Human rights activists said Tuesday that a thriving black market in body parts for transplantation has been illuminated by the arrests of two men on charges of trying to illegally sell organs from executed Chinese prisoners.
The two men, Cheng Yong Wang - who told undercover investigators he had been a prosecutor on Hainan Island in China - and Xingqi Fu - a Chinese citizen living in New York - were seized after meeting with an FBI agent posing as a medical executive.
The undercover agent said he was interested in receiving corneas, kidneys, pancreases, livers, lungs, skin and other organs.
According to court papers, Wang, 41, signed two contracts making him responsible for coordinating with relevant Chinese government agencies and hospitals in securing organs for transplants and would receive a commission amounting to 25 percent of the total cost of each transplant case.
Prosecutors charged that Fu, 35, planned to smuggle corneas into the United States for sale to physicians.
Prosecutors said that earlier in February, prior to a Feb. 20 meeting with the government operative, Wang conferred in a New York hotel room with Harry Wu, a well-known human rights activist who then acted as a government informant. Wang allegedly said he was interested in selling kidneys from executed Chinese prisoners.
“Wang went into business a long time ago,” the human rights activist charged. “His position is prosecutor. He supervised executions, controlled execution sites.”
Sidney Jones, executive director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch, said that if the charges prove true, “it indicates the organ trade has established itself in the United States.
“This is a practice that has been going on for a long time. Most of the patients have been from Hong Kong and Taiwan where they have been willing to pay a large sum of money to go to China to get the organ transplants,” Jones said. “Now, it is clear, the trade is global.”
In announcing the arrests Monday, U.S. Attorney Jo White said the defendants offered to sell two corneas for $5,000 and Fu had promised the FBI agent that lungs would come from nonsmokers.
“Trafficking and profiteering in human organs is ghoulish, criminal conduct that imperils the most vulnerable,” White said.
Chinese authorities claim that transplants occur only sparingly and only after prisoners who face the death sentence voluntarily agree to donate organs.
This is strongly disputed by Human Rights Watch.
A report issued in 1994 by the group charged that “in recent years, it has become increasingly evident that executed prisoners are the principal source of supply of body organs for medical transplantation purposes in China.”
“The consent of prisoners to use their organs after death, although required by law, appears rarely to be sought,” the report said.
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