BEIJING, Aug. 4 (Xinhua) -- Chinese police said Saturday that 137 suspects had been arrested in the latest crackdown on human organ trafficking, amid intense pressure on finding sufficient donors through official channels.
The operation was jointly conducted by 18 provincial police authorities in late July, who also rescued 127 organ suppliers, according to a statement from the Ministry of Public Security on Saturday.
Police said that the detained suspects illegally recruited suppliers over the Internet, facilitated the deals and made huge profits from the transactions, which had endangered the health of the suppliers and placed a heavy financial burden on the recipients.
Statistics from the Ministry of Health show that about 1.5 million Chinese need organ transplants, but only around 10,000 transplants are performed annually due to a lack of donors.
The huge gap has led to a thriving illegal market for human organs, though the government has repeatedly pledged to improve its regulations on organ transplants and increase organ supply.
In spring 2007, China's central government issued its first national level regulations on human organ transplants, banning organizations and individuals from trading human organs in any form.
The 2011 amendments to China's Criminal Law also introduced three clauses dedicated to organ-related crimes, under which convicted organizers of organ trafficking may face prison terms of more than five years and fines.
Criminals convicted of "forced organ removal, forced organ donation or organ removal from juveniles" could face punishment for homicide, under the law.
To increase the supply of legally harvested organs, Chinese health authorities are building an official network to facilitate organ donations.
Huang Jiefu, vice minister of health, said in late March that insufficient organ donations among the general public resulted in the situation where the majority of transplanted organs came from executed prisoners -- but only with their prior consent.
Huang promised to change the situation in three to five years, by promoting a reliable donation system and encouraging donations from the public.
To achieve that goal, trial systems have been launched in 16 of the Chinese mainland's 31 provincial-level regions since 2010, under which 241 donations had been completed to benefit nearly 700 recipients, said Huang at a separate occasion last month.
However, the public has continued to voiced strong concerns about such a system, according to a March poll conducted among 1,012 residents of Guangzhou, capital of the southern province of Guangdong.
The result shows that 81 percent were worrying that organ donations may result in organ trafficking and 66 percent felt that donors lacked adequate community support.
However, 79 percent of the interviewed considered organ donation "a noble act."