Authorities have indicted five people in central China for involvement in illegal organ trading after a teenager sold one of his kidneys to buy an iPhone and an iPad.
The case has prompted an outpouring of concern that not enough is being done to guard against the negative impact of increasing consumerism in Chinese society, particularly among young people who have grown up with more creature comforts than the generations before them.
Prosecutors in the city of Chenzhou charged the suspects with intentional injury for organizing the removal and transplant of a kidney from a 17-year-old high school student surnamed Wang, the official Xinhua News Agency said late Friday.
A woman on duty Saturday at the Chenzhou Beihu District People’s Procuratorate in Hunan province confirmed that prosecutors are handling the case and that the defendants are facing charges of intentional injury.
She refused to give her name and referred further questions to the city-level procuratorate’s media office, where phone calls rang unanswered.
The defendants include a surgeon, a hospital contractor, and brokers who looked for donors online and leased an operating room to conduct the procedure, Xinhua said.
It said about 1.5 million people in China need organ transplants, but that only about 10,000 transplants are performed each year, fueling the illegal trade in organs.
Xinhua described one of the defendants named He Wei as being broke and frustrated over gambling debts. It said he asked another defendant to look for organ donors in online chat rooms and someone else to lease an operating room for the transplant, which took place in April last year.
He received 220,000 yuan ($35,000) for the transplant, gave the student 22,000 yuan ($3,500) and shared the remaining money with the other defendants and several medical staff involved in the operation, Xinhua said.
When the student returned home, he was asked how he could afford a new iPhone and an iPad and he told his mother that he sold one of his kidneys, the report said.
The Southern Daily newspaper reported last month that other individuals have sold, or seriously considered selling, their kidneys to earn money for reasons that included paying off large debts, making a payment on a smartphone, or paying for an abortion for a girlfriend.
“Without facing complete hardship, these young people born after the 1990s made rash decisions. In the choice between their bodies and materialism, they resolutely chose the latter,” the official Communist Party newspaper Guangming Daily said in an editorial late last month about the Southern Daily report.
“In today’s society where desires are infinite and demands are boundless … blindly competing with others in the pursuit of high-end ‘technology’ will gradually ruin lives,” it said.