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Award-Winning Investigation: Blood Money

Award-Winning Investigation: Blood Money (ABC News video)

File name: ANN_11-20-06_BloodMoney.flv

[introductory music]

ABC News November 20, 2006

On a sunny day in New York City in a hotel room overlooking Central Park we saw and heard something that for years the United States government has officially maintained does not happen but our undercover videotape tells a different story. Documenting for the first time in this country a grisly but lucrative international black market—the buying and selling of human organs. In this case a kidney from the bodies of prisoners executed far away in China.

You will surely be satisfied with the arrangements for you and the operation will surely be successful. I can guarantee this no problem.

This was the starting point of a three month Primetime Live investigation that took us from Central Park South in New York City to the back alleys of Hong Kong to a restricted military hospital in Southern China. Equipped with the latest in American medical technology.

It’s a money making operation. They’re in business. This is an industry and they’re moving it around the world.

Dr. Ronald Gutman, an advisor to the International Transplantation Society says it’s been an open secret among doctors who do transplants that the Chinese military has been selling the kidneys of executed prisoners, perhaps thousands of them since the late 1980’s.

In my opinion a very barbaric and disgusting kind of practice. It makes me cringe and I think exposing it is very important.

It’s a question of supply and demand. A ready supply of prisoners to be executed, like these men, and a huge on net demand for kidneys around the world. This Chinese military video tape made in 1992 had never intended to be seen outside official circles shows the condemned men and women paraded through the streets on their way to an execution field. This is a country which last year executed more than 4,000 people. Some just petty thieves. It’s not known what crimes these prisoners were convicted of or whether the organs of any of them were about to be sold but the tape shows guards precisely lining up their guns at the base of the skull. That makes retrieval of kidneys and organs much easier and Dr. Gutman says certain medical preparations begin well before the execution.

They’re given anticoagulant drugs so the blood won’t clot when they’re executed. They’re given muscle relaxants.

And then with a large crowd watching the command is given.

After the execution, doctors remove the prisoner and placed him in the ambulance.

A Chinese doctor, Joe Wei Chang now lives in Atlanta, told us what happens once the prisoners are dead based on what he saw at his hospital just before he fled China in 1994.

First there was a cut from the back to extract the kidneys. Dr. Chan from the surgical department also took out the eyeballs and a piece of skin from the dead prisoner’s abdomen. The orthopedist cut out one section of the bone from the lower leg. All the extracted organs were placed in a special kind of liquid to maintain the freshness. Then they rushed back to the hospital. In the hospital two patients were lying on the operating table waiting for the transplants. When the ambulance arrived the kidneys were placed into the patients’ bodies. All the other organs were only for laboratory experiments.

The rifle right away is placed in the back.

The graphic tape was secretly removed from military archives and smuggled out of China by an underground group of dissidents and provided to Primetime Live by a former political prisoner who spent 19 years in a Chinese prison and has become China’s most outspoken and despised critic, Harry Wu.

It’s a fundamental violation of human rights.

For the last three years Wu has been traveling the world trying to expose the black market in prisoners’ body parts which Wu says has spread from Asia to Europe and now to the United States. As he showed us with a recent copy of a Chinese language newspaper published in New York.

There’s a small piece of advertisement right here.

What does that say?

Kidney transplant in mainland China. Don’t miss the opportunity, call.

So we did. Our call to the advertised number in Bridgeport, Connecticut led to this meeting in a New York City hotel with a Chinese doctor and his wife. A Dr. and Mrs. Dye who, with our hidden cameras rolling told us they had already helped provide kidneys for several Americans but that because of Harry Wu everything had to be kept very quiet.

You’ve probably heard of Harry Wu. I have to be careful because people calling us might have the same agenda as Harry Wu. We are fully aware of the sensitive nature of this issue. Usually we don’t talk about this.

With the help of a woman who works with Harry Wu we told the Chinese doctor that a kidney was needed for a sick brother and the doctor told us no problem, that he knew a month in advance that a new batch of prisoners’ kidneys would soon be available.

At the end of July there will definitely be kidney sources that will match your brother’s situation in age and everything if you are willing to go there around the 20thof July to receive a kidney from the July batch.

The total price for a transplanted kidney according to Dr. Dye, $30,000 in cash with a down payment to be made in New York.

If you decide to go ahead with this then you pay us $5,000 and we will order and reserve a kidney and a bed in the hospital.

The hospital we were to be sent to is a hospital which, as the sign outside in English says, belongs to the PLA, the People’s Liberation Army called the Nanfang Hospital, three hours north of Hong Kong. We came here as tourists, given the Chinese government’s denial that it’s in the business of selling the organs of executed prisoners and we asked two Chinese dissidents to carry a hidden camera inside. This is the heart of the military’s kidney business, an elaborate medical complex where patients told us numerous foreigners just received or were waiting to receive kidney transplants among hundreds of foreigners who have received kidneys here in the last few years.

I just talked to the doctor…

One of them was 38 year old Apple Yunuch of Bangkok.

…the first time I asked the doctor where can I get a kidney and they said from a prisoner.

That prisoner’s kidney is now in her body. And even though it saved her life the experience has left Ms. Yunuch full of regret and willing to talk with Primetime, breaking the circle of silence that has surrounded what goes on at the Nanfang military hospital. First she said doctors in China took her blood and tissue samples and then sent her home to wait.

The 3rd of January the doctor called me that there would be an execution, it means some prisoners are going to be shot dead.

And one of them matches up with you.

Yes. So I have to come over and prepare myself to get the kidney operation.

Six days later according to the local newspaper, 45 prisoners were sentenced to death and executed on the same day including one who apparently even before he had been sentenced to death was found to have the same blood and tissue type as Apple Yunuch.

So they were shot in the morning and the transplant was in the afternoon.

In the afternoon, yes.

Were there also other people who got transplants?


With kidneys from executed prisoners?


In the course of our investigation we also found that a big American corporation had played an important role here. The W.R. Grace Company which through a joint business venture with the Chinese army equipped and helped to run a kidney dialysis center where in addition to routine dialysis, transplant patients are kept going while they await surgery upstairs. W.R. Grace sold its kidney dialysis business last year and a company spokesman denied the current management knew anything about the use of prisoners’ kidneys for transplants but a former top Grace executive who regularly visited the hospital in China told primetime that he was well aware of what was going on there.

In our final meeting in New York with the Chinese doctor and his wife who told us they were here on student visas and had connections back in China. We were assured the best medical care awaited us and that the kidney we bought would come from a healthy prisoner who would be thoroughly tested before he was shot.

Regarding the prisoner’s health, they’re all given physical checkups and blood tests. They don’t carry hepatitis or anything like that. All those carrying these diseases will be excluded, you see there are so many criminals they have a lot to choose from.

And then we gave the doctor what he had come for, $5,000 in cash. Down payment for a healthy kidney from a prisoner in China. Federal law, and the state laws of New York and Connecticut make it illegal to buy or sell any human organs.

Dr. Dye?


Brian Ross from ABC News.

And when we entered the room with our cameras showing, the doctor immediately denied knowing anything about prisoners or executions.

Aren’t you here selling the organs of prisoners who have been executed in China?


You’re not?


What do you think the $5,000 is for?

The $5,000 is introduced as a kind of service charge, right.

How many people have you introduced to China?


How many?

No I don’t want to, I think it’s my business.

By some estimates the kidney business has meant tens of millions of dollars to the Chinese military, which even as the black market has expanded around the world continues to deny any such business actually exists. In a letter to Primetime, the Chinese embassy in Washington suggested we stop production of our story saying “The so-called sale of criminals’ organs in China is a deliberate fabrication with ill-intentions. And that in the rare instance when a prisoner’s organ is used the death row criminals voluntarily sign up.” Dr. Gutman says that makes a mockery of international principles adopted in the wake of Nazi medical experiments.

There’s no such thing as consent when you’re talking about incarcerated people to say, well, we can produce a piece of paper that the prisoner is given consent before we kill them is kind of a ludicrous thing.

No other country in the world is known to use the organs of prisoners except for China, which, based on our Primetime Live investigation appears to have turned its chilling executions of thousands of people into a multimillion dollar black market of a kind the world has never seen.

To Drill or Not to Drill (Nightline video)

File name: To_Drill_or_Not_to_Drill.html


July 19, 2004

Wyoming’s Upper Green River Valley is a crucial link in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem. Each year more than 100,000 animals, including antelope and mule deer, pass through this valley on a long migration from the Grand Tetons to their winter pasture in the High Desert. This valley is also home to the head waters of the Colorado River, a vital trout habitat. And it’s one of the last strongholds for the rare Sage-Grouse. In fact, the area has been compared to the Serengeti for its spectacular array of wildlife. It has also been compared to Saudi Arabia.

Experts have estimated that there’s roughly 20 trillion cubic feet of gas here. That would supply the entire nation’s natural gas needs for about a year. The same geological formation that creates a natural corridor for wildlife also holds rich deposits of natural gas, miles beneath the surface. This country’s increasing demand for natural gas coupled with new technology is turning this area into a bonanza for the energy industry.

It’s no doubt that the activity level’s increased. What’s happened is that we have evolved the technology which has allowed us to extract this natural gas from the subsurface efficiently and economically. That technology didn’t exist five, ten years ago.

This is public land managed by the U.S. Government. Most of the gas leases were granted under previous administrations before the new technology was developed. Now the Bush Administration has directed federal land managers to expedite oil and gas development all along the Front Range of the Rockies in Wyoming, Montana, Eastern Utah, Western Colorado, and Northern New Mexico. Here in the Upper Green River Valley where a gas field known as the Pinedale Anticline is located no one expects to stop the energy boom but they do hope to slow it down.

They say, “I support Bush, I support energy development but I live here for a reason, this place has a certain quality of life.”

The basin already has about 5,200 gas wells but the government is considering drilling permits for up to 10,000.

This is an empty landscape. It has been so since the first Europeans came here and yet 10,000 rigs would completely change it and I’m afraid it might make it an industrial landscape.

In Pinedale they need only look at an area just south of town known as the Jonah Field for a glimpse of the future.

Before the field, this was just empty. You could look out to the Wyoming Range and not see a drill rig, a condensation tank, nothing was here there were no roads.

There are 470 wells in this area and energy companies want to put in another 3,100. Ted Karasote has been hunting in this valley for many years. And he worries that the energy boom will ruin the sensitive ecosystem.

Many of us feel that given the enormous amounts of profits that are being generated here $20 million from each well that the Wyoming state government and particularly the federal government could mandate more wildlife friendly gas development in this area.

One area of concern is a narrow bottleneck in the wildlife migration route known as Trappers’ Point. If leases are developed in this area the gas rigs could present a major obstacle to the herds and they already have quite a few.

They have many many fences to cross during the migration and they can go over them or under them. They have highways to cross and in some cases they don’t make it.

Since the Bureau of Land Management is responsible for balancing the uses of public lands it is often caught in the crossfire of competing interests. Throughout the west conservationists have long accused the BLM of being too cozy with industry, even dubbing it the Bureau of Leasing and Mining.

The BLM Field Manager in Pinedale says requests for drilling have gone from 75 applications in 1998 to 300 last year.

Since you’ve been here, how many of those applications have you rejected?

Actually, percentage wise very few but I have changed many.

In what way?

Moved them to a more environmentally acceptable place, put restrictions on them.

The BLM is currently putting together a new land use plan for this area.

There’s a motion on both sides of the issue both from the energy development companies and from the environmental community and our job is to find out what the facts are.

Do you feel caught in the middle?

Always. We’re always caught in the middle and that’s where we’re supposed to be.

But conservationists worry that BLM employees are under intense pressure from Washington to fast track energy development.

I think a lot of these people are in the extremely uncomfortable position of not knowing whether they might lose their job if they acted as traditional conservation stewards for the landscape and its wildlife. The energy companies have already crisscrossed the landscape with new roads to reach the drilling site. Enormous trucks stir up dust and scare the wildlife and then there’s the noise. In another part of the state, the Powder River Basin, residents are outraged at water pollution left by the extraction method used there.

I believe that people would come out by the hundreds of thousands if they understood that their rivers, their streams, their open landscapes, the places that they’ve written songs about would change forever.

Unocal in Burma (The Peasants vs Unocal) (Nightline video)

File name: Unocal_In_Burma.mp4

[introductory music]

Nightline March 28, 200


The military junta that runs Burma has long been a pariah to global advocates for human rights.

United Nations has condemned the regime annually for most of this decade for its human rights records. And so have Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, other organizations.

After seizing power in a bloody coup in 1988 the generals further ruined their reputations by aborting the clear cut 1990 election victory of Burma’s pro-democracy party. And keeping under house arrest its Nobel Peace Prize winning leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The goal is this one; we want a democratic government elected by the people.

Among Burma’s most consistent critics has been the U.S. State Department. Year after year the Department’s annual human rights reports have detailed the same crimes including, “…rape, forced labor, and extra-judicial killing. Disappearances continue.” And year after year these abuses have been quietly documented and are reflected annually in judgments like this, “The people of Burma continue to live under a highly repressive authoritarian military regime widely condemned for its serious human rights abuses.”

When Unocal is making the decision, do we want to go in here, first off what kind of credence, what kind of role in your consideration, your corporate consideration do things like the State Department human rights reports play? Do you dismiss them?

No we don’t dismiss any information about a country where we’re thinking about investing but as I said earlier the main things we look for are economic opportunity which must be accompanied by a climate which we can perform our business as an island of integrity, no matter what’s going on around us, to our own standards.

On Unocal’s legal map of Burma there is an island of integrity. The stripe its pipeline cuts across southern Burma.

There’s a lot going on in that area that we’re very proud of.

Unocal has a ready list and a ready supply of videotape evidence of the company’s good deeds on behalf of 40,000 people living in the pipeline region.

First—direct employment which is important. Because employment and economic opportunity is a human right. I say after that medical facilities. 12 full time doctors in an area that had no doctors.

No one disputes the pipeline company’s good deeds, often put on display for visiting congress people, journalists, and even a pair of human rights professionals. But the plaintiffs assert in their lawsuit that Unocal’s island of integrity is sustained by a surrounding sea of human rights abuses.

The company works with the Burmese army, the army uses people’s labor to build roads to get to the pipeline. The army brought us to the pipeline area to work. We had to build the helipad, we had to carry the rations.

We’ve concealed the identity of this man and of all the other Burmese plaintiffs in the Unocal case in observance of a protection order issued by Judge Paez.

We have to go work for the railroad. We have to go work in the battalion compound and we had to work as porters. In one year I think I had to go more than ten times.

When you worked were you always paid?

No I never got paid.

I am sure that the military uses conscripted labor for porterage and I know that in the early days of the execution of this project, military units in the area of this project were using conscripted labor.

But, says Imle, not anymore. A claim disputed by one of the plaintiffs, John Doe number 11.

That’s not true. They continued to force people to work for them. After I left, people from my village still had to work. They told us about it.

We cannot and I cannot personally take responsibility for the conduct of the government of Burma any more than I can take responsibility for the conduct of the Los Angeles Police Department. I can take responsibility for what goes on in our pipeline area.

That move is a little bit of a shell game.

To plaintiffs attorney Jenny Green that argument is red meat.

You, my business partner, you’re going to take responsibility for making sure that the military barracks are built, that the helipad is built, that enough soldiers are in the area to guard this pipeline and you can do whatever you want but I’m not responsible because it’s this other person. And U.S. law is particularly designed to say you can’t have two people in the same business operation, one of them being clean and the other one playing dirty without them both being held responsible.

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