A court case in Jianxi Province has put the spotlight on the trafficking of human kidneys in China.
The court in Nanchang tried a case in July in which a total of 40 people were arrested and tried for selling 23 harvested kidneys worth an estimated RMB 1.54 million. The trial concluded with 12 convictions, with prison sentences ranging from two to nine years, reports MSN People. However, the discovery of the human organ trafficking ring has also revealed a well-organized group motivated by huge profits.
The ring operated around Jiangxi and Guangdong, and attracted potential candidates willing to donate their kidneys with online advertisements that offered to pay RMB 22,000 to RMB 25,000.
The offer attracted Wang Hu (a pseudonym), a 21 year-old man looking to prove to his family that he was financially independent. After learning from a QQ contact that he could earn RMB 25,000 for selling a kidney he decided to go to Nanchang.
There, Wang was sequestered in a small, dingy hotel with a moldy mattress. He was kept in the room by a minder named Zhao Zhen, himself a person who had previously been a kidney donor. Wang described this period, in which all he did was eat and sleep,”as if he was a kept beast of burden for the kidney selling ring.”
After 20 days, Wang was blindfolded and sent to a hospital room where he was tested, but he did not match a prospective recipient. The process was repeated a week later but with positive results. This time Wang was forced to sign a contract that absolved the kidney trafficking ring of any liability:
This person agrees to voluntarily donate one kidney, and accept all consequences resulting from this decision, of which no other person is responsible.
A week later, the ordeal was over. Wang Fu was paid RMB 25,000 for his contribution and released from the hotel.
While his signature remains on the contract he signed, lawyers say the document remains invalid because trading human organs for cash is illegal in China. Organ donation is only legal between spouses, direct-descendants, or third-generation blood relatives, which may explain why there is such a high demand for organs and why some illegal rings like this are thriving in China.
Furthermore, positive matches between a willing donor and a recipient in need are very rare. Because of this, some donors are kept waiting longer than the kidney trafficking ring is willing to wait. In some cases, the gang passes the donor to another ring with other clients.
The donors seeking cash for kidneys are usually young men between 20 and 30 years-old. Some may sell for personal reasons, like Wang Fu, while others might be like 27 year-old Zheng Xiping (pseudonym) from Chenzhou, Hunan who racked up a sizable gambling debt while working in Guangdong.
The illegal ring targeted in the court case involved 23 different donors. All of the operations were performed at the Huazhong hospital in Nanchang, which was closed down by police in July, 2012.
When asked about the medical facilities that were privately rented out in order to perform these illegal operations, the deputy director of Jiangxi occupational disease prevention Chen Shenglu denied knowing the true reason why the room was rented.
Medical staff used in these operations were found working in hospitals and facilities throughout the province and beyond. Doctors performing the surgery could earn up to RMB 10,000 each, while other medical staff could earn as much as RMB 1,000 to RMB 4,000 each. The harvested organs are first washed in saline, then packed in cold freight cases marked “seafood” and shipped by air to Guangzhou.
At the center of the ring was the intermediary that facilitated all these transactions, Liu Yongdong. His familiarity with all of his close contacts was perhaps the result of Liu himself having been the recipient of an illegal organ trade himself. In 2010, Liu’s kidneys failed and he found himself exploring the illegal organ trade as his last resort.
After a successful transplant, Liu found himself getting more involved in the illegal trade because the profits were so huge. Liu earned earned RMB 10,000 for each transaction he brokered. As a result, Liu consolidated his contacts and became a middleman. It was Liu that arranged for the surgeries to take place each time at Huadong Hospital where RMB 35,000 was paid in order to rent out its facilities.
Despite the huge profits involved, Liu maintains that he was just trying to get by with his earnings, which he said were “just a small part of the total profits”. Furthermore, there are people who are genuinely appreciative of Liu’s efforts, namely his clients.
Miss Luo suffered from uremia, and could not find a matching donor for the kidney she desperately needed. In August 2011, Liu found a matching donor for Liu and arranged for the transplant operation to take place at Huadong hospital as well as finding a physician to perform the surgery.
Luo remains thankful towards Liu and said:
When all is said and done, (Liu) saved my life.
Luo paid a total of RMB 410,500 for the kidney transplant.
Photos: MSN People