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Illegal Blood Dealers Eye Students in Shanghai

Five men went on trial in Shanghai this week for using the Internet to recruit people, mainly middle-school students, to sell their blood.

The Yangpu District People's Court began hearing the case, the first of its kind in the city, on Monday.

Prosecutors told the court that the men, who range in age from 21 to 49, recruited more than 100 people to sell their blood between November 2001 and May 2003, earning themselves more than 100,000 yuan (US$12,048).

Prosecutors accused them of illegally organizing others to sell blood. According to China's Criminal Law, illegal blood dealers face a maximum penalty of five years in jail if convicted.

In China, apart from volunteer blood donation, the government also sets quotas for some businesses and organizations to guarantee the blood supply for medical use.

 Although companies promise to give compensation and holidays to donors, many employees refuse to give blood out of fear that it will harm their health.

As a result, Meng Guangtai and Zheng Jianlong, who headed the group, contacted several enterprises offering to supply replacement donors for them in exchange for 1,100 yuan (US$132) for every 200 milliliters of blood.

The other members of the gang recruited donors by posting an ad on the Internet promising them 800 yuan (US$96) for every 400 milliliters of blood they donate.

After receiving tips about the gang's activities, police in Yangpu District caught the dealers at a blood donation center in Pudong New Area in May.

To their surprise, most of the blood sellers were middle-school students, who wanted to make a few extra yuan to play computer games.

"My parents give me money every month," said a student surnamed Huang, " but when I saw the ad, I thought it was a good deal as 800 yuan can let me play games for two months."

The youngsters would disguise themselves as company employees and use fake donation cards and company certificates to fool nurses at the donation centers, prosecutors said.

Police say blood center employees will be held responsible for not scrutinizing the youngsters.

"We surely will severely punish the blood dealers. But the blood administration should also take effective measures to confirm identities of blood donors," said Chen Qirong, a prosecutor in Yangpu.

(eastday.com January 7, 2004)

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