Organ transplantation in China – good developments or hidden trafficking?

Publié le 23 Jul, 2018

A lack of real transparency is apparent in the Chinese organ transplant system. After years of controversy over the execution of political prisoners with a view to harvesting their organs, China finally banned this practice in 2015, making the voluntary donation system introduced in 2013 obligatory from that point onwards (see China takes steps to oversee organ donation). Officially, Huang Jiefu, head of the Chinese organ transplant system, confirms that there is “zero tolerance”. He however admitted last year that “the law has definitely been violated”.


In 2017, over 16,000 transplants were performed in China, which ranks in second place worldwide after the US in terms of this type of procedure. However, based on bed occupancy rates in the 178 hospitals carrying out transplants in China, the China Organ Harvest Research Center believes that “thousands of other transplants must have been performed”. Based on State figures published in 2013, 23% of transplants were performed following voluntary donations, compared to 80% in 2014 and 100% in 2015. According to the organisation, “It’s not plausible to have such a complete turn-around in just one or two years, especially since most Chinese people believe that they will be reincarnated after death. This assumes that the body must be intact, thereby limiting the number of potential donors” (see Organ donation is not part of Chinese culture). For instance, the China Organ Harvest Research Center believes that organs are still being harvested from prisoners previously included in the volunteer donor register to skirt the ban.


Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International, for their part, point out that there is little proof to substantiate these allegations but nonetheless recognise the evident “lack of transparency” in the Chinese system.


Furthermore, “transplant tourism” is also suspected in China. Some hotels promise transplants within a few weeks to foreign tourists. These practices are, however, totally refuted by Huang Jiefu who attended the annual Transplantation Society Congress in Madrid this week. Renowned US surgeon Francis Delmonico sees this as “clear evidence of a change in China”.


For further reading:

Canadian report denounces almost 90,000 clandestine transplants in China

China will terminate organ collection from executed prisoners in 2015

Chinese prisoners – still the opaque main source of organ “donation”?

China launches policy to encourage voluntary organ donation

AFP, Marianne BARRIAUX (06/07/2018)

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