May 25, 2024


A leading Chinese social scientist has praised his country’s efforts to create and implement bioethical standards for research involving human subjects. Qiu Renzong, of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, in Beijing, says that new principles adopted in January “successfully fit ethical review within the country’s own laws and regulations while also abiding by international bioethical principles. They clearly state that the process of ethical review should be independent, objective, just and transparent.”

Mr Qiu says that some of his countrymen wanted to do their research without constraints in order to catch up to more developed countries and ethicists. But, he says, this is both wrong and dangerous. Wrong, because ethics do not necessarily impede progress; and dangerous because science could lose public support if it tramples on ethics. Interestingly, the ethical principles he praises seem to be a fusion of Confucian principles with American pragmatism — not Marxism.

A shrill opponent of the regime, the Epoch Times newspaper, which is supported by the Falun Gong, points out that vast swathes of Chinese medicine are exempt from bioethical regulation. It is particularly concerned about military hospitals where, it claims, executed prisoners and Falun Gong practitioners are being stripped of their organs to treat wealthy Taiwanese.

It claims that record-keeping for organ transplants in these hospitals is very poor. Many of the patients use fake names and addresses and it appears that all organ transplant records in Chinese hospitals are destroyed. If true, this would make it difficult for the government to monitor whether or not high-sounding ethical principles are being observed.