Chinese police said Saturday that 137 suspects had been arrested in the latest crackdown on human organ trafficking, amid intense pressure on finding sufficient donors through official channels.
The operation was jointly conducted by 18 provincial police authorities in late July, who also rescued 127 organ suppliers, according to a statement from the Ministry of Public Security on Saturday.
In spring 2007, China's central government issued its first national level regulations on human organ transplants, banning organizations and individuals from trading human organs in any form.
The 2011 amendments to China's Criminal Law also introduced three clauses dedicated to organ-related crimes, under which convicted organizers of organ trafficking may face prison terms of more than five years and fines.
According to The Sun Daily, the Ministry of Public Security issued a report claiming the suspects recruited donors through the internet:
“The suspects usually used forged identities to recruit healthy candidates from the Internet and put them under secret confinement separated from the outside world,” it said.
“The suspects sought patients in need of organ transplants from hospitals or the Internet and matched them with healthy donors.”
The crackdown on traffickers comes after state media reported in April that a teenage high-school student sold a kidney for an illicit transplant operation and used the proceeds to buy an iPhone and iPad.
The 17-year-old boy, who was paid 22,000 yuan ($3,500), was recruited from an online chatroom. The Xinhua news agency said at the time the boy was suffering from kidney failure and in deteriorating health.
Despite plans for the launch of China’s new organ donation system, there is still a shortage in legally approved transplants, from The Telegraph:
According to government figures some 1.5 million Chinese patients require transplants each year but only 10,000 legally approved transplants take place.
Security officials said they had first been alerted to the trafficking ring in April and began focusing their attention on Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei province, which has been the focus of previous anti-trafficking operations.
In early 2011 an unemployed man from Shijiazhuang was charged with organ trafficking after being accused of illegally imprisoning his victims and selling their kidneys for 150,000 yuan or around £15,000.
“They were free during the daytime and could wander around the residential area or stay at home to use the computers,” the man, named as Liu Yunlu, told the China Daily at the time.