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In China, Organ Harvesting From Death Row Is About To End

"Stop Organ Harvesting in China" illustration
"Stop Organ Harvesting in China" illustration
Zhang jin

BEIJING — Beginning in January, China will abandon harvesting organs from executed prisoners, and organs needed for transplants will all come from donations, authorities have announced.

Many Chinese don't necessarily understand the profound meaning of this reform. Five years ago, I was personally involved in developing a report entitled, "Where Do Organs Come From?" published in Caijing Magazine. The report told the shocking story of a murder case in which the corpse of a homeless man was discovered with all his organs removed.

The story also revealed shocking information about China's organ trading. From 1960 until 2006, China was the only country in the world harvesting organs from executed prisoners as the only source for transplants.

Since then, China has been striving to make the process of organ transplant more transparent and morally acceptable. In the beginning, nobody predicted that this would be a hard road. In China, more than a million people wait each year for an organ transplant while on average only 10,000 of those will receive one. The majority of their donors are from death row. People used to regard this as reasonable.

But while most countries have abandoned using the organs of executed prisoners, China still systematically uses them, and it has become a shame on Chinese people that the country finally plans to deal with.

From a medical point of view, it is unhealthy to conduct a transplant procedure right after an execution because of the limitations in location and technique. Various infections are common, which reduce the chances of a successful transplant. China has lost opportunities for research cooperation because the international medical community has frowned on the country's methods.

From a social point of view, harvesting the organs of executed prisoners involves too many economic interests. The prevalence of trading for money has corrupted China's judicial and medical professions.

In 2005, at the World Health Organization meeting for organ transplants held in the Philippines, Chinese authorities made it clear for the first time that it would reform its organ transplant system with progressive legislation.

Thereafter, China criminalized organ trading. Other regulations now also expressly prohibit organ transplant tourism and identify the right of citizens to organ donation.

Meanwhile, to solve the sourcing problem, China's Ministry of Health and the Red Cross of China launched a pilot scheme to encourage voluntary organ donation. As a result, an initial organ donation system has taken shape in China.

Still, it's not smooth sailing yet. It will be a difficult task to interrupt the economic chain of profit from the organs of executed criminals. In recent years, the number of approvals for China's death penalty has dropped, meaning that the number of organs available from executed prisoners has declined sharply.

Meanwhile, there are six million natural deaths in China every year. Even if just 1% of those people donated their organs, it could benefit 60,000 people, more or less meeting current clinical needs.

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Where Imperialism Goes To Die: Lessons From Afghanistan To Ukraine

With multilateral diplomacy in tatters, the fighting gumption of weaker states against aggression by bigger powers is helping end the age of empires.

Man walking past an anti-Putin graffiti on a destroyed wall in

Man walking past an anti-Putin graffiti in Arkhanhelske, near Kherson, Ukraine

Andrés Hoyos


BOGOTÁ — Just a century ago, imperialism was alive and kicking. Today, the nasty habit of marching into other countries is moribund, as can be seen from the plains of Ukraine.

The invasion was part of President Vladimir Putin's decades-long dream of restoring the Russian empire or the Soviet Union, for which he would resort to genocide if need be, like his communist predecessors. Only this time, the targeted victim turned out to be too big a mouthful.

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When Putin leaves, sooner or later, with his tail between his legs, this will have been a sorry end to one of the last illusions of empire — unless, of course, China tries a similar move down the line.

This isn't the only imperialist endeavor to have failed in recent decades (and it has, when you think Putin thought his armies would sweep into Kyiv within days). Afghanistan resisted two invasions, Iraq was the setting of another imperialist disaster, as was Kuwait, with a bit of help from the Yankee sheriff on that occasion. In fact, besides some rather targeted interventions, one would have to move back several more decades to find an example of "victorious" imperialism, for want of better words. Which is very good news.

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