China to attend Vatican organ trafficking meeting

Beijing, Holy See exchanges promoting mutual respect

Chinese scholars will join an anti-organ trafficking conference in the Vatican on Monday and Tuesday, to share the country’s experience and boost people-to-people exchanges between Beijing and the Vatican.

This is the second time China has been invited by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (PAS) to attend a meeting in the Holy See, as China’s reforms on organ transplant have increasingly received papal and global recognition.

China will present its effort to combat organ trafficking and progress on organ donation and transplants at the Vatican meeting, said Wang Haibo, head of China’s official organ distribution system, China Organ Transplant Response System (COTRS), who also attended a similar PAS global summit in February last year.

“China will call on joint efforts to eradicate organ trafficking, as it’s a global challenge,” he said.

Wang is expected to deliver a 10-minute speech on the dimensions and solutions to organ trafficking on Monday.

China also expects to share its experience on promoting ethical and sustainable organ donation and transplants in countries along the Belt and Road initiative with a global task force proposed to the World Health Organization last year. More than 40 countries expressed interest and support for the effort, said experts.

In 2017, more than 5,100 deceased Chinese citizens had voluntarily agreed to donate their organs after death, saving, or improving the lives of more than 16,000 people, according to official data obtained by the Global Times on Sunday.

China criminalized unauthorized trading of organs in 2011, a crime for which the death penalty can be handed down in severe cases. From 2007 to 2016, 174 people were arrested in China for organ trafficking.

All donated organs in China are distributed via the COTRS system and anyone who interferes or bypass the system will be disqualified from participating in healthcare and investigated for criminal responsibility.

Beyond health exchange

Wang told the Global Times on Sunday that the exchanges between China and the Vatican reached beyond the health sector, and contact in cultural and scientific fields have brought the two sides closer.

The Vatican’s passion and respect for Chinese culture could be strongly felt during the trips, he said.

“Relations between Beijing and the Vatican authorities are moving forward, so are relations between the two peoples,” said Huang Jiefu, former Chinese vice-minister of health and current head of the National Human Organ Donation and Transplant Committee.

Huang also attended the February meeting at the Vatican, where he shared information about China’s reforms that included a ban on the use of organs from executed prisoners in 2015.

The exchanges have helped address global challenges such as organ trafficking and climate change, said Wang.

“The exchanges are beneficial to world peace and are also beneficial to people from the two sides,” Huang told the Global Times on Sunday.

“It also creates good momentum to expand contact beyond the health sector to cultural and other areas,” said Huang.

China and the Vatican have no diplomatic relations. Lately there has been widespread speculation the two sides are close to a consensus on the appointment of bishops in China, a positive sign for improving relations between Beijing and the Vatican.