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Chinese authorities execute more people than any other country. And one of the most controversial practices is the harvesting of organs from death row inmates. But according to a top Communist Party official, that practice may be coming to an end within five years.
China's Vice Minister of Health says the country will abolish harvesting organs from executed prisoners within three to five years.
Vice Minister of Health Huang Jiefu made the announcement at a conference on Thursday, saying a national organ donation system would be set up to replace the lost source of organs for transplants. Huang says that high bacterial infection rates among prisoners make their organs less than suitable for people who receive the organs.
According to The World website, 10,000 transplants are performed in China each year, with two-thirds coming from executed prisoners.
But it's not yet clear how authorities would change China's cultural resistance to donating organs.
Huang told the state-run Xinhua News Agency it is "the traditional Chinese way" to harvest organs from executed prisoners, and says the move away from such a practice would pose "challenges."
Earlier this month, Professor Arthur Caplan, head of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, said Huang might have confirmed the Chinese regime has been harvesting organs from imprisoned Falun Gong practitioners as part of the regime's persecution of the spiritual practice.