Organ harvesting in the People's Republic of China

Organ harvesting in the People's Republic of China

Organ harvesting in the People's Republic of China refers to the practice of removing human organs and tissue to be used in transplants for Chinese and other recipients.


In 1992, the Laogai Foundation, set up by Chinese dissident Harry Wu, was instrumental in proving (using court files, medical records and eyewitness testimony) that organs were harvested from executed criminals were used for transplants. cite web|url= |title=Inside China's 'crematorium' |accessdate=2008-09-21 |last=McGregor |first=Glen |date=2007-11-24 |work=The Ottawa Citizen |archiveurl= |archivedate=2008-09-21 ] . The Laogai Foundation, along with ABC, went undercover and responded to an ad for kidney transplantation in China in an American newspaper, exposing the organ trading prevalent in 1997. They have also interviewed Thai recipients of the organs and found that the recipient had been told that a series of executions were to be held on the day of her transplant. cite web|url= |title=Killing by Quota, Killing for Profit: Executions and Transplants in China |accessdate=2008-09-21 |coauthors=Laogai Foundation |date=1997-10-16 |publisher=Laogai Foundation ]

In 2001 a report that appeared in The Washington Times of a doctor, who, according to his statement, was involved in removing corneas and harvesting skin from more than 100 executed prisoners. Wang Guoqi, a "burn specialist", said in his written statement that he had also seen other doctors remove vital organs from executed prisoners. His hospital, the "Tianjin Paramilitary Police General Brigade Hospital", in turns sold those organs for enormous profits. The Laogai foundation said that it had gone to "great lengths" to verify Wang's identity and that both the foundation and congressional staff members found the doctor's statements "highly credible." Wang's detailed statements, provided to The Washington Post by The Laogai foundation, include the dates and places of executions, the names of doctors involved in organ removals and graphic descriptions of the medical procedures. cite web|url= |title=Chinese Doctor Tells Of Organ Removals After Executions |accessdate=2008-09-21 |last=Mufson |first=Steven |date=2001-06-27 |work=Washington Post |archiveurl= |archivedate=2008-09-21 ] According to a 2006 Congressional Executive Commission report, Huang Jiefu, China's Vice Minister of Health, had indicated in July of 2005 that as high as 95% of organ transplants in China derive from execution. [Congressional Executive Commission on China Annual Report 2006, p. 59; note 224, p.201] It reports that over 95 percent of organs transplanted in China come from executed prisoners.] and that circa 65% of "capital offenses" in China are for nonviolent "crime". [Congressional Executive Commission on China Annual Report 2006, note 210, p. 200]

Legal framework

Involuntary organ donation is illegal under Chinese law, but critics say Beijing does not enforce the policy.

Under a 1984 draft regulation, it became legal to harvest organs from convicted criminals; such operations can take place only with the consent of the family or if the body goes unclaimed.Jane Macartney, [,,25689-1901558,00.html "China to 'tidy up' trade in executed prisoners' organs"] , The Times, December 03, 2005] Official execution figures are considered state secrets.


The World Medical Association made declarations condemning these practices on various grounds in 1985, 1987, and 1994.

Before the advent of the lethal injection which did not damage internal organs in the late 1990s, China administered executions with a single bullet to the head or the heart to preserve the organs. Human rights organizations have questioned the way in which organs are obtained.

In Beijing, in 1998, the Secretary and Chairman of the World Medical Association and the Korean Medical Association reached an agreement with the Chinese Medical Association that these practices were undesirable and that they would investigate them jointly, with a view to stopping them. In 2000, the Chinese reneged and withdrew their cooperation. [Harold Hillman, [Harvesting organs from recently executed prisoners - Practice must be stopped] , British Medical Journal, November 24 2001; 323(7323): 1254] Amnesty International claims to have strong evidence that the police, courts and hospitals are complicit in the organ trade, which would be facilitated by the use of mobile execution chambers, or "death vans".Calum MacLeod, [ China makes ultimate punishment mobile] , USA Today, May 15, 2006] Amnesty speculates that this hugely profitable trade might explain China's refusal to consider abolishing the death penalty, which is used on between 1,770 and 8,000 prisoners annually. Corpses are typically cremated before relatives or independent witnesses can view them, fuelling suspicions about the fate of internal organs.

In 2001, a Chinese doctor applying for political asylum revealed that he had removed organs from executed prisoners for the transplant market under the auspices of the People's Liberation Army. He claimed that he had operated to remove skin and corneas from executed criminals, and that other doctors sometimes took organs from bodies while their hearts were still beating. He also said that during at least one such operation the prisoner was still breathing. [ [ China fury at organ snatching 'lies'] , BBC News, 28 June, 2001]

In December 2005, after many years of denial, China's Deputy Health Minister acknowledged that the practice of removing organs from executed prisoners for transplant was widespread, and promised steps would be taken to prevent abuse.Thomas Lum, [ Congressional Research Report #RL33437] , Congressional Research Service, August 11 2006] According to "Time", a transplant brokerage in Japan which organised 30-50 operations annually sourced its organs from executed prisoners in China.Andrea Gerlin, [,9171,1186611,00.html "China's Grim Harvest"] , Time magazine, 23 April 2006]

On the eve of a state visit to the United States by President Hu Jintao, the 800-member British Transplantation Society added to pressure on China to change by criticising the use of death-row prisoners' organs in transplants, on grounds that as it is impossible to verify that organs are indeed from prisoners who have given consent; the World Medical Association once again condemned the practice. "Prisoners and others in custody were not in a position to give consent freely and that therefore their organs must not be used for transplantation". [Press release, [ World Medical Association demands China stops using prisoners for organ transplants] , World Medical Association, 22 May 2006]

In October 2007, bowing to huge international pressure, and from a campaign to boycott the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games for China's human rights abuses, the Chinese Medical Association agreed on a moratorium of commercial organ harvesting from condemned prisoners, but did not specify a deadline. China agreed to restrict transplantations from donors to their immediate relatives. [Pact to block harvesting of inmate organs, Pg 1, South China Morning Post, October 7, 2007] [Press release, [ Chinese Medical Association Reaches Agreement With World Medical Association Against Transplantation Of Prisioners's Organs] , Medical News Today, Oct 07 2007]

ee also

*Human rights in the People's Republic of China
*Reports of organ harvesting from live Falun Gong practitioners in China


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