March 1, 2024


After years of rumours, the Chinese government has finally acknowledged that it has been engaged in selling the organs of executed prisoners to medical tourists from abroad. “Apart from a small portion of traffic victims, most of the organs from cadavers are from executed prisoners,” said Deputy Health Minister Huang Jiefu “The current organ donation shortfall can’t meet demand.” New rules will limit transplants to Chinese citizens, which could scupper a thriving market for foreign patients.

China appears to be finding it difficult to establish a consistent policy for organ transplants. On the one hand, according to People’s Daily, 1.5 million Chinese need an organ transplant every year, but only 10,000 receive it. On the other hand, the number of executions may fall by as much as a third because of tighter oversight of the death penalty. No figures are released, but estimates of the number of executions range from 1,800 to 10,000. Where the extra organs are to come from is unclear. In July, a law was passed that all organ sales were to be illegal, but how vigorously this is enforced is impossible to know.