Beijing (China Daily/ANN) - As the first case of trafficking in human organs in Nanjing, capital of East China's Jiangsu province, was unearthed recently, Chinese legal experts and judges are calling for more specific judicial definitions to aid their work.
People who organize the sale of human organs will face a criminal penalty, under the eighth amendment to the Criminal Law, which took effect on May 1.
Zhu Ling, a prosecutor at the Yuhuatai District People's Procuratorate in Nanjing, told China Daily on Friday (May 6) that prosecutors have approved the arrest of a human-organ trafficking suspect, surnamed Su, who is accused of organizing illegal transplants at least seven times from 2008 to March this year.
"Su is the first person arrested on a charge of human organ trafficking in Nanjing," Zhu said.
The prosecutors claimed that in 2009, Su came in contact through the Internet with Zhang Jie (alias), who owed 80,000 yuan ($12,320) to his company and wanted to sell his kidney to repay the money. Su allegedly brought him to different cities across China to find a recipient.
In July, Su and Zhang found a recipient in Wenzhou, in East China's Zhejiang province. Su agreed to pay Zhang 60,000 yuan for one kidney.
According to prosecutors, Zhang got only 40,000 yuan from Su after the transplant. Su received 100,000 yuan from the recipient, prosecutors said.
By the time, Su was arrested in Jinan of East China's Shandong province in March, prosecutors said, he had found more than 10 donors like Zhang and brokered seven illegal organ transplants.
"The reason some agents can organize illegal organ transplants for financial gain lies in the loopholes in the current laws and regulations," said Tang Hongxin, a Beijing-based lawyer at the Yingke Law Firm.
Criminals convicted of illegal organ trade could be charged with the crime of intentional bodily harm (IBH), under the newly amended criminal law.
According to Article 234, a person convicted of IBH can be sentenced to prison for up to three years, criminal detention or public surveillance. In cases of severe bodily harm, the offender faces a sentence of three to 10 years in prison.
Cases resulting in death(s) or "severe bodily injury resulting in severe deformity by especially cruel means", are punishable by prison terms of 10 years to life, or the death sentence, Article 234 says.
"But the definition of 'organizing' is vague, and it is also hard to define the 'aggravating circumstances', because the laws lack clear explanation," Tang said.
"Previously, cases like Su's led to convictions of illegal operation and the sentences were relatively light," Zhang Peng, a judge at Beijing Haidian District People's Court who in last September heard the first human-organ trafficking case in the country, told China Daily.
"Since May 1, offenders can be convicted of organizing organ trades, but the lack of judicial interpretations and the insufficient trial precedents still pose difficulties for the judicial practice," Zhang said.
In addition, due to huge gap between supply and demand, irregularities and crimes have abounded amid the life-saving medical procedures, he said.
"The holes in the supervision in the hospitals also provide opportunities for some agencies to get huge illegal profits by organizing organ trafficking," he said.
In the latest case, a 26-year-old man named Hu Jie had one of his kidneys illegally removed and sold at an uncertified hospital in Shanxi province for 27,000 yuan.
The hospital staff members involved were arrested and the hospital was ordered by local health authorities to suspend operations, previous reports said.
China's Ministry of Health launched a nationwide campaign on April 18 to crack down on illegal organ harvesting and transplants.
The campaign, which will continue until the end of 2011, targets mainly illegal organ transplants performed by medical institutions without authorization, the ministry said in a circular, vowing "harsh punishment" and zero tolerance for violators.
Currently, 1.5 million Chinese need transplants each year, but only 10,000 can obtain a suitable organ because of the shortage of organ donations.
The Red Cross Society of China and the ministry jointly launched a nationwide voluntary organ donation and allocation system last year, which would work to facilitate public willingness to donate organs after death.