Sale of organs “illegal” in China after July 2006

In 2006, the government enacted the provisions on the “Entry and Exit of Cadavers,” which officially banned the commercial sale of human organs. [136] However, the 2006 provisions failed to address the harvesting of organs from executed prisoners, leaving the 1984 order intact.[137]

The drafter of the 2006 provisions stated, “The guideline will specifically not mention the use of executed prisoners’ organs, even though it’s the main source of organs in China . . . . The executed prisoners’ organs will not be specifically banned in this guideline or in the coming Human Organ Transplant Rule.”[138]

This new legislation became effective July 1, 2006, banning the sale of human organs, requiring donors to provide written permission for the transplantation of their organs, limiting transplant surgery to certain institutions, compelling an ethics committee to review and approve all transplants in advance, and requiring institutions performing transplant surgery to verify that the organs are from legal sources. [139] The provisions attempt to regulate the transportation of cadavers.[140]

However, the provisions still provide the Chinese government with the ultimate authority on all decisions related to export matters. [141] For example, Article 8 of the provisions states, “It is strictly prohibited to trade in cadavers, and to make use of cadavers to engage in commercial activities.” [142] However, Article 7 states that if Chinese customs officials are presented with a valid certificate issued by the Chinese government to approve the transport of cadavers, the body is released.[143]

In China, enacting legislation does not mean enforcing it.[144]

In China today, the reality is that the abstract principle of law is often corrupted by the wish for personal gain or the interests of the Communist Party. [145] It has been reported that organs are still being sold following this 2006 legislation.[146]

After the legislation was passed, researchers called two hospitals in Beijing pretending to need a kidney transplant. [147] Both hospitals offered kidneys on the spot. [148] In another example, undercover investigative reporters for the BBC were informed by hospital staff at No 1 Central Hospital in Tianjin that they could receive a liver for transplant for the price of $94,400 USD within three weeks. [149] Furthermore, the chief surgeon confirmed that the donor might be an executed prisoner because of the surplus of organs from the anticipated increase in executions before China’s National Day.[150]

Organ transplant professionals have said that the new rules do affect field operations. [151] One website noted that as of August 19, 2007, the Chinese government had approved 164 hospitals to perform organ transplant surgeries.[152]

China’s disguise of its organ harvesting from the international community

When China issued the “Temporary Rules Concerning the Utilization of Corpses or Organs from the Corpses of Executed Prisoners,” it urged everyone involved to be particularly careful about keeping the process a secret to avoid possible political repercussions. [153] China admitted that it decided to take efforts to stop illegal organ transplants because of international pressures with the upcoming the 2008 Olympic Games.[154]

Moreover, the Chinese Medical Association’s vice-chairman cited “huge international pressure” leading up to the Olympics as the reason for the crackdown. [155] The Chinese government addressed the issue of human rights when Beijing was awarded the Olympics in 2001. [156]These concerns were mirrored by the International Olympic Committee. [157]

However, some argue that by allowing China to host the Olympic Games in Beijing, the international community has given China a sense of impunity regarding its well-known human rights violations.[158]

In 2007, presumably in response to criticism of China’s human rights policies, China’s State Council enacted legislation that made it illegal to profit from the sale of human organs, harvest human organs without proper consent, and collect organs from donors under the age of 18. [159]However, the lack of transparency within China’s organ transplant system prevents any outside oversight or regulation.[160]

Next week: Corruption Within the Chinese Communist Party and How That Impacts Death Penalty Executions in China

[136]Hemphill, supra note 29, at 445.
[137] Id.
[138] Allison, supra note 68, slide 66

[139] Matas & Kilgour, supra note 46, at 36.
[140] Hemphill, supra note 29, at 449.
[141] Id.
[142] Id.
[143] Id. at 450.
[144] Bloody, supra note 67, at 23.
[145] Robert H. Lin, Ph.D., On the Nature of Criminal Law and the Problem of Corruption in the People’s Republic of China: Some Theoretical Considerations, 10 N.Y.L. SCH. J. INT’L & COMP. L. 1, 9 (1989).
[146] Repression, supra note 10, at 11.
[147] Bloody, supra note 67, at 23.
[148] Id. .

[149]Repression, supra note 10, at 11.
[150] Id.
[151] Allison, supra note 68, slide 63.
[152] Id. slide 72.
[153] Brown, supra note 1, at 1075.
[154]Mary-Anne Toy, Olympic Jitter behind China’s Organ Pledge, THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, Oct. 10, 2007, ¶ 1, available at (last visited July 30, 2008).
[155] Id. ¶ 7.
[156] Repression, supra note 10, at 2.
[157] Id.
[158] Bloody, supra note 67, at 8.
[159] Anita Chang, China Limits Organ Transplants for Foreigners, ASSOCIATED PRESS, July 3, 2007, ¶¶ 8-9, available at (last visited July 30, 2008).
[160] Id. ¶ 9.