WHAT was supposed to be an innocent hospital trip for budding young surgeon Enver Tohti turned out to be a nightmare when he was forced to operate on living prisoners.
Tohti, 58, was a cancer surgeon in Xinjian region in the 1990s but was forced to flee his beloved home country after threats from Chinese communist state.
He was just 32 that fateful day back in August 1995 when he was hauled in front to his chief surgeon and asked if he wanted to "do something wild".
Dr Tothi ended up being bundled into a minivan and taken to a secret location where he was forced to remove the liver and kidneys of a patient as he struggled and fought for his life.
And the medic is just one of thousands of Chinese doctors forced against their will to operate on executed prisoners in what is believed to be a multi-billion-pound business .
The Asian powerhouse has long been suspected of encouraging the inhumane practice, which is believed to have seen thousands of political prisoners slaughtered for their organs that are then sold into the black market.
And there are now concerns Beijing could be using the evil practice to silence its Uighur minority.
Dr Tothi told The Sun Online he will never forget that horrific day as he was forced to perform the sickening surgery.
His boss told him told to get "largest operation tools" he could find and meet outside the hospital gates the following morning after he approached him with the "wild" offer.
What happened next would change Tohti's life forever and eventually see him flee China in fear of his safety.
Most read in The US Sun
It was a hot, dry summer's day and Enver was brimming with excitement about what he thought was an opportunity of a lifetime.
He hopped onto a mini-van with seven others and started off towards the Western Mountain's region but when the vehicle made a turn for an unknown gravel road, Enver began to panic.
"We turned left towards the mountains and down that road I had never been to," he told The Sun Online.
"That’s when I asked the driver ‘where are we going?’ and he said: ‘We are going to the Western Mountains execution grounds’.
I turned into a robot... When I tried to cut, the man was strugglingEnver Tohti
"I was so scared because I thought they were going to shoot me because I was the only Uighur in that team and no one else had been there except for our driver."
Two hours later the team of medics arrived at Ürümqi execution grounds and were met by Enver chief surgeon who them to wait and come around once they heard gunshots.
The team waited - often chain-smoking and pacing around to keep calm until they heard the sound of multiple gunshots pierce through the miserable silence.
"Then we started hearing sounds from the other side of the hill of people shouting and truck engines and whistles then gunshots," the dad-of-three said.
"That gunshot wasn’t like a machine gun shooting, it was like many rifles shooting at the same time."
The team jumped into the van and made their way around where there was "at least 10 corpses… lying down on the slope, around two to three metres apart in prisoner uniforms".
Enver said: "These bodies were shaved and part of the head was blown away because the bullet entered from the back of the head.
"We were just looking at the bodies with no emotions then there was a police officer shouting at us, telling us to go to the far right.
"The chief surgeon was there and there was a body lying down there. This body was wearing civilian clothes and with long hair - a man - and his head was intact because the gunshot was to his right chest.
"While they put this body into the van, my chief surgeon called me over and briefed me. He told me to remove his liver and kidneys as quickly as possible.
"I then turned into a robot... When I tried to cut, the man was struggling.
"His body was struggling against me so I assumed he was alive because obviously feeling the pain and when I cut through I saw there was bleeding, which means the heart was still pumping blood."
'DOCTORS BECAME EXECUTIONERS'
When the operation ended, Enver handed the organs to his chief surgeon and was told to "go back to the hospital and remember, today never happened".
"Everybody living in China knows what that means and we said yes. We never talked about it," the surgeon turned Uber driver who now lives in London said.
"It always is in my head. I tried to forget about it, but I couldn’t."
China said to be the organ harvesting capital of the world, where some 100,000 transplants occur every year, according to medical professionals.
The country vowed to overhaul its transplant system in 2007 following and promised to end the practice of taking organs from executed prisoners in 2015 following international pressure.
Despite this, the evil practice continued and a world-first study uncovered that more than 400 dodgy organ transplants were carried out between 2000 and 2017.
They believe scientists used hearts, lungs or livers taken from dead prisoners and even wrote about it in scientific papers which were later published to English language medical journals.
The study, published in the American Journal of Transplantation, said some inmates were still alive, but not necessarily conscious, on the operating table - breaching global medical guidelines.
The research was led by Matthew Robertson, a politics student, and Jacob Lavee, a cardiac surgeon and professor at the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University.
Robertson said: "We found that the physicians became the executioners on behalf of the state, and that the method of execution was heart removal.
"These surgeries are highly profitable for the doctors and hospitals that engage in them."
The authors poured over 2,838 papers on transplant procedures in China between 1980 and 2020 and found brain death wasn't properly established before organ removal in 71 cases.
"If the reports we examine are accurate, they indicate that heart and lung procurement by the surgeon was the proximate cause of the prisoner’s death, thus 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 reports.
'A MONEY-MAKING EXERCISE'
The disgraceful practice is said to rake in billions for Chinese coffers and has made the country a must-go destination organ hunters.
Professor Martin Elliot, a heart transplant surgeon and member of the investigative body, the China Tribunal, said China organ harvesting business was "a money-making exercise".
He told The Sun Online: "The more you did, the more money your organisation got.
"It was a sort of commercial venture and they were [hospitals] encouraged, as was the military, to make money out of pretty much every aspect of their work in the early part of the 2000s as part of the reformation of the Chinese economy."
He said China were performing "around 60,000 to 100,000 a year" at a time when those on the official donor registry list was smaller than that.
"There’s this mismatch between the donors available, which continues to suggest there is a source of organs they’re not declaring," he told us.
He said it's impossible to know the full extend of illegal organ transplants in China because Beijing made transplant data a state secret and because doctors are too afraid to speak out.
He said: "The evidence for us that was so convincing were these numbers and the impossibly short waiting list.
"In the UK, Australia and in the US, you’d be waiting months or years for an organ.
"But in China you could call up an agency and book a date, basically, this week or next week and there'd be spares if it didn’t work.
"That is just not practical in transplantation in our current era."
He said the China Tribunal had "strong evidence" that the Chinese Communist Party locked up thousands of Falun Gong followers in gulags before executing them and reaping their organs.
Falun Gong is a religious movement that uses meditation to seek spiritual connection and has been deemed a threat by the Chinese state.
"What was going on in those camps, and what goes on, is similar to what we saw during the Nazi era and under Pol Pot," professor Elliott said.
"There are lots of people in there who are subject to de-humanising treatment, extreme torture, including sexual violence, gross abuse and where does organ harvesting fit into that spectrum? It’s like one other step along the footpath.
"If these camps persists, and if the moral framework on which they’re built remains unchanged, then what is to stop the Chinese Community Party seeing these people are effectively experimental animals that Mengele and the Nazis did in the second world war.
"And when you consider they’ve had hundreds of thousands of DNA samples taken from inmates, think about what that opens up for developing drugs for other treatments."