Although the Chinese government has pledged to combat the country’s thriving black market for organs, international medical observers, human rights experts, and Chinese citizens are skeptical that the government has the will or ability to make significant progress in phasing out the highly profitable organ transplant industry.
As recently as 2007, executed prisoners provided nine-tenths of the organs used in transplant procedures. Although the practice of executing prisoners and then subsequently harvesting their organs for profit is reportedly ongoing, Chinese Minster of Health Huang Jiefu has stated that China will stop extracting organs from prisoners by the middle of this year. It is not clear, however, what steps authorities will take to implement such sweeping changes, and many are skeptical of whether local governments will heed these central government directives.
In addition to organs harvested from prisoners, organs extracted from kidnap victims or the financially desperate have increasingly supplied China’s thriving black market for organs. Many expect that government measures to phase out organ harvesting from death row inmates might just serve as a boon to human traffickers who provide organs to unaccountable officials and hospitals eager to make a profit.
Efforts to institute a legitimate organ donation system in which citizens voluntarily donate organs after providing informed consent are frustrated by the lack of transparent, fair procedures for distributing organs to patients. Expressing common sentiments of Chinese citizens contemplating organ donation, Human Rights Watch’s Nicholas Bequelin noted, “It is quite inconceivable that Party and government members would not be favored over ordinary citizens, because that’s the reality of life in China. Why should I pledge to give my organs if it is to end up in the body of an corrupt official?”
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