THE Chinese Government has officially banned the trade in human organs for transplants - even though it denies such a trade exists.
As the Beijing Olympic Games in August next year loom larger, the Government appears to be adopting a series of measures aimed at deflating international criticism to fend off the risk of a boycott, or of demonstrations during the Games.
Under the new rules, introduced by China's State Council and which came into effect on May 1;
* Any doctor found to be involved in such activities will have his or her licence revoked;
* Clinics or hospitals where such operations take place will be suspended from transplant operations for at least three years; and
* Officials who condone or organise such trade will be sacked and fined.
Fines for all those involved in the trade have been set at up to 10 times the value of the trade.
Organ transplants are common in China, which has carried out such operations - about 5000 are legitimately approved a year - for 20 years. It carries out more than any other country except the US.
Chinese rules have previously required agreements to be signed voluntarily by donors. But demand has grown massively, with about 1.5 million patients seeking donated organs every year.
At the same time, patients from overseas have come to China for organ transplants, including for the heart, lung, liver, kidney and pancreas.
It is this latter trade that has done most to support the veracity of claims made by international human rights groups about organs being obtained surreptitiously, including from executed prisoners - China executes more than the rest of the world put together - and from the country's many thousands of road accident victims.
While China is a one-party state, implementation of laws and regulations can still be difficult in such a large country where local officials retain considerable authority.
The highest-profile claims about the transplant trade have come from the Falun Gong sect, banned in China, which said that body parts had been extracted from 6000 sect followers at a secret concentration camp in northeast China.
This grim story was elevated internationally by two prominent Canadian human rights activists, former parliamentarian David Kilgour and lawyer David Matas, who are not Falun Gong practitioners.
They published a report on the issue last year following research on behalf of Falun Gong support group the Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of the Falun Gong in China.
But Harry Wu, one of the most respected Chinese dissidents, cast doubt on the claims.
News link: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,21662536-2703,00.html