I was a surgeon in China

WHAT should have been a harmless hospital stay for aspiring young surgeon Enver Tohti turned into a nightmare when he was forced to operate on living prisoners.

Tohti, 58, was a cancer surgeon in the Xinjian region in the 1990s but was forced to flee his beloved homeland after threats from the Chinese communist state.

Enver and his team were escorted to an execution site to operate on dead prisoners in 1995 (no current photo).


Enver and his team were escorted to an execution site to operate on dead prisoners in 1995 (no current photo).
Enver thought he was going to make a hospital visit, but was taken to the Xinjiang prison compound instead


Enver thought he was going to make a hospital visit, but was taken to the Xinjiang prison compound instead
China pledged to end the practice of harvesting organs from prisoners in 2015


China pledged to end the practice of harvesting organs from prisoners in 2015Photo credit: Getty Images – Getty

On that fateful day in August 1995, he was just 32 years old when he was dragged to his chief medical officer and asked if he wanted to do “something wild.”

dr Tothi was eventually put in a minivan and taken to a secret location, where he was forced to remove a patient’s liver and kidneys while fighting for his life.

And the medic is just one of thousands of Chinese doctors who are being forced against their will to operate on executed prisoners in what is said to be a multi-billion dollar business.

The Asian powerhouse has long been suspected of promoting the inhumane practice of believed to have thousands of political prisoners slaughtered for their organs, which were then sold on the black market.

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And there are now concerns that Beijing may use this vicious practice to silence its Uyghur minority.

dr Tothi told The Sun Online he will never forget that horrific day when he was forced to have the disgusting surgery.

After approaching him with the “wild” offer, his boss told him to get “the biggest surgical tool” he could find and meet him outside the hospital gates the next morning.

What happened next would change Tohti’s life forever, eventually causing him to flee China in fear for his safety.

It was a hot, dry summer’s day and Enver was filled with excitement for what he believed to be the opportunity of a lifetime.

He boarded a minivan with seven others and set off for the western mountains region, but when the vehicle turned onto an unfamiliar gravel road, Enver panicked.

“We turned left towards the mountains and down the road I had never been on,” he told The Sun Online.

“So I asked the driver: ‘Where are we going?’ and he said, “We are going to the execution sites of the western mountains.”

I turned into a robot… When I tried to cut, the man struggled

Enver Tohti

“I was so scared because I thought they were going to shoot me because I was the only Uyghur in this team and there was nobody there except our driver.”

Two hours later, the medical team arrived at the Ürümqi execution site and were met by Enver’s chief surgeon, who was told to wait for them and come over as soon as they heard gunshots.

The team waited – often chain-smoking and pacing to keep calm – until the sound of multiple gunfire pierced the abject silence.

“Then we started hearing noises from the other side of the hill, of people screaming, truck engines and whistles, then gunshots,” the father of three said.

Enver fled China in 1998 after being harassed by Chinese authorities


Enver fled China in 1998 after being harassed by Chinese authorities
Enver is now campaigning against organ harvesting and has performed several times at Westminster


Enver is now campaigning against organ harvesting and has performed several times at Westminster

“That shot wasn’t like a machine gun shoot, it was like lots of guns firing at once.”

The team jumped into the van and made their way to where “at least 10 bodies … lay on the slope, about six to ten feet apart, in inmate uniforms.”

Enver said: “These bodies were shaved and part of the head was blown off because the bullet entered the head from behind.

“We just looked at the bodies with no emotion, then a police officer yelled at us and told us to go all the way to the right.

“The chief surgeon was there and there was a body. This corpse was in civilian clothes and had long hair – a man – and his head was intact because the shot was aimed at his right breast.

“While they were loading this body into the van, my chief surgeon called me and directed me. He told me to remove his liver and kidneys asap.

“Then I turned into a robot… When I tried to cut, the man struggled.

“His body was fighting me so I assumed he was alive because he obviously felt the pain and when I cut through I saw that it was bleeding which means the heart was still pumping blood.”

“Doctors became executioners”

When the surgery was over, Enver turned the organs over to his chief surgeon and was told to “return to the hospital and remember nothing happened today.”

“Anyone living in China knows what that means and we said yes. We never talked about it,” said the surgeon-turned-Uber driver and now based in London.

“It’s always on my mind. I tried to forget it, but I couldn’t.”

China is considered the world capital of organ harvesting, where around 100,000 transplants take place every year, according to medical experts.

The country pledged to overhaul its transplant system in 2007 and pledged to end the practice of harvesting organs from executed prisoners in 2015 following international pressure.

Despite this, the evil practice continued, and a world-first study revealed that more than 400 dubious organ transplants were performed between 2000 and 2017.

They believe that scientists used hearts, lungs or livers from dead prisoners and even wrote about them in scientific papers later published in English-language medical journals.

Another study disproved Chinese claims that all prisoners were brain dead before their organs were excised, reports The Times.

The study, published in the American Journal of Transplantation, says some inmates were still alive, but not necessarily conscious, on the operating table — in violation of global medical guidelines.

The research was led by Matthew Robertson, a politics student, and Jacob Lavee, a heart surgeon and professor at the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University.

Robertson said: “We found that the doctors became executioners on behalf of the state and that the method of execution was heart removal.

“These surgeries are very profitable for the doctors and hospitals that deal with them.”

The authors collated 2,838 articles on transplant procedures in China between 1980 and 2020 and found that in 71 cases, brain death was not properly assessed before organ harvesting.

“If the reports we have examined are accurate, they indicate that the surgeon’s removal of the heart and lungs was the immediate cause of the prisoner’s death, thereby directly implicating the surgeon in the execution,” the researchers said.

And they fear the real number could be much higher because inconclusive results are omitted from the reports.


The nefarious practice is said to bring in billions for Chinese coffers and has made the country a must-see for organ hunters.

Professor Martin Elliot, a heart transplant surgeon and a member of the China Tribunal’s investigative panel, said the organ harvesting business in China is “a money-making business.”

He told The Sun Online: “The more you did, the more money your organization got.

“It was kind of a commercial venture and they were [hospitals] Encouraged in the early 2000s as part of China’s economic reform, as did the military, to make money from pretty much every aspect of their jobs.

He said China was doing “around 60,000 to 100,000 a year” at a time when the number of people on the official donor register list was smaller.

“There’s this discrepancy between available donors, which further suggests there’s an organ source that they don’t declare,” he told us.

He said it’s impossible to know the full extent of illegal organ transplants in China because Beijing has made transplant data a state secret and because doctors are too afraid to speak out.

He said: “The evidence for us that was so compelling was those numbers and the incredibly short waiting list.

“In the UK, Australia and the US, people wait months or years for an organ.

“But in China you could call an agency and basically make an appointment this week or next week and there would be spares if it didn’t work.

“That’s just not practical in today’s transplant era.”

He said the China Tribunal had “strong evidence” that the Chinese Communist Party imprisoned thousands of Falun Gong adherents in gulags before executing them and harvesting their organs.

Falun Gong, a religious movement that uses meditation to seek spiritual connection, has been classified as a threat by the Chinese government.

“What was going on and what is going on in these camps is similar to what we saw during the Nazi era and under Pol Pot,” Professor Elliott said.

“There are many people there who are subjected to dehumanizing treatment, extreme torture including sexual violence, gross abuse and where does organ harvesting fit on that spectrum? It’s like another step on the footpath.

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“If these camps persist, and if the moral framework on which they are built remains unchanged, what prevents the Chinese Community Party from effectively seeing these people as the experimental animals that Mengele and the Nazis made in World War II.

“And when you consider that they’ve had hundreds of thousands of DNA samples taken from inmates, think about what this opens up for drug development for other treatments.”

Professor Martin Elliott said China's illegal organ transplant industry is a


Professor Martin Elliott said China’s illegal organ transplant industry is a “money-making”. I was a surgeon in China


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