April 21, 2006
Chinese authorities yesterday were accused of "harvesting" the
organs of death row prisoners while they are alive.
Human rights groups claimed some condemned prisoners had organs removed after being beaten unconscious to save on anaesthetic.
Execution dates were said to be adjusted to fit in with the needs of wealthy foreigners who paid thousands of dollars for a healthy kidney, liver or heart.
Many of the condemned prisoners were claimed to be adherents of the spiritual movement Falun Gong, outlawed by China's Communist regime.
Zek Halu, a London-based member of the Friends of Falun Gong Europe, said: "We have documented evidence from witnesses that instead of being anaesthetised, because of the shortage of drugs, prisoners are beaten unconscious with special care being taken to avoid liver, kidneys and eyes, then their organs are removed.
"This is big business for the Chinese Government."
Up to 10 Britons were thought to have received transplants in China last year.
Labour Member of the European Parliament Robert Evans called for a ban on "transplant tourists".
He said: "Just as it's illegal to go abroad for child sex, it should be illegal to go abroad to buy an organ, even if the donor has agreed to give it."
With a worldwide shortage of suitable organs, the Chinese trade has flourished.
Many of the internet websites offering transplant services in China claim donors and patients could be matched in as little as a week, which implies prisoners may be selected before execution.
The British Transplantation Society yesterday condemned the practice of using prisoners' organs as "unethical" and "unacceptable", saying it breached the inmates' human rights.
In a statement it said: "An accumulating body of evidence suggests the organs of executed prisoners are being removed for transplantation without the prior consent of either the prisoner or their family.
"This process of organ procurement and the subsequent transplants are known to involve payment of money and may implicate transplant centres, patients, and the authorities and judiciary responsible for the prisoners.
"The precise numbers of transplants performed using organs derived from executed prisoners is unknown but the figure is thought to be in the thousands."