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HANGZHOU - China has pledged to abolish the practice of taking transplant human organs from condemned prisoners within three to five years, a senior health official said Thursday.
China is creating a national organ donation system to reduce its reliance on organ donations from death row inmates and encourage donations from the public, Huang Jiefu, vice minister of health, told a conference in east China's city of Hangzhou.
To achieve this goal, trial systems have been launched in 16 of the Chinese mainland's 31 provincial-level regions, Huang said.
"The pledge to abolish organ donations from condemned prisoners represents the resolve of the government," he said.
Health officials have said insufficient organ donations by the public mean that the majority of transplanted organs in China come from executed prisoners - but only with prior consent.
Statistics from the Ministry of Health show that about 1.5 million people in China need transplants, but only some 10,000 transplants are performed annually.
China has advocated the prudent use of the death penalty over recent years, which has led to a decrease in organ donations from condemned prisoners.
"Such changes have posed challenges for the traditional Chinese way of transplanting organs," Huang said.
He also said that fungal infection rates and bacterial infection rates for condemned prisoners' organs are usually very high; therefore, the long-term survival rates for people with transplanted organs in China are always below those of people in other countries.
China has been making efforts to improve its regulations on organ transplants.
Earlier in 2007, China's State Council, or cabinet, issued its first regulations on human organ transplants, banning organizations and individuals from trading human organs in any form.
A revision to China's Criminal Law, which the top legislature adopted in February of last year, marked the first time for authorities to single out criminal activity related to transactions involving human organs.
Criminals convicted of "forced organ removal, forced organ donation or organ removal from juveniles" could face homicide charges as a result of the revision.
People who are convicted of organizing illegal organ sales could receive a maximum prison sentence of five years and a fine, while more serious cases could result in longer sentences.