Independent investigative reporter Ethan Gutmann has focused for more than a decade on human rights issues in China, leading him to publish two books, dozens of articles and provide testimony and briefings to the United States Congress, Central Intelligence Agency, European Parliament, United Nations, and the parliaments of Ottawa, Canberra, Dublin, Jerusalem, Prague, Edinburgh and London. Earlier this year he was nominated for the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize.
"It's really less of a big deal than people think," the Cranbrook alumnus said from his home in London. "The bigger deal are the bets. Yes, people bet on it."
It was Gutmann's second book, "The Slaughter: Mass Killings, Organ Harvesting, and China's Secret Solution to Its Dissident Problem" about persecution of Tibetans, Falun Gong, Uighurs and House Christians that has spun out of control that led to his recent nomination. Specifically, the book exposé of China's mass killing of dissidents, particularly practitioners of Falun Gong to support a massive organ transplant business.
In 2016, Gutmann worked with David Kilgour and David Matas to publish an updated report on China's organ harvesting that estimates as many as 100,000 organ transplants each year through systematic murder at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party. The report served to bring further attention to activities, with news outlets such as the New York Times, The Globe and Mail, CNN and others throughout the world, publicizing the report in their own stories. His work also has helped to spur medical travel bans to China in some countries, including Israel, Spain and Taiwan.
"We think we are looking at a mass murder situation," he said.
Gutmann's first book, "Losing the New China: A Story of Commerce, Desire and Betrayal," looked into the relationship of American business and the Chinese government, in which businessmen ignored persecution in the country in the name of profits.
Gutmann's work has earned him a reputation as a human rights activist. However, he said it simply stemmed from his work as an investigative reporter who came across the stories while first looking into Chinese connections to President Bill Clinton's campaign and the growth happening in China.
"At heart, I'm really just an investigative reporter looking for a good story. I don't really consider myself a human rights guy. That's not really me," Gutmann said. "I'm interested in a good story. I saw one and I was covering it and nobody was covering it the way it needed to be done."
Prior to the work on his books, Gutmann served as a correspondent for a cable show, doing documentaries in China. He also worked for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Brookings Institute after earning degrees from Columbia University, which he attended some years after graduating from Cranbrook.
"After Cranbrook, I literally floated around for five years. I sailed in the Merchant Marine, and I was a punk rocker and did all sorts of lousy jobs," he said.
With his access to Chinese sources now diminished, Gutmann said he isn't sure what project he will work on next, but there is a slight possibility it could lead him back to Cranbrook, where he attended his final two years of high school as a boarding student.
"I have a potential story from back then. I'm starting to follow up on it with some people, if they are still alive and willing to talk," he said.
Photo: Simon Gross