China Prepares for Olympics Drop in Executions Leads to Organ Shortage

With the Olympics in Beijing just 500 days away, China has begun cleaning up organ trafficking practices. Not only have exports been banned, but with fewer prisoner executions, a major source of organs has dried up. The result has been a kidney shortage in South Korea.


A criminal in China being brought to his execution.
REUTERS

A criminal in China being brought to his execution.

The preparations, it is said, are far ahead of schedule. With 500 days to go before the Olympic flame is lit in Beijing for the 2008 Games, construction of 31 venues in the Chinese capital is "progressing at a tremendous pace," International Olympics Committee president Jacques Rogge said this week. Even the new medal design was presented on Tuesday.

But the planning isn't just taking place on the streets of Beijing. The government is also trying to clean up some of its more blatant human rights violations -- like the export of kidneys from death penalty victims and organs harvested from minors. And it's creating organ shortages in South Korea.

According to a report last week in the dailyChosun Ilbo, the already long list of South Koreans waiting for organs is getting longer -- with the number expected to top 10,000 by the beginning of the month -- and their chances of getting a transplant are getting slimmer with China having decided to ban organ exports. In addition, executions in China have dropped sharply since the Chinese New Year in February, meaning that one of the primary sources for exported organs has dried up, organ brokers told the Korea Times.

Because South Koreans traditionally shy away from donating their organs, the situation for the seriously ill in the country looks grim. Furthermore, prices for organs have skyrocketed, with kidneys now going for $37,000 whereas prior to China stiffening organ export rules a kidney could have been had for $27,000. China has likewise elected to no longer give foreigners priority when it comes to organ transplant waiting lists.

China, though, still has a long way to go to clean up its organ harvesting image. David Kilgour, Canada's former secretary of state for Asia-Pacific, accused China in this week's Sunday Herald of continuing to take organs from jailed Falun Gong practitioners. Kilgour released a study last summer concluding that several thousand organs have been harvested "à la carte" from Falun Gong prisoners since 1999.

"I realize it is difficult to comprehend, but prisoners, especially Falun Gong prisoners, are being killed for their organs in China right now," he told the paper. "They are executing prisoners à la carte so that wealthy recipients get organs."

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