China’s Vice Minister of Health says the country will abolish harvesting organs from executed prisoners within three to five years.
Vice Minister of Health Huang Jiefu made the announcement at a conference on Thursday, saying a national organ donation system would be set up to replace the lost source of organs for transplants. Huang says that high bacterial infection rates among prisoners make their organs less than suitable for people who receive the organs.
According to The World website, 10,000 transplants are performed in China each year, with two-thirds coming from executed prisoners.
But it’s not yet clear how authorities would change China’s cultural resistance to donating organs.
Huang told the state-run Xinhua News Agency it is (quote) “the traditional Chinese way” to harvest organs from executed prisoners, and says the move away from such a practice would pose “challenges.”
Earlier this month, Professor Arthur Caplan, head of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, said Huang might have confirmed the Chinese regime has been harvesting organs from imprisoned Falun Gong practitioners as part of the regime’s persecution of the spiritual practice.
[Professor Arthur Caplan, Director, Center for Bioethics, Univ. of Pennsylvania]:
“Look, I think you can make the connections that…they are using prisoners, and they need prisoners who are relatively healthy, they need prisoners who are relatively younger. It doesn’t take a great stretch of the imagination to assume that some Falun Gong [practitioners] are going to be among those who are going to be killing for parts. It just follows, because remember you can’t take very old people as sources of organs and you can’t take people who are very sick. They, Falun Gong, are in part younger, and by lifestyle, somewhat healthier. I would be astounded if they weren’t using some of those prisoners as sources of organs.”
But with the abolishment of using executed prisoners, this may not help the Falun Gong practitioners. Many Falun Gong practitioners are also incarcerated in labor camps and mental institutions.
The issue of Falun Gong organ harvesting was brought to light in a 2006 report by former Canadian MP David Kilgour and rights lawyer David Matas. It claims a large number of Falun Gong practitioners are victims of systematic organ harvesting—their whereabouts are often unknown by family members, making them a particularly vulnerable group.