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China Admits Illegally Harvesting Organs From Executed Prisoners

China has long been accused of illegally harvesting human organs from its executed prisoners. On November 19, 2006 Deputy Health Minister Huang Jiefu admitted that the suspicions were true.

?Under-the-table business must be banned,? Mr. Huang told a conference of surgeons in Guangzhou. ?The harvesting, distribution and use of organs must be closely tracked under responsible supervision by related administrations,? he said.

Illegal organ trafficking has long been a hallmark of China. Most recently, however, the government came under scrutiny for its use of the newly developed ?death vans.?

Death vans are equipped with lethal injection equipment which includes everything from retractable gurneys to state-of-the-art medical supplies. Officials now acknowledge that the use of death vans is often just a more efficient way of harvesting organs illegally. However, since the deadly chemicals used to carry out lethal injections make organs unusable for transplants, the more likely explanation is that prisoners are having their organs removed prior to being put to death.

Death van manufacturers say that the concept of mobile executions also provides a community service since it saves poor communities from the expense of constructing execution facilities. Old fashioned executions take place in public by an executioner firing a single pistol shot into the back of the prisoner?s skull, which is a minimal expense. Aside from being gruesome, the family of executed prisoners incurred all costs of both incarceration and execution.

China executes more people than any other country in the world. Almost 70 crimes can result in the death penalty including such white-collar crimes as embezzlement, tax fraud and accepting bribes.

According to Amnesty International it is unlikely that many of those accused of crimes actually get a fair trial. Chinese prisoners often have no attorneys, are not presumed innocent and can legally be tortured into making confessions, just like US run military prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo.

In an effort to change its image China has implemented tighter controls on the death penalty. Provincial court decisions are now reviewed and ratified by the Supreme Peoples Court. It is estimated that executions could drop by as much as one third. The difference would be considerable given that, in March 2004, a National People?s Congress senior member, said that about 10,000 people were executed each year. The exact number is considered a state secret and is not disclosed publicly.

Studies show that illegally harvested organs seldom benefit the most needy Chinese citizens. Even wealthy foreigners often take precedence over those on the waiting list. In a country still struggling to gain its economic footing it is questionable just how much current reforms will help especially when prisoners can be a source of profit.


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