China to Expand Donation Pilot Amidst Organ Harvesting Claims

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Chinese authorities are pushing for an expansion of its organ donation system, as global condemnation grows over allegations of forced organ harvesting by state-run hospitals.

Zhao Baige, the executive vice-president of the Red Cross Society of China, announced the expansion plans on Monday. He said that since a pilot program began in March 2010, 1,804 organs were procured from 659 deceased donors. That's an average of just over 200 donors, and around 600 organs per year. Officially, Chinese hospitals carry out 10,000 transplants annually.

The source of organs in China have long been controversial. After denying it uses executed criminals , the Chinese regime admitted to this practice in 2009.

But the allegations go beyond using executed criminals. As early as the 1990's, Chinese authorities have been accused of harvesting organs from Uyghur prisoners. Then, in 2006, claims surfaced that large numbers of persecuted Falun Gong adherents have been killed for their organs.

The Chinese regime has denied the forced organ harvesting allegations, but has yet to provide exact figures to explain where the organs come from.

State-run People's Daily reports that Vice-Minister Huang Jiefu expects more donations to come once the current pilot program goes nationwide by the end of the year. But the success of the program is far from certain. Past efforts to implement a voluntary donation system have almost failed. Chinese culturally believe that the body should remain intact, even after death.

Under the pilot program, Zhao Baige says offices have been set up to approach potential organ donors. Officials will talk with them or family members, asking for them to consent to donating their organs after death.

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