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At least I have said it

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WORLD Radio - At least I have said it

A Chinese doctor participates in a program of terrible pain and cruelty, and lives to regret it


ENVER TOHTI: Because I didn't want it to be associated with this… this… crime. At least I have said it, I have brought it into light.

LES SILLARS: In 2009 Dr. Enver Tohti was living in London, a refugee from China.

MUSIC: Yoga Style by Chris Haugen

TOHTI: Because I didn't want it to be associated with this… this… crime. At least I have said it, I have brought it into light.

In 2009 Dr. Enver Tohti found himself in Westminster, the British Parliament Building. He was there for a human rights meeting.

He was living in London at the time, as a refugee from China. When he’d first come to the UK, he joined all the human rights groups and attended all the meetings he could. He was a refugee, after all.

He’d fled China because of his participation in the making of a documentary called Death on the Silk Road. The film focused on how the fallout from China’s nuclear weapons tests damaged people’s health in nearby Xianjing.

REPORTER: Since 1976, the increased radiation from the nuclear bombs seem to have produced a dramatic increase in cancers…

Apparently, China was a little careless about where they tested their nukes.

But this human rights meeting—this one in Westminster—wasn’t about nuclear testing. This one was about something else—something Tohti had also encountered.

TOHTI: There was a book presentation.

That book was an expose of another crime against humanity. This crime was different—worse, possibly. It involved the disappearance of thousands of people per year across China. The speaker was an American named Ethan Gutmann.

Guttmann finished his presentation. What he said next caught Enver Tohti’s attention.

TOHTI: He said that it was extremely difficult to find first hand evidence.

Tohti realized that he could offer to Gutmann something even better than first hand evidence. He had first hand experience.

TOHTI: So I raised my hand and I confessed that and I said, “Look, I'm not sure this is part of it, but I have done something like this.”

What, exactly, had he done? We’ll let Josh Schumacher pick up the story from here. I’m Les Sillars, and this is Doubletake. A quick note of caution before Josh gets started. Today’s subject is hard. Really hard. And throughout the show we talk about some things that might not be appropriate for younger children. OK? Now for the story. Here’s Josh.

MUSIC: Empire Sessions by Dan Henig

JOSH SCHUMACHER: After the event, Gutmann called Enver Tohti, and then visited his flat.

TOHTI: And he interviewed me. Very detailed, detailed interview.

That day Tohti told a story to Ethan Gutmann, a terrible story of pain and bloodshed and cruelty. Supposedly in the name of healing.

Enver Tohti’s story is part of a much larger story. About what happens when a nation loses its soul. When it refuses to recognize the humanity of its own citizens, and how it discards the people who try to challenge it. Even more than that, it’s a story about the decision to care, even when no one else does.

We’ll start this story back in the summer of 1995. Tohti was an oncologist at a hospital in Xianjing.

He can’t remember exactly what week or month in 1995. But definitely a Tuesday. Surgery days at his hospital were Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. This was the day before a surgery day, in the middle of the week. So, Tuesday.

The chief surgeon called Tohti into his office and asked, “Do you want to do something wild?”

TOHTI: And I said, “Why not?” As a surgeon, how wild a thing can it be? I was excited.

The chief surgeon told him to arrange for a surgery kit, some assistants, and a van and have them in front of the hospital at 9:30 the next morning.

The next morning, Wednesday, Tohti and his team were at the hospital gate at 9:30 sharp, in a van with a driver.

The chief surgeon and another doctor pulled up in a car and told Tohti and his team to follow them.

They headed toward the western mountain district. Tohti figured they were going to a branch hospital. But about halfway there, the small caravan took an unexpected turn.

TOHTI: Then I said, “Where are we going?” No, no one else knew apart from the driver.

The driver told him: “This is the way to the execution ground.”

MUSIC: A Hand in the Dark by Underbelly and Ty Mayer

TOHTI: A kind of fear has struck me and that's why, we, what are we going to do in the execution grounds? Am I going to be shot there? I was so scared. …

The van eventually stopped near a hill. The execution site was on the far side of the hill. The chief surgeon was there waiting for Tohti and his team. The team climbed out of the car, and the chief surgeon gave Tohti some simple instructions.

TOHTI: They said, ‘You wait here and come inside when you hear[d] the gunshots.’

Tohti was terrified. He didn’t know what was going to happen. Ever since the Communist Revolution under Chairman Mao, the Chinese government has had a long and brutal history of executing its citizens. Suddenly. Sometimes secretly. And often without explanation or warning.

Which means, this situation does not look good for Tohti.

Now, a brief aside here: The scale of the killing in China during just the latter half of the twentieth century is hard to fathom. Hitler’s Holocaust killed about 12 million people. Stalin’s Soviet regime: about nine million once you subtract the wartime deaths.

But Chairman Mao? The lowest estimates say the Communist regime he founded killed 30 million people. Most historians put the number at about 45 million. 45 million people. To put that number in perspective, that’s the population of both California and Oregon combined.

And that's just the death toll. It doesn’t take into consideration the effects on people when death—killing, actually—becomes a normal part of life. When they can see the bodies.

Enver Tohti grew up during the Cultural Revolution, which ran from 1966 to 1976. Frank Dikotter is one of the world’s leading historians on the Cultural Revolution.

FRANK DIKOTTER: On the first of June, 1966, The People’s Daily publishes an incendiary editorial entitled “Sweep Away all the Monsters and Demons.” This is the start of the Cultural Revolution.

The editorial Dikotter mentions there initiated a decade-long period in which the Chinese government tried to purge its society of all things bourgeois and all people bourgeois.

Tohti describes violent death in China as “normal” during that time.

TOHTI: During my school years, every year we will see two or three corpse on our way to the school

He and his friends had to cross a train track to get to school, and on those tracks, they’d see the bodies.

TOHTI: Many people they killed themselves by lying down on the rail and make the train to cut off the neck.

These weren’t necessarily “criminals” or “traitors.” They were just people that the Communist Party had decided were too “counter revolutionary.” Or maybe they’d just offended the wrong people. But they were afraid of being hauled away and tortured. So they killed themselves before the authorities could get to them.

But they wanted the authorities to be able to find their bodies. If they just disappeared, the regime would hunt down their families. So, they felt it was better to just lie down on the railroad tracks and hope the authorities left their families alone.

For thousands and thousands of people, this was their fate: the train tracks. It never occurred to Tohti and his friends that this might be, you know, wrong, or twisted. This was just how the world worked. They didn’t think about it.

TOHTI: In order for you to think about it. You have to have pre, you have to come across with much higher civilization before so that you know. If you don't know, then you don't know.

This environment, however, created an internal world of fear and cynicism.

TOHTI: It is like a law of jungle is still practiced in the human society in China.

The law of the jungle. Kill or be killed.

Enver Tohti’s medical team was sitting in the shade of their van. It was a hot summer day after all. On the other side of the hill was the execution ground. He was supposed to wait until he heard the gunshots, and then he and his team were supposed to come around the hill.

They could hear people chanting and shouting. Trucks growling. Whistles blowing.

And then they heard it.

[SHOTS]

TOHTI: … then since I was the team leader, so I said, ‘Okay, let's go.’

Tohti and the crew climbed into the van and drove around the hill.

What did they see? A bunch of dead bodies. These bodies were dressed in prison uniforms and all had shaved heads. They had all been shot in the head. From behind. Execution style.

As they were taking in this sight, a police officer started shouting at Tohti. Go to the far right of the execution ground, he instructed.

MUSIC: Maestro Tlakaelal by Jesse Gallagher

He said, “That one’s yours.”

TOHTI: And I asked, “Why that is mine?”

He didn’t get an answer. He drove over anyway. He found the chief surgeon waiting with another body. But this one wasn’t like the others. He was in civilian clothes. His head wasn’t shaved. He had been shot, but not in the head like the others. Rather, he’d been shot in the right side of the chest—the side that didn’t hold his heart.

The chief surgeon told the police officers to load the body into the van. As they were doing that, the chief surgeon gave Tohti more instructions: Take the liver and the kidneys out of the body. Put them in this container.

Relief flooded through Tohti.

TOHTI: I'm not going to die that day, they're not going to kill me.

Tohti started to follow the chief surgeon’s instructions. He says it was like just going on autopilot. Like a robot, carrying out its programing.

Tohti began the process of taking the organs out of the body.

But pretty quickly he noticed something strange.

MUSIC: Dead Forest by Brian Bolger

TOHTI: Then when I cut it through, I can see there is bleeding. It means that the heart is still pumping the blood and that corpse, that man, was there trying to struggle—to resist my cut.

In other words, this man was still alive.

TOHTI: But he was since he was shot and he, he was too weak to resist.

So Tohti… kept cutting. Kept cutting the vital organs out of a living human being.

Once he finished, the chief surgeon immediately put them in a cold container. Then the chief surgeon gave him some more instructions.

TOHTI: And he told me that now you're taking your team back to the hospital and remember today there's nothing happened so we of course we know what's that mean.

Now, you might be wondering why this man was still alive. Did the guards just not do a good enough job trying to kill him?

No. Actually, they did exactly what they intended to do. The man was supposed to be alive.

The reason is pretty simple, but it’s kind of gross: organs that come out of living people are far better for transplants than organs from dead people. See, once someone dies and their heart stops beating , their organs quickly degenerate without a supply of oxygen. Within minutes.

But if the person’s still alive when you take out the organs, that organ is basically never without a supply of oxygen before it gets into that cold container. And that means it doesn’t really have a chance to deteriorate.

So, apparently somebody in China, somebody important most likely, needed an organ transplant. And this dying man was probably the person with the best-matched organs that they could find.

MUSIC: Maestro Tlakaelal by Jesse Gallagher

And, from what it looked like, they wanted those best-matched organs to also be in the best possible state.

Now, everything I just said there probably sounds a bit far-fetched to you. Maybe you’ll give me the science stuff, and agree that that stuff about organs and oxygen is all true, but like, the idea that someone could be executed for their organs? Executed by having their organs taken out of them? That probably seems hard to believe.

Well, you’re in good company then. Ethan Gutmann, the man giving the presentation about this topic that Tohti first heard back in 2009? The first time he heard about what’s come to be called “involuntary Chinese organ harvesting,” he was skeptical as well.

But he’d soon change his mind. That, after the break.

In the early 2000s, Ethan Gutmann was writing a history of the Falun Gong—a blossoming religious movement in China. Think yoga meets Buddhism meets Christian moral ethic. Its practitioners say it’s apolitical, but the Chinese government considers it a serious threat.

Gutmann was concerned about religious persecution. The Chinese government was detaining hundreds of thousands of Falun Gong at any given time. He’d heard allegations of forced organ harvesting, but he didn’t really take them seriously. From a 2017 PBS report.

REPORTER: Decades ago, China began a practice that human rights advocates and medical ethicists condemned: taking organs such as livers and kidneys from executed prisoners to transplant into people who needed them…

China legalized organ harvesting from condemned prisoners in 1984. But it claimed it was with the consent of prisoners or their families. Throughout the 1990s human rights groups alleged the government was doing involuntary organ harvesting.

One Chinese asylum seeker, a doctor, said in 2001 that he had done the operations himself. But to Gutmann, these allegations were a bit hard to believe. A lot of people were skeptical, and so was he.

But then while researching his book on the Falun Gong, Gutmann came across three older women who’d done time in a Chinese labor camp. All three of them had made it to Canada from China. None of them had ever been interviewed before.

GUTMANN: And one of them was a real salt of the earth, spunky kind of farmer girl. And she's kind of tough and smiley, and all the rest of it. But she has a thick accent. … And I'm interviewing her and she mentions ‘Oh, yeah. And then they gave me this exam. And I'm like, Okay, can you tell me a little bit of this exam?

The woman explained that they felt around her abdomen. They did an EKG test on her as well as blood and urine tests. She added that they did an eye exam.

GUTMANN: And I said, Well, what kind of eye exam? And she said, Well, they made sure that my eyes could focus that …

Gutmann moved his finger in front of his eyes as he was talking to her. You know, the “follow my finger” routine a doctor does during a checkup. It checks brain function.

GUTMANN: … they do this. Okay, do they do this? …

But no, she said, that wasn’t what the doctors were doing. They just shone a light in her eyes and did a few other things that Gutmann realized were only intended to discern whether her corneas were okay.

GUTMANN: ... I mean, yeah, they did a little bit of focus test, and this and that, but it was really just about getting, making sure those corneas were really healthy. They're tissues. They're not even organs, but they're worth a lot of money. They're worth about 15,000 each, good corneas.

This was when it finally sank in for Gutmann: these women were being tested for their organs.

MUSIC: Aimless Wanderer by Atomica Music

Their commercial organs. He was sure of it.

GUTMANN: And I, uh, a chill went up my spine. I mean, this is real. How can I explain such a thing?

This “organ harvesting” thing … It was real. The woman had no idea. During the interview she complained to Gutmann that his questions about medical exams weren’t the point. She wanted to talk about Falun Gong and finding spiritual growth during persecution.

And she didn't know, she hadn't no idea that this was threatening to her. She kept looking at me like, you idiot, why are you talking to me? I can't get into my spiritual development, this guard was so cruel and blah, blah, blah. And I was just like, she kept going, like, why are you bothering me with this stupid examination? She didn't know anything about it. And of course, that is the most persuasive thing.

Once Gutmann realized it was happening, his research uncovered more and more confirmation. While in Kazakhstan he heard about three women who suddenly disappeared after a medical exam. He asked a witness to describe the women. Were they attractive? he asked. It was a bit of a rude question, but…

GUTMANN: You know, I wanted to rule out sexual slavery, this kind of thing. And she said, You know, it's, she said, it's kind of rude to say this, too. But no, they weren't. They weren’t beautiful…

Gutmann asked what, if anything, they had in common.

GUTMANN: … she said, they were all healthy. I mean, I think one of the things people do need to understand is that the Chinese transplant system is actually pretty good. It’s not a bad transplant system ...

It’s extremely difficult for Western countries to even run an organ transplant system. The operations are complicated. And the recipients’ bodies often reject the new organ. Over the years researchers have developed sophisticated drugs to prevent this rejection. But to maximize chances for a successful transplant, the new organ should be healthy, newly extracted, and a match for the recipient in various ways. Blood type, size, and so on.

But in Western countries there’s a chronic shortage of organs available for transplant. Western governments won’t just seize you for your body parts, and most countries have outlawed the sale of human organs—even your own. All organs have to be donated.

But in China, Gutmann says, it’s different. The system provides organs for well-connected Chinese citizens. And foreigners with enough money can purchase organs as well. That’s known as “transplant tourism.”

David Kilgour is a human rights activist and former Secretary of State in the Canadian government. While being interviewed on the program Canadian Justice in 2020, he explained quite well how the whole organ transplant system works in China.

KILGOUR: They’ve been arresting people on the street, on the signature of a police officer…

He explains that, after those people are arrested, they’re put into prison camps. These people are now prisoners of conscience at this point—the chances are they haven’t committed a crime, they just subscribe to some sort of ideology, or are a member of a group like Falun Gong, that the CCP frowns upon. In these prison camps, these prisoners of conscience are then tested medically, and their vital information is put into a database.

KILGOUR: And then the day comes when—and let me, I’ll use you as an example—you need a new kidney or liver, you come up with a very substantial amount of money, maybe $100,000, you fly to Shanghai, you go the Number 1 People’s Hospital in Shanghai …

And then from there, your vital information is put into a database by a doctor at that hospital in Shanghai. And then the best-matched prisoner of conscience in that database has whichever organ you need—a kidney or liver—taken from them (probably alongside several others), and that kidney is then flown to you, where you are in Shanghai and placed in you.

You then get to go home with a new kidney, and the Chinese parties involved are up $100,000.

Now that $100,000 is pretty important. David Kilgour and David Matas, a human rights lawyer, published a report in 2009 about this organ harvesting system. They called the book Bloody Harvest. They explain that one of the main drivers of this organ harvesting system is the fact that it’s so lucrative—for hospitals, especially.

In the West, if you need an organ transplant, you have to wait for someone on the organ donor list to die. It can often take years. Many people, thousands of people in the U.S., die each year while they’re waiting for a heart or a kidney or some other organ.

And, if it's your turn when an organ becomes available, you get that organ. But it could be from a chronic smoker, or from someone much older than you. You kind of just have to take what you can get as far as the health of that donor is concerned.

But in China, Gutmann says, you can get an organ that’s a much closer match to your own than you’d get through a Western transplant system. And the donors are in remarkably good health when they die. Suspiciously good health—and so are their organs.

GUTMANN: In China, you're getting fairly healthy people, young people, the average age that they prefer to do it at is 28, 29 years old. So, what, some somewhere between 25 to 35. And basically, when your organs have stopped growing, but they, you are still at the peak of health.

And, you can get these young peoples’ organs much faster, too. And if you need an organ in China you’ll get it. It’s like there’s a never-ending supply.

It’s mind-boggling, Gutmann says. After all, Chinese people almost to a man, don’t approve of organ donation. Their culture has, for centuries, subscribed to Confucian thought about how the body needs to remain intact after death. So, almost no organs are donated in China.

But China still has this huge supply of organs that seem like they’re tailor-made for their recipients.

For years nobody knew where China was getting all these healthy organs. There were stories and rumors, sure. Gutmann wasn’t the only one to realize what was going on, though. Here’s David Kilgour again.

REPORTER: Now, Mr. Kilgour, it’s my understanding that you, as part of the tribunal, investigated this, and calls were placed to China’s hospitals asking if they had organs from Falun Gong members?

KILGOUR: We don’t speak Chinese so we had to get people to make phone calls, but we monitored the calls, we had independent interpreters, and as you just said, yes, we got conversations with hospitals in a number of parts of China, where they would say they had Falun Gong organs available.

There were all kinds of investigations and reports—Kilgour and Matas’s 2009 report being one of them. In that report, they described how officials would record the vitals of prisoners—blood type, tissue type and so on. The prisoners were dissidents, prisoners of conscience, inmates on death row. When someone important enough or with enough money needed an organ, doctors could shop through those vitals to match the recipient with a prisoner and set up a surgery.

But this system didn’t just drop out of the sky. The Chinese government—locally, and nationally—worked its way up to a sprawling organ harvesting system like the one it has now.

Here’s Gutmann again.

GUTMANN: They started on Uyghurs, the Muslims of Northwest China, at least experimentally in the mid 90s…

That is near where Enver Tohti was working, and at about the same time.

GUTMANN: Definitely by 1997, they were taking political prisoners and harvesting them for their organs, at least on behalf of high-ranking Chinese Communist Party cadres. But you know, in 1999, they get a whole new population, which is Falun Gong.

Practitioners of Falun Gong were the ideal victims for a system like this.

GUTMANN: They don't drink, they don't smoke. They practice this rather healthy Qigong exercises, or at least China considers those very healthy.

And so Falun Gong practitioners moved to the top of the list of preferred involuntary organ donors. For the regime, it’s like having an organ farm.

GUTMANN: Or it became that way. Initially, when they first started testing Falun Gong, it was very clear, they would test everyone. They tested, they’d take a whole woman’s prison and then all the Falun Gong in the prison, and then test them, medically. And they were very tense about this, they'd often escort, one woman would have two guards, for example, as if they were incredibly dangerous, right? Of course they weren't. And then some of those people would disappear. Some of those women would.

That’s how China’s transplant system got so incredibly “good.” A ready supply of organs from healthy donors means lots of successful transplants.

GUTMANN: Suddenly, I mean, the transplant industry was exploding in China, at the time, just going through the roof, exponential curves, … and they got it down to the point where a foreigner could come in and get a two-week, organ in two weeks. Kidney or liver. Two weeks. This is like no waiting time at all right? They even got it done to the point where sometimes people could come in with and get an emergency liver transplant. That is, within four hours, they would identify another human being that somehow matched them. Now obviously, that's, none of that is possible. Unless you have a stable of people, right? Healthy people.

Gutmann’s book about the Falun Gong turned into a book about Chinese organ harvesting.

GUTMANN: It is not called “Malpractice,” it is not called “Prisoners Rights Abuse in China.” It is called “The Slaughter.”

The Slaughter came out in 2014. In it, he estimates that about sixty-five thousand Falun Gong practitioners had their organs harvested between 2000 and 2008. But, he says, the number could be almost double that—about a hundred and twenty thousand. And that’s just Falun Gong. There are also Uyghurs, and other minorities and dissidents to consider.

But that was in 2014.

In 2016 David Kilgour, David Matas, and Ethan Gutmann all worked together to release an updated report on the organ harvesting situation. They said in that report that a conservative, moderate estimate of the transplants performed was about one and a half million. Keep in mind, that’s the number of transplants, not the number of individuals. If only one organ were taken per person, that would be the number of victims as well. But it’s quite likely that, in a lot of cases, more than one organ was taken per executed person. Still, regardless of how you split the numbers, the death toll is incredible.

MUSIC: Struggle with Reason by Atomica Music

News media occasionally covered Chinese organ harvesting throughout the early 2010s. From a PBS report.

REPORTER: Because of his age and rare blood type, he says he would have died before reaching the top of the waiting list for a new kidney. So, urged by family and friends, he went to China’s capital Beijing in 2006. Within one week, he received a new kidney. …

Facing international criticism, the regime outlawed taking organs from prisoners in 2015 and said it would from then on use only donated organs. But many people, like Gutmann, don’t believe that. China, meanwhile, claims it’s facing a huge organ shortage.

SILLARS: This is Doubletake. We’ll be right back.

When Enver Tohti heard Gutmann in 2009, he was speaking about Bloody Harvest, David Kilgour and David Matas’s book. It had only recently come out. Gutmann’s book hadn’t yet come out. But he’d been writing articles about this practice, and he’d been invited to speak on the topic at Westminster, the British Parliament building.

TOHTI: I'm not sure this is part of it, but I have done something like this.

That’s why Tohti stood up to tell his story. He knew it was true. Like Tohti, some people are still trying to draw attention to this issue. People like Tiny Tang.

I met Tiny Tang and two of her friends at a Starbucks in a mall in Loudoun County, Virginia. All three of them were Falun Gong practitioners. Tiny Tang immigrated from China.

She never went to prison for her religion. It was only after she came to the United States that she first heard about organ harvesting.

TANG: I know this from 2006. First time where I knew it, I didn't want to face it.

Tiny Tang did not want to believe that her homeland was capable of that sort of brutality.

TANG: Because too much beyond I can tolerate. It’s too inhuman. I never think about a human can do another human, this kind of thing. I'm from China. I know the Chinese Communist Party did all kinds of brutal thing, but never think about that. So for many years, I even try to close my mind about it …

But she started to research the issue and realized it was true. She was shocked. And why wasn’t the news covering this?

So, she took matters into her own hands. She started going to local government meetings around Washington to talk about the issue.

REPORTER: Tiny Tang is a Falun Gong Survivor. She and another survivor live in Charlottesville… Now they want that personal experience to make the community aware of where their organs just might come from.

According to Tiny Tang, several counties across Northern Virginia have passed resolutions condemning Chinese organ harvesting.

And… that’s it. Tiny has heard of two people who were planning to go to China for a transplant who had second thoughts after hearing about this practice from Tiny. But she couldn’t tell me whether those people went to China or not.

Conservative news media regularly cover China’s human rights abuses, including organ harvesting. But Western governments haven’t made organ harvesting—or human rights in general—a priority.

Over the years, there have been numerous congressional committee hearings and resolutions on this issue. But no sanctions have been enacted. No real actions have been taken.

In March of 2021, the Stop Forced Organ Harvesting Act was introduced to the Senate. Nothing has happened with it since. In December of 2021, GOP Representative Scott Perry of Pennsylvania introduced the Falun Gong Protection Act. But that, as of this past March, hasn’t gone anywhere either.

I asked Tohti if organ harvesting in China is ever going to end.

TOHTI: This China, just country exists in the now in the 21st century, right. But people inside China, the morality, the idea the way after treating each other, it is very barbaric. CCP’s ruling has destroyed Chinese People's morality.

The Chinese Communist Party teaches people that they are to be instruments of the state. And, in so doing, it ignores their humanity.

TOHTI: For an outsider to understand this, it is quite difficult ...

Tohti says that the CCP has utterly distorted the moral landscape of China. The CCP, he says, is responsible for cultivating an environment where organ harvesting can exist unchallenged. Where it can exist as a stable part of the social system of China.

But the more I think about it, it seems like organ harvesting isn’t just a part of the system—it is the system. A regime that will cut the heart out of an individual is not going to hesitate to cut the heart out of a community, or a culture, or even a whole nation. Look at the Uighurs. Look at the Falun Gong. Look at Hong Kong.

Add to that decades of Christian persecution. Recently the Chinese government banned groups and individuals from sharing religious materials without a license. And even churches that do have a license can’t share anything that undermines the government. It’s the latest in a string of crackdowns designed to strangle Christian faith.

Tohti told me there’s only one way to restore the moral awareness of Chinese culture.

TOHTI: You have to replace the CCP.

And he doesn’t see that happening anytime soon.

He mentioned hearing U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi say that she very much cared about human rights abuses in Xianjiang, in Tibet, and in Hong Kong… But she’s still really keen on getting China to cooperate on climate change.

Tohti understands what this means: Pelosi’s saying that if China plays ball on climate change, the rest of the world won’t do anything about their human rights abuses.

That’s the game, really. That’s how western countries tend to deal with repressive regimes like China. Human rights abuses are exposed. Then denied. Then forgotten in exchange for concessions on some other issue. Rinse and repeat.

Tohti told me that he’s done playing this game: At least for now. So this interview probably is the last one.

But Tohti had much more to say. We were talking about how sometimes people in China tell you what you want to hear, and not really what’s true. Because in their culture it’s not safe to be strictly honest. But he’s been honest with me. And for over a decade now he’s been honest with the world. I asked him why.

TOHTI: When I come to this country, when I able to read the things doesn’t not available in China, then I started to realize this is the world it should be. Then that's makes me to realize this is what I have done. Is something wrong.

SCHUMACHER: That makes sense. Yeah. Well, that's—

TOHTI: That is why I'm a Christian now.

SCHUMACHER: Yeah?

TOHTI: Yeah. ...

SCHUMACHER: What brought you to that decision?

TOHTI: Because I saw Islam is planting hatred. So does communism. And that compared to them, Christianity is trying to teach you to love others. I know it's not that perfect. There's so many dirty Christians doing dirty works. I know that, but still, and you just take the good part of it. And what I can see around the world is that most advanced countries, they are from a Christian background. It tells me a lot.

And that’s why Tohti’s told the truth, even when it seems like no one really cares. And when it looks like the CCP isn’t going to stop anytime soon.

TOHTI: Well, what else can I do? At least when I pass away and trying to go into another world, at least I can say to my Lord, that this is what I have done. I tried. Because I didn't want it to be associated with this… this crime. At least I have said it, I have brought it into light.

SILLARS: Josh Schumacher reported and wrote this episode. Produced by the journalism program at Patrick Henry College, with the help of the creative team at World Radio and Jeff McIntosh at Creative Genius. I’m your host, Les Sillars. On the next episode of Doubletake.

MONICA GILL: She hugged me for probably one of the longest hugs I’ve ever had from a student and was crying.

TYSON LANGHOFER: Frankly, it’s problematic also because it intentionally chills speech …

PARENT: Hi, I’m back here today as a proud screaming parent of a young transgender son and our Loudoun County School …

PARENT 2: ... They wanted to send postcards to our neighbors calling us racist, and come to our homes with a megaphone and call us racist!

WOMAN: Do we have assaults in our bathrooms and our locker rooms regularly?

TERRY MCAULIFFE: I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach …

TANNER CROSS: I'm a teacher, but I serve God first and I will not affirm that a biological boy can be a girl and vice versa …

JON TIGGES: I’m supposed to stand right here. And so were 200 other people, and be able to share with these people …

BRENDA SHERIDAN: I move that the Loudoun County School Board approve and adopt Policy 8040, rights of transgender and gender expansive students.

MONICA GILL: I pulled it out, dusted it off, and it was a hardcover Bible. And I thought, What on earth is this doing here?

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WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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