Leading organ transplant experts are calling for international efforts to combat organ transplant tourism. They also dispelled rumors that China is using organs harvested from Falun Gong practitioners and other prisoners.
Wang Haibo, Deputy Secretary of the China Organ Transplant Development Foundation, said at a conference hosted by the foundation in Beijing on Tuesday that China banned foreigner from receiving deceased organ transplant in China in 2007, but international society needs more extensive global collaboration to effectively combat transplant tourism.
"Organs are scarce resources and we need to protect the interests of Chinese patients," Wang said.
Wang's remarks were echoed by Campbell Fraser, an international organ trafficking researcher from Australia, who said that one of his concerns is how to stop foreigners from buying human organs in China.
"If a Chinese person donates organs, they should go to a Chinese person," Fraser said.
Fraser told the Global Times that foreigners are now primarily traveling to Egypt and Pakistan to buy organs, as some Syrian refugees sold their kidneys in Egypt for their trip to Europe.
Former health vice minister Huang Jiefu told the Xinhua News Agency previously that hundreds of foreigners used to come to China every year for transplant tourism before the Chinese government banned the practice in 2007.
Forum participants also dispelled rumors spread by Falun Gong, an organization China considers is a cult, that China is using organs harvested from its practitioners.
"The Falun Gong has never stopped using the rumor of 'organ harvesting' for the past 10 years … the so-called organ harvesting is based on a story fabricated by its members or hearsay … it aims to tarnish China's image, fool the international community and hide its nature as a dangerous cult," said a statement sent by the China Anti-Cult Association to the Global Times on Tuesday.
"A number of Western politicians, academics and lawyers have used Falun Gong for their political objectives against the Chinese government … Saying China had used prisoners' organs, is their way of claiming those executed were Falun Gong practitioners, and this is nonsense," said Fraser.
In 2015, China banned the use of executed prisoners' organs for transplantation.
"These people have no interest in helping others … They're only interested in winning global support for their campaign against China," Fraser said, adding that the international transplant community should include China in the discussions.
Fraser also suggested that China should share its organ transplantation research results with the international community.
Chinese representatives, including Huang, were invited for the first time to the Pontifical Academy Summit (PAS) on Organ Trafficking and Transplant Tourism at the Vatican in February.
Fraser said the invitation offers the world a glimpse of China's "comprehensive transformation process that is showing positive results."
Wang told the Global Times on Tuesday that the number of organ transplant activities in China in 2015 was 10,057, or 8.38 percent of the worldwide total.
The data was consistent with that which China submitted to the World Health Organization, Wang said, noting that "China is just as transparent on [organ transplantation] as the rest of the world."
Wang said China has established the human organ allocation and sharing computer system, often referred to as the China Organ Transplantation Response System (COTRS), which requires all organ donors to pass through the COTRS allocation, ensuring that the allocation of organ donations is scientific, efficient and fair.
Wang also noted that China has also cracked down on violations of organ transplantation regulations and laws, given priority to medical personnel carrying organs for transplant purposes during check-in and security checks at airports, and encouraged people to register as organ donors.
Nearly 220,000 people have registered as organ donors in China as of March, and the number is expected to rise with the help internet technologies, according to the China Organ Donation Administrative Center.
Newspaper headline: Experts call for international efforts against organ tourism