Either because the executioner was nervous,
aimed poorly, or intentionally misfired to keep the organs intact, 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 Zhifu,
Zhao Qingling and Liu Qiyou extracted his kidneys quickly and precisely.
When they finished, the prisoner was still breathing and his heart continued
to beat. The execution commander asked if they might fire a second shot to
finish him off, to which the county court staff replied, “Save that shot.
With both kidneys out, there is no way he can survive.” The urologists
rushed back to the hospital with the kidneys, the county staff and
executioner left the scene, and eventually the paramilitary policemen
disappeared as well. We burn surgeons remained inside the ambulance to
harvest the skin. We could hear people outside the ambulance, and fearing it
was the victim’s family who might force their way inside, we left our job
half-done, and the half-dead corpse was thrown in a plastic bag onto the
flatbed of the crematorium truck. As we left in the ambulance, we were
pelted by stones from behind.
After this incident, I have had horrible, reoccurring nightmares. I have
participated in a practice that serves the regime’s political and economic
goals far more than it benefits the patients. I have worked at execution
sites over a dozen times, and have taken the skin from over one hundred
prisoners in crematoriums. Whatever impact I have made in the lives of burn
victims and transplant patients does not excuse the unethical and immoral
manner of extracting organs.
I resolved to no longer participate in the organ business, and my wife
supported my decision. I submitted a written report requesting reassignment
to another job. This request was flatly denied on the grounds that no other
job matched my skills. I began to refuse to take part in outings to
execution sites and crematoriums, to which the hospital responded by blaming
and criticizing me for my refusals. I was forced to submit a pledge that I
would never expose their practices of procuring organs and the process by
which the organs and skin were preserved and sold for huge profits. They
threatened me with severe consequences, and began to train my replacement.
Until the day I left China in the spring of 2000, they were still harvesting
organs from execution sites.
I hereby expose all these terrible things to the light in the hope that
this will help to put an end to this evil practice.