Inside the People’s Republic of Death

The range of victims—from supposedly hardened spies to infants barely out of the womb—is stunning and should be taken into account by Washington whenever it deals with Beijing.


Photo Illustration by Lyne Lucien/The Daily Beast

A Chinese informant for the Central Intelligence Agency was shot in front of colleagues in the courtyard of a government building, reports The New York Times. China’s government, according to former American officials, executed at least a dozen supposed CIA sources from the end of 2010 through 2012.

Beijing’s Global Times, a semi-official tabloid, calls the reporting of the courtyard killing “a purely fabricated story, most likely a piece of American-style imagination based on ideology,” but the publication, controlled by the authoritative People’s Daily, did not deny the New York paper’s report of the other executions.

The People’s Republic of China has very little compunction about killing its citizens. There is no question about that. The range of victims—from supposedly hardened spies to infants barely out of the womb—is stunning and should be taken into account by Washington whenever it deals with Beijing.

We start with babies born without permits issued by population control officials.

Mao Hengfeng heard the “piercing cries of her baby” after a forced abortion. “Yet instead of being able to hold her newborn child,” veteran journalist Verna Yu reports, “she watched helplessly while her baby was drowned in a bucket.”

“The baby was alive, I could hear the baby cry,” Mao said. “They killed my baby.” Mao was also forced by family planning officials to undergo a hysterectomy. She had been seven-and-a-half months pregnant at the time.

Her baby was killed a quarter century ago, but the practice continues today. “In today’s China, under the Communist rule,” says blind activist Chen Guangcheng, “the government can put their hand into your body, grab your baby out of your womb, and kill your baby in your face.” Chen talks of a “war zone” created by family planning officials.

Forced abortions occur as late as the ninth month, according to Reggie Littlejohn, founder and president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, in 2009 testimony before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the U.S. Congress (PDF). Chinese “methods of infanticide” include “puncturing the skulls and injecting alcohol into the brains of full-term fetuses to kill them during labor,” she testified.

Littlejohn appended a translation of a Chinese document labeled “Best Practices, Infanticide,” issued to handle the question, “What if the infant is still alive after induced labor?”

“This is the hallmark of communistic governments: the peacetime mass killings of their own citizens,” Littlejohn told The Daily Beast.

China, since the beginning of 2016, has generally permitted couples to have two children, a relaxation of the notorious One-Child Policy, in place since 1979. Yet the requirement that couples obtain birth permits and the other coercive rules remain in place.

And that, unfortunately, means “gendercide.” As Susan Yoshihara, senior vice president for research at the Center for Family and Human Rights, pointed out in comments to me, “brutal Chinese family planning policy has led to the direct and indirect killing of tens of millions of innocent Chinese baby girls just because they are girls.”

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Almost as grisly is organ harvesting. Dr. Jacob Lavee, president of the Israel Society of Transplantation, told PBS NewsHour that in 2005 one of his patients was promised a heart transplant in China “two weeks ahead of time.”

“If a patient was promised to undergo a heart transplant on a specific date,” Lavee said, “this could only mean that the—those who promised that they knew ahead of time when his potential donor would be dead.”

China said in 2014 that, beginning the following year, it would no longer take organs from executed prisoners. But forced donations are continuing according to Ethan Gutmann, author of The Slaughter.

Gutmann, along with David Kilgour and David Matas, is co-author of an exhaustive June 2016 report. They maintain there are somewhere between 60,000 and 100,000 organ transplants a year, a number far in excess of donations available from voluntary sources.

Prisoners corroborate conclusions of the report. Wang Chunying and Yin Liping, Falun Gong practitioners, told PBS they were forced to take tests needed for matching organs with recipients. Gutmann says he has heard similar accounts from other prisoners.

“China is not the only country with organ-transplant abuse,” David Matas, a Canadian human rights lawyer, told the Toronto-based Globe and Mail. “What’s different about China is it’s institutionalized, it’s state-run, it’s party-directed. It’s not a few criminals in back alleys trying to make a fast buck.” Kilgour, a former Canadian MP and now a human rights activist, implored the Chinese government to stop what he labeled “an industrial-scale crime against humanity.”

In China, you can get livers, kidneys, hearts, spleens, hands, breasts, arms, corneas, intestines, pancreases, thyroids, stem cells, hair, and bone marrow, and it looks like they come from more than just common criminals. China has used Falun Gong practitioners, Uighurs, Tibetans, and Christians as forced donors, the three authors charge.

Beijing called the charges “groundless accusations” after the U.S. House of Representatives last year passed a resolution on the practice.

Despite noticeable improvement in Chinese donor practices, the Chinese state looks like it is searching for a new source of organs. “Forced organ harvesting of political dissidents began in the ’90s, in Xinjiang,” Gutmann told The Daily Beast. “With the recent revelation from Human Rights Watch—that the Chinese authorities are comprehensively mapping Uighur DNA—it is difficult to suppress the thought that Beijing has entered a new stage: not simply the murder of individual political dissidents but a slow-motion version of racial genocide.”

But, in fact, China is still murdering political dissidents, even if the killings often are out of sight. In 2009, police said a 24-year-old prisoner, Li Qiaoming, died while “playing hide-and-seek.” Li, however, had been beaten to death, and this term suddenly became a common euphemism for official brutality.

Last year, Lei Yang, 29 years old and an environmental activist, died an hour after being taken into custody in the Chinese capital. Police blamed a heart attack. An autopsy revealed Lei choked on his own vomit.

These days, activists also “disappear.” Take 2015’s “709” crackdown, so named because it began on July 9. Some 300 rights lawyers, legal assistants, and dissidents were swept up. A few of them—Zhao Wei and Wang Quanzhang—are still missing. The 709 campaign, primarily directed at the legal profession, has been called the “war on law” and “is widely seen as a sign of a growing intolerance of dissent under President Xi Jinping.

“In China, there are countless allegations of police torture, abuse, and suspicious deaths,” widely followed freelance journalist Paul Mooney tells The Daily Beast. The police, he says, are killing citizens “with impunity.” And as he points out, “police power is growing and we can expect the situation to get worse and worse.”

Many people call the country “China.” But we would understand it better if we thought of it as the People’s Republic of Death.