A former surgeon who claims he was forced to remove organs from an executed prisoner in China was put at risk of losing his licence to drive an Uber after speaking out.
Enver Tohti Bughda, from Xinjiang, was granted asylum in the UK, and since then has repeatedly tried to raise the alarm about what he says are human rights abuses.
After moving to London, he could no longer practise as an oncology surgeon so turned to driving an Uber instead.
He told Metro.co.uk that he was quite satisfied working for the company and continuing his campaigning, however in December 2020 he received a letter from Transport for London informing him that his licence to drive a private hire cab was under review.
The letter referred to an interview he gave to the Daily Mirror, stating: ‘We have received notification of an adverse nature and in line with our policies and regulatory requirements we are conducting a review of your fitness, to determine if it is appropriate for you to continue to be licensed.’
The article referred to Mr Tohti’s experience of alleged forced organ harvesting, and said he was now working as an Uber driver in the capital.
Three months after Metro.co.uk approached TfL about the matter, Mr Tohti, 58, received a letter telling him that the review had concluded and he could continue as a private hire driver.
However, in the time he spent under review he had already given up fearing that he could soon be banned, and is now looking for work as a lorry driver.
Mr Tohti, who is one of the only people in the world willing to speak out about firsthand experience of alleged organ harvesting, has repeated his story many times in government hearings and to the media.
He told the story again to Metro.co.uk, recollecting how in 1995 he was told by his chief surgeon to prepare an operating kit and was then taken in a convoy without knowing where he was going.
They arrived at an execution ground, and were told to wait for the sound of gunshots.
He told how he and other medical staff were then led to field of men wearing prison uniforms, who had been shot, and directed to one of them by his chief surgeon who told him to ‘Extract the liver and the two kidneys’.
Although he was not a specialist transplant surgeon and was shocked to realise the man’s heart was still beating and he was still alive, he nonetheless carried out the order ‘like a robot’ and says he was then told: ‘Remember that nothing happened today’.
He told Metro he did not know anything about the man or his supposed crime, saying: ‘They told me nothing. And I knew that I shouldn’t ask anything.
‘If you ask, maybe the next person to lose an organ is you.’
After arriving in the UK, he heard reports of a state-sanctioned programme of forced organ harvesting and then came to the realisation that he may have been part of it.
Mr Tohti, who remarried in the UK and has two children from a previous marriage who are now also living in Europe, said he was saddened to receive the letter placing him under review as a driver because it made him feel unwelcome and as if he were being punished for speaking out.
In mitigation to TfL, he wrote: ‘I believe it is my right to express my views and explain my experience without putting at risk my employment as a taxi driver in London.
‘I have political and free speech rights to expose these practices; and attempt to stop their continuance by their exposure. Such political activities should not be hampered and my actions in doing so have no effect on my good professional work.
‘In fact, the only party that might benefit from this proposed “review” will be the Chinese Communist Party, who will use this investigation to silence criticism of these acts.
‘A review by TfL, based on my efforts to expose the actions of the CCP, will have a “chilling effect” on all political exiles who have fled a regime and wish to expose their wrongdoing. What about child soldiers?’
The letter he received from TfL in June this year concluding the review noted that they were bound to investigate serious allegations as ‘our primary duty as the regulator is to ensure the safety of the travelling public’.
They said they had liaised with the Metropolitan Police, including its war crimes team, and noted that the incident was over 25 years ago and not the subject of any criminal investigation.
‘When forming our conclusion we need to take into consideration, the unique circumstances that led to the atrocities taking place and that you were allegedly forced to take part,’ they said.
‘It appears that you have acted as a whistle blower to highlight these acts and your involvement.
‘Ultimately, aside from the articles highlighted, you have a good licensing history and there is nothing else of concern on your record. This is a unique case and should be treated as such.’
It informed him that no further action would be taken and he could continue as a driver.
Mr Tohti, who is part of the persecuted Uighur community, fled China after speaking out about a nuclear testing programme in a documentary, fearing he could be executed for treason after claiming it had led to increased rates of cancer.
He has since given evidence to politicians, appeared in documentaries, provided testimony to the influential China Tribunal and more recently to a report warning that companies including those in the UK risk being complicit in crimes against humanity compiled by Global Rights Compliance.
Mr Tohti said that despite international concern over organ harvesting, ‘hard proof is impossible to get in China. Everything is treated as a state secret.
‘People don’t believe such evil can happen in the 21st century.’
China has acknowledged using executed prisoners as a source of organs for transplantation, claiming they had consented, but said this practice ended in 2015.
However, international concerns have been raised since then that people, including Falun Gong religious practitioners, are still being targeted for their organs.
The China Tribunal led by Sir Geoffrey Nice KC concluded in 2020 it was likely that: ‘Forced organ harvesting has happened in multiple places in the PRC and on multiple occasions for a period of at least 20 years and continues to this day.’
China has denied this, telling the UN last year: ‘China firmly rejects the anti-Chinese lies of the special mechanisms concerned that that politicise human rights issues and attack and slander sovereign States.’
A TfL spokesperson said: ‘After Mr Tohti’s case came to our attention, we carried out a full licensing investigation.
‘During the period of the investigation he was able to continue driving and at the conclusion of the process it was decided no further action should be taken.’
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