Organ traffickers may get death penalty

08:20, February 24, 2011      

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Criminals convicted of forcefully removing organs will be eligible for the death penalty under a draft law amendment being reviewed by the top legislature.

The amendment, submitted on Wednesday to the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee for a third reading, stipulates that criminals convicted of "forced organ removal, forced organ donation or organ removal from juveniles" could face punishment for homicide.

Under Article 232 of the Criminal Law, a person found guilty of homicide faces either a death sentence, life imprisonment or a fixed-term imprisonment of not less than 10 years.

However, in the draft submitted for a second reading, reviewed by legislators in December 2010, criminals involved in the illegal organ trade could only be charged with the crime of intentional bodily harm (IBH).

According to Article 234, a criminal convicted of IBH can be sentenced to either a jail term of no more than three years, criminal detention or public surveillance. In the case of severe bodily injury, the culprit shall be sentenced to a jail term of not less than three years and no more than 10 years.

Only when the criminal causes death(s) or "severe bodily injury resulting in severe deformity by especially cruel means", can he be sentenced to jail terms of not less than 10 years, life imprisonment or death, Article 234 says.

Qin Xiyan, an NPC deputy and a Hunan-based lawyer, said forced organ removal should fall under the category of intentional killing because it may result in death.

Liu Renwen, a researcher at the Institute of Law under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told China Daily on Wednesday that it is necessary to include the illegal organ trade in the Criminal Law.

He said the black market in the trade has been booming "both inside and outside the country" in recent years.

"Some poor people sell their own organs for a small amount of money. Although it might be voluntary, they are not aware of the health risks," Liu said. "What's more, the illegal organ trade is harmful to society as a whole."

The amendment will help deter potential criminals, as it shows the government's determination to crack down on the illegal trade, Liu said.

Until recently, criminals convicted of forced organ removal were sentenced on a charge of illegal business operation, since there is no specific offence covering the act in the Criminal Law. Last August, the crime of forced organ removal was included in the first draft of an amendment to the Criminal Law for legislative review.

Last September, Beijing's Haidian district people's court heard the country's first case concerning illegal sales of human organs, in which two criminals were sentenced to four years in jail and were each fined 100,000 yuan ($15,200) for illegal business operation.

In Beijing earlier this month, 31-year-old Liu Yunlu from Hebei province and 25-year-old Dong Binggang from Shaanxi were charged with conducting an illegal business operation for trafficking in human organs.

About 10,000 organ transplants are carried out each year on the Chinese mainland. It is estimated that around 1.3 million people are waiting for a transplant.

The huge gap between supply and demand has led to the emergence of the illegal organ trade, the Beijing-based Procuratorial Daily reported.

To better manage organ donation and prevent illegal trafficking, Qin suggested punishing hospitals and doctors who deal with traffickers.

If the latest draft amendment to the Criminal Law is passed at the bimonthly meeting of the NPC Standing Committee, which will last until Friday, it will come into force on May 1.

Cao Yin contributed to this story.

By Zhao Yinan, China Daily
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