“I wanted to buy an iPad 2, but I didn’t have the money,” the boy told Shenzhen TV in the southern province of Guangdong, “When I surfed the internet I found an advert posted online by agent saying they were able to pay RMB20,000 to buy a kidney.” After negotiations, the boy travelled north to the city of Chenzhou in Hunan Province where the kidney was removed at a local hospital which discharged him after three days, paying a total of RMB22,000 for the organ.
Trading organs online is a common practice in China, despite repeated attempts by China’s government to stamp out the practice. Last year Japanese television reported that a group of “transplant tourists” had paid £50,000 to receive new kidneys in China.
According to official statistics more than a million people in China need a transplant every year, but fewer than 10,000 receive organs, driving an almost unstoppable black-market organ trade that enriches brokers, doctors and corrupt government officials.
The boy, who has suffered complications following the surgery, returned home but was unable to keep what he had done from his mother.
“When he came back, he had a laptop and a new Apple handset,” his mother, identified as Miss Liu, told the station, showing off the livid red scar where her son’s kidney was removed, “I wanted to know how he had got so much money and he finally confessed that he had sold one of his kidneys.”
The mother took the son back to Chenzhou to report the crime to the police, however, the mobiles of the three agents that Zheng had contacted were all switched off.
The hospital, which admitted contracting out its urology department to a private businessman, denied any knowledge of the surgery.
The case, which caused an online furore, was cited by some as an extreme example of the rampant materialism of modern China.
Thousands of comments were posted on internet discussion groups, with many lamenting the lack of rule of law in China and the “immorality” of the new, ‘capitalist’ China.
“This is a failure of education, the first purpose of which is to ‘propagate morality’,” said one comment on Hong Kong’s Phoenix TV website, “This teenager’s stupid behaviour is a manifestation of his radically materialistic values.” “To sell a kidney in order to buy consumer goods? What vanity!” added another, “It is undeniable that modern Chinese teenagers’ morality is declining. This is something we must all think about.”
Apple products like the iPhone and the iPad are in huge demand in China, and are seen as a badge of wealth and sophistication by young consumers.
Last month scuffles broke out among desperate shoppers outside several Beijing Apple Stores as they queued to buy the newly launched iPad2 and white iPhone4.