TAZ (German newspaper): People executed, then butchered

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November 22nd, 2006

The Ministry of Health in China admitted at a physician’s conference, that the majority of organs used for transplant operations are taken from people who were executed. Beijing keeps silent about the number of death sentences but Amnesty International estimates that in 2005, the number was around 1,770.

Georg Blume reporting from Beijing

Mabel Wu did not listen to the warnings of her doctor; last July, the sixty nine year old from the Los Angeles suburb of Northridge, traveled to the Chinese boom town Donguan in Guangzhou Province against his advice. There, she was planning to obtain a new kidney for the price of $ 40,000. On her arrival, she was told that the kidney came from a thirty year old man. Four other patients, all from Taiwan, who had already received new kidneys, were also at the hospital in Donguan. After her operation, Wu returned to California and told the Los Angeles Times that she was “very happy” with her new kidney.

Today, Mabel Wu is aware that her kidney was most probably taken from someone who had received a death sentence. Now, we have official confirmation for what has been denied by Western transplant tourists on their trips to China. China’s rapidly growing field of transplantation medicine is based on business conducted with the Chinese death penalty oriented justice system. “Except for a small number of traffic accident victims, most of the organs come from executed prisoners”, said the Chinese vice Minister for Public Health, Huang Jiefu, at a conference for surgeons last week in Guangzhou.

Previously, the Beijing Health Ministry had always insisted that the opposite was true. One of their representatives said only last April that “only a small number of organs have been taken from criminals who previously agreed to donate their organs”. It is therefore no surprise that Huang’s position has caused uproar in this murky arena.

“China has so far deflected all discussions about this topic”, says Nicholas Bequelin, a Hong Kong based member of the human rights organisation Human Rights Watch. He thinks that transplantation medicine affects one of the most important human rights problems in China: the death penalty and the decline of medical ethics when organs are traded. Bequelin demands that China should publish the number of death sentences and the number of organ transplants.

According to Amnesty International, China executed 1,770 people in 2005, which constitutes 80 % of all executions worldwide. Others estimate up to 10,000 executions. Beijing regards the number of executions as a state secret but they put organ transplantations at 20,000 per year. According to the well-known surgeon, Chen Zhonghua, China had 8,102 kidney, 3,741 liver, and 80 heart transplants in 2005.

Critics of transplantation medicine in China have questioned even the business aspects because hospitals prefer wealthy Western patients to Chinese. The Falun Gong movement, which is banned in China, has accused physicians, as well as government officials, of running a criminal racket where detainees are murdered and their organs are sold.

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