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Busted gang reveals China organ trafficking

2014-08-12 09:11 Global Times Web Editor: Li Yan

Some 20 days after Wang Hu (pseudonym) was put into a small hotel room near a second-hand auto market in Nanchang, Jiangxi province, he found himself lying in an operating room with five medical staff around him, preparing to take out his kidney.

Three years have passed, and he still remembers those 20 days like they were yesterday. He had nothing to do in the hotel room but eat, with a man keeping watch over him to make sure he didn't escape. "It was being an animal in farm."

Wang, a 24-year-old man from Anhui province, was a living kidney "supplier" who was recruited illegally by human organ traffickers. In July 2014, 12 members of the gang were sentenced to prison terms of up to nine and a half years for illegally trading human organs in Jiangxi.

Chen Feng, the group's leader, went into the organ trade in May 2011 with his partner Jiang Zhenglin. Chen and others were responsible for looking for suppliers and buyers while Jiang, a doctor by profession, was in charge of performing operations.

Among the nearly 40 potential "suppliers" they recruited, 23 had one of their kidneys illegally removed for transplants. The gang made profits of more than 1.5 million yuan from October 2011 to February 2012.

Experts pointed out that the imbalance between human organ donations and demand for organs is the primary reason authorities have trouble stamping out the organ trafficking trade.

Up and down the chain

Similar to Wang, most of the organ "suppliers" were young men between 20 to 30 years old. Most of them were recruited via social networking. The trafficking group posted advertisements online or individually approached Web users seeking a large amount of money in a short time. The suppliers could get 22,000 ($3,570) to 25,000 yuan for a kidney.

Wang, then 21 years old, decided to sell his kidney because he could not find a job. Upon arriving in Nanchang, Wang was put in the hotel room and later taken to a hospital for donor screening.

After two donor screening tests, Wang was brought to an operating room, and had his kidney removed.

Donor screening is a key part of the human organ trafficking chain, since buyers can only accept organs transplanted from a genetic match. However, match rates are low, forcing some suppliers to wait for a long time before their donations. In some circumstances, traffickers even resell suppliers to other trafficking gangs.

Wang was blindfolded before he was brought to the operating room. The gang had rented the operating room from a private hospital that didn't have the staff to operate it for the price of 35,000 yuan per operation.

The operating team also contracted on a temporary basis, with the surgeon receiving 10,000 yuan per operation, and other medical staff getting 1,000 to 4,000 yuan.

Mo Yongqing, one of the gang's members, planned to deliver Wang's kidney to Chen Feng, a businessman in Guangdong province in charge of finding buyers for harvested organs.

Mo put Wang's kidney into a cryogenic storage container and brought it on board a plane by claiming it was a box of seafood.

Most of the trafficking group members, including Mo, had already sold their own kidneys. They all saw their health decline somewhat after the operation. Mo said that he always felt a bit guilty when delivering organs to their buyers due to his own experience.

A true dilemma

Chen confessed to the police that a doctor in the organ transplant division of a local military hospital in Guangzhou asked him to find kidney suppliers for his patients. The doctor, Zhu Yunsong, said that a lack of donors had left many of his patients stuck on a transplant waiting list.

Chinese law requires hospitals qualified to carry out organ transplants to verify the source of any organs prior to operations. Officials at Zhu's hospital refused to comment on this case.

An anonymous doctor at a Beijing hospital said that a lack of donors makes it hard to for doctors to rule incoming organs illegal. Some hospitals, seeing patients in critical condition and the potential for the hospital to profit, even acquiesce to the trade. The doctor said that a transplant operation in his hospital typically costs 500,000 yuan.

Even though Zhu is currently under investigation, a number of former patients have expressed their gratitude, both to him and to the trafficking gang he worked with.

A patient surnamed Luo purchased a kidney from the gang in 2011 for 415,000 yuan, undergoing the transplant operation in a private hospital arranged by the traffickers. Luo is now in good condition, and appreciates the gang's actions, even though he knows that they were illegal. "After all, they saved my life."

Liu Yongdong, the gang member who arranged Luo's transplant, claimed that he would never have entered an illegal business if there weren't such strong demand.

China introduced an organ donation system in 2010, with the Red Cross Society of China serving as an independent third party to supervise and facilitate donations.

About 300,000 patients suffer from organ failures each year in China, but because of a lack of donors only around 10,000 organ transplants are performed annually, according to the National Health and Family Planning Commission.

A search for "kidney selling" on baidu.com yields more than 7 million results, many containing messages begging for kidneys.

Expert said that promoting the organ donations after donor's death is the best way to prevent such crime.

China launched its first official organ donation registration website in March 2014, in effort to better manage and promote organ donations throughout the country.

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