China organ trafficking network smashed in crackdown
A major organ trafficking ring has been dismantled by Chinese police, with 137 people arrested, including 18 doctors who performed illegal operations on their impoverished victims.
Some 127 "organ suppliers" were also rescued, according to news agency Xinhua.
The operation took place in late July but was only made public over the weekend.
Organ trafficking was outlawed in China in 2007 and declared a crime last year, but the illegal trade continues to boom particularly in kidneys.
According to government, 1.5 million Chinese patients require transplants each year but only 10,000 legally approved transplants take place.
In March, Huang Jiefu, China's vice health minister, said that a lack of organ donors meant that most legally transplanted organs came from prisoners who had been executed.
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
The investigation saw police uncover a nationwide network of organ traffickers who recruited would-be donors online before arranging illegal organ transplants that were, in some cases, carried out under duress.
"The suspects usually used fake identities to recruit healthy candidates from the internet and put them under secret confinement separated from the outside world," a Ministry of Security statement said.
In 2011 a man from Shijiazhuang was charged with organ trafficking after illegally imprisoning his victims and selling their kidneys for 150,000 yuan (€19,000).
"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'.
In a separate development yesterday, Chinese police detained almost 2,000 people in a nationwide sweep on fake drugs, seizing more than $180m (€145m) worth of counterfeit products and destroying some 1,100 production facilities, the public security ministry said.
The operation, involving 18,000 police officers, discovered fake or adulterated drugs purporting to deal with illnesses ranging from diabetes to high blood pressure and rabies.
The government has repeatedly promised to tighten regulatory systems after safety scandals involving fish, drugs, toys, toothpaste, children's clothes, tyres, drugs and milk fortified with melamine, used in the manufacture of tabletops.
Earlier this year, Chinese consumers recoiled at stories of drug capsules tainted with chromium, which can cause serious organ damage.
The ministry called on consumers to only use above board pharmacies and not "easily believe advertisements". (© Daily Telegraph, London)