Shanghaiist can remember our first glimpse into the general issue of human rights in China back in freshman year of college. We are certainly not going to get into a debate about the state of China’s progress on the matter, or how accurate or overblown or underreported the situation may or may not be. We just know that our first look came from a very thick 2000 US State Department annual human rights report on China … and it was not a pretty picture.
This was when Shanghaiist first learned of the Chinese government’s alleged human organ trade — the organs coming from executed prisoners. But on December 2, China came clean and publicly admitted that the state had been engaged in the unethical commercial trade of executed prisoners’ organs:
For many years it has denied that such a trade existed. But Huang Jiefu, the Deputy Health Minister, acknowledged that the practice is widespread and promised to tighten the rules.
Mr Huang said that regulations drafted in August and now being amended before being handed to the State Council for final approval aim to end the commercialisation of organ transplants in China.
The only existing regulation covering the removal of organs from the bodies of executed prisoners is a 1984 draft document that stipulates that such operations can take place only with the consent of the family or if the body goes unclaimed.
Just how much has the government made from selling off organs? Reportedly, availability and demand of transplant organs is so at odds that foreign patients are willing to come to China where a new liver costs only $46,000. It isn’t difficult to understand why the government has gotten involved in China’s commercial human organ trade, which is reportedly dominated by organs from executed prisoners since the Chinese are reluctant organ donors because of a widely-held belief in the importance of maintaining a person’s entire physical body at death.