Twenty young men lured into selling their kidneys were rescued by police as they waited to be operated on.
Each year, about 1.5 million Chinese patients need organ transplants, while fewer than 1 percent can receive surgery because of a serious shortage of organs. [File photo]
Police in Changzhou in eastern China's Jiangsu Province said yesterday that they had come across the men when they busted four organ-trafficking rings and seized 16 suspects.
One of the rings, led by a man surnamed Wei, had advertised online seeking people who were in desperate need of money.
They provided accommodation for people willing to sell one of their kidneys, arranged health checks for them and contacted buyers and transplant surgeons, also via the Internet, police said.
Before the arrests, the ring had made 12 deals, including sending one man from Yangzhou, also in Jiangsu, to Indonesia to have surgery.
Each year, about 1.5 million Chinese patients need organ transplants, while fewer than 1 percent can receive surgery because of a serious shortage of organs.
The organ shortage and restrictions on transplants create the opportunity for a lucrative black market in the sale of organs to flourish.
The sums said to be involved are such that many young people are attracted to the idea of making easy money by selling one of their kidneys. There have been reports of youngsters going through an operation so they could buy an iPad or iPhone.
In reality, such "donors" usually only get a small sum of money, while putting their health at great risk. Most of the money is earned by agents and other people in the chain.
In an article, Huang Jiefu, China's vice health minister, wrote that about 65 percent of transplant operations in China used organs from deceased donors, most of whom were executed prisoners.
The remaining 35 percent of organs came from living donors, but these were only available to relatives.
"Unfortunately, due to extreme demand for the organs, limited supply and huge profits, an illegal trade in human organs from living donors has emerged in China," Huang wrote.