Back in 2015, human rights groups had welcomed Beijing’s decision to stop using executed prisoners as a source of unwilling organ donations. But the practice appears to have been revived.
In China, death row prisoners, or those who passed away in prison, have provided the overwhelming majority of transplanted organs for decades. As per promise back then to the international community, the organs would only be used if the prisoners volunteered them, and their families approved the decision.
However, due to high demand and low donation rates, the country has been facing a rather large shortfall in organs. According to government data, some 300,000 people in China need organ transplants every year. Only 10,000 of those are likely to get a chance.
Quite a few reports have surfaced in recent times to suggest the practice was never halted back in 2015
On Monday, the London-based China Tribunal, an independent agency investigating organ harvesting in China, reported that some 1.5 million detainees in Chinese prison camps are being killed for their organs to serve a booming transplant trade.
Beijing has repeatedly denied accusations by human rights researchers and scholars and said it stopped using organs from executed prisoners in 2015.
“Forced organ harvesting has been committed for years throughout China on a significant scale. The practice is of unmatched wickedness — on a death for death basis — with the killings by mass crimes committed in the last century,” the tribunal concluded in its final judgment.
Now, the findings have been presented to the UN in Geneva in a bid to urge all member states to take action.
“Victim for victim and death for death, cutting out the hearts and other organs from living, blameless, harmless, peaceable people constitutes one of the worst mass atrocities of this century,” Habi Sabi, Counsel to the China Tribunal, told the Human Rights Council.
The tribunal also reported that some Chinese websites and hospitals have advertised hearts, lungs and kidneys for sale. Worse still, they have advertised them as available to book in advance, suggesting that the victims were killed on demand.
The tribunal estimates that the organ harvesting industry generates over $1 billion each year.
The tribunal added that it was possible that Uighur Muslims--an ethnic minority who are currently being detained in vast numbers in western China--were also being targeted. Members of other religious and ethnic minorities, including Tibetans, and some Christian sects, have suffered the same fate.
Earlier this year, six medical staff, including a doctor, were arrested in China on suspicion of illegally harvesting organs from a patient who was brain-dead after the accident. The family reportedly told investigators that hospital staff had offered $28,300 in “government subsidies” in return for the organs.
China ranks among the lowest in terms of numbers of organ donors, at least those of a volunteer nature. The average organ donation rate was 3.6 per million people in China, compared with 37 per million in Spain.
The reason for the low donation rate could lie in the traditional Chinese culture where many people believe bodies must remain intact after death. Still, more than two-thirds of young people expressed positive views on donation but majority of them are worried about the corruption.
Last year, China conducted more than 16,000 transplants, ranking it second in the world behind the United States.
By Fred Dunkley
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