Dope File: Kill a druggie, sell a kidney

By Joel Miller

Strange fruit

Here is an interesting spin on the recent mass execution of narcotics offenders in China:

Only a day after Beijing bumped off 50-plus drug offenders in celebration of the United Nations’ antidrug day, Chinese doctor Wang Guoqi was in Washington, testifying before a congressional human-rights panel about how he harvested skin from nearly 100 executed prisoners to be used in transplants for burn victims and the like.

During his testimony, in which he explained the grisly process (you know approximately how it works if you’ve ever skinned a deer or seen it done), he also passed on the horrific story of a prisoner, still breathing, whose kidneys were removed just after being shot.

I’m assuming this sort of fruit is best picked before it’s completely ripe, since the guy wasn’t even given the chance to die before they sliced in and schlepped off his sweetbreads.

Wang’s testimony adds credence to the widespread reports of official organ snatching by the Chinese government, which the Associated Press oxymoronically tagged yesterday as “involuntary organ donations.” Evidence of parts pilfering, according to Michael Parmly of the State Department, is “overwhelming and growing” and “the sources who have reported this are credible and numerous.”

Beijing, of course, quickly denounced Wang, who is seeking asylum in the U.S., and said Thursday that it only brings a plate to the convict body buffet if the prisoner agrees. But others disagree; Wang’s testimony is not just a dream reflecting one too many viewings of “Silence of the Lambs.”

Activist Harry Wu, 19-year alumnus of China’s prison system, claims that “Such organ harvesting is motivated by money. … Executions of prisoners whose organs are deemed good matches for rich foreign transplant recipients – who pay more than $15,000 apiece – are scheduled to ensure the recipients are on hand,” according to AP.

And thanks to its drug laws, China has a ready supply of “donors.” On Monday, 18 were killed. Tuesday saw the deaths of somewhere around 50 (the numbers were sketchy, ranging between 43, 56, 59 and “dozens”). China, according to AP, has “executed hundreds of people since April in a crime crackdown labeled ‘Strike Hard’ that allows for speeded up trials and broader use of the death penalty.” By all accounts, drug cases are on the rise in China.

Cartoonist Tom White has a pretty good idea of where this might go.

Next time you see “Made in China” at a piano and organ store, you’d better look twice before you buy. That organ might not be a new Hammond B3. It could be a used Chang Li.

Harsh treatment

If they’re not killing you in China, they’re probably treating you, and last I checked, the jury’s still out on which is worse.

China, according to Jiang Zhuquing in the June 26 China Daily, had 860,000 registered drug addicts in 2000. Far from the success that drug warriors like Mark Levine keep pronouncing Beijing to be, even with its draconian measures, China is experiencing a drug problem which Jiang calls a “scourge.” Heroin and Ecstasy are going concerns. Drug-related AIDS cases are up. Of the 22,517 cases reported in 2000, nearly 80 percent contracted by intravenous drug use.

Promised a month of amnesty, in June 2000, Beijing ordered druggies to register with authorities. According to the Beijing Morning Post, junkies who came forward in the amnesty period were required to swear off drugs permanently and enter treatment programs to aid in gradual withdrawal. The alternative was, and still is, a forced three-to-six month stay in a tougher environment – cold turkey all the way.

If that doesn’t work, junkies are “severely punished” in labor camps.

What the severe punishment is isn’t too clear, but a look over at Russia might help. The City Without Drugs center in Yekaterinburg chains its patients to beds and whips them senseless with belts – delivering 300 or so lashes per session. That’s severe enough, I’d think – give or take a whack or two.

“On the first day we beat them with belts until their buttocks turn blue,” boasted a founder of the treatment center. “Every week we have to buy a new belt because they go too soft, but we have been impressed with the quality of Gucci belts.”

Thank goodness they’re fashionable about it.

“Drug addicts are animals who have lost all sense of values,” he went on to say. “This way, the next time they think about getting a fix they remember the pain of the thrashing rather than the rush of the drugs. It’s very effective. You cannot solve this with mild manners – you need tough measures.”

Maybe somebody should tell Robert Downey Jr. and Darryl Strawberry to steer clear of the Big Slav and the Great Wall. Who wants to turn a sightseeing trip into a star-seeing beating?

Herbie turns narc?

Everybody’s favorite car, the Volkswagen Beetle, has been enlisted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in the fight against drugs.


The new Bug was donated by Royal Volkswagen on Monday and will be slathered in DARE decals, as reported in Kamloops This Week.

“It’s like a magnet; the kids and parents love it,” said an officer connected to the program. And so how will a stickered, bulbous automobile help keep kids off drugs? “Seeing the Beetle reinforces and reminds the kids what they learned (during the DARE program).”

And this is because children always remember things when staring at poorly decorated cars, correct?

If this method of educational reinforcement is so good, why are we wasting it on drugs? Considering our ever-falling test scores, why not have a little Math, History and Grammar Bugs zipping around? Just seeing the Lit Bug drive past the school parking lot and kids will start spitting out lines from Steinbeck and Shakespeare like they actually know them.

Burning Grace

If you haven’t seen the comedy “Saving Grace,” it’s worth a gander. Grace Trevethen, played by Brenda Blethyn, is a recently widowed middle-aged woman whose husband leaves her everything – everything for which he didn’t want to go on living.

He jumps out of a plane without a parachute and sticks Grace with mountains of debt and collectors who want to foreclose on their very old and grand home.

The solution? Grow marijuana, of course. Her landscaper (Craig Ferguson of “The Drew Carey Show”) has some pot plants, and with Grace’s green thumb, they turn his meager sprigs into a whale of a crop. The plan unravels, however, as bumbling leads the authorities to Grace’s house. Not really wanting to sell it, and not wanting to go to jail either, she does the next best thing – torches the whole bundle. The resulting cloud of smoke intoxicates everyone on the property, including the cops, and she gets off scot-free because no one can remember anything about it.

In real life, however, people like Grace don’t get off quite so easy.

What? You don’t believe there really are people like Grace, otherwise harmless individuals who decide to grow a little pot or sell a few packets for some much-needed money?

Just last year George Edwards, 74-year-old pensioner in New Zealand, got busted when he tried to finance building a driveway to his house with money from selling marijuana. The local housing authority refused his request to extend his existing driveway, and, not liking to walk in the mud, he decided to take care of things himself. He raised just enough to pay for the cement and almost completed the project before the law caught on. In deference to his age, the court let him off with a suspended sentence.

Closer to home there’s 75-year-old David Burmesch of Ozaukee County, Wis., and his 80-year-old brother, Eugene. Cops busted their cultivation project last year. The two are reckoned the eldest offenders in state history. For his part, David was sentenced this week with a year of jail time, five years probation, 200 hours of community service and fines of $2,957. Last I checked, Eugene is still awaiting sentence.

Initially, according to the Nov. 15, 2000, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “The brothers each face[d] up to 30 years in prison and fines totaling $200,000 if convicted.”

So why would these upstanding member of the Greatest Generation be growing pot on the back 40? David Burmesch, according to the June 27 Sentinel, “told the agents he had been growing the marijuana since 1975. He said he had used the proceeds to pay for the costs of raising a developmentally disabled son.” Imagine the nerve.

Oh well, a good long stay in the county clink should set him straight, right?

Related columns:

  • Joel Miller’s entire drug-war archive