Wednesday, September 21, 2005

No Skin Off My Nose

Wow! I missed this item.
A Chinese cosmetics company is using skin harvested from the corpses of executed convicts to develop beauty products for sale in Europe, an investigation by the Guardian has discovered.

Steve has the story, excerpt at The Word Unheard , full story at Blue State Conservatives. He examines this practice, and others, equating them with the Nazis harvesting gold fillings, organs, and skin (for lampshades!) from executed Jews during World War II, making a case that China is a Moral Adversary to the United States. A must read.

In an update, he adds excerpts from the testimony of Wang Guoqi, a former doctor at a PLA hospital, before a House subcommittee hearing on renewal of normal trade relations with China in 2001:

My involvement in harvesting the skin from prisoners began while performing research on cadavers at the Beijing People's Liberation Army Surgeons Advanced Studies School, in Beijing's 304th Hospital. This hospital is directly subordinate to the PLA, and so connections between doctors and officers were very close. In order to secure a corpse from the execution grounds, security officers and court units were given "red envelopes" with cash amounting to anywhere between 200-500 RMB per corpse. Then, after execution, the body would be rushed to the autopsy room rather than the crematorium, and we would extract skin, kidneys, livers, bones, and corneas for research and experimental purposes. I learned the process of preserving human skin and tissue for burn victims, and skin was subsequently sold to needy burn victims for 10 RMB per square centimeter.

After completing my studies in Beijing, and returning to Tianjin's Paramilitary Police General Brigade Hospital, I assisted hospital directors Liu Lingfeng and Song Heping in acquiring the necessary equipment to build China's first skin and tissue storehouse. Soon afterward, I established close ties with Section Chief Xing, a criminal investigator of the Tianjin Higher People's Court.

Acquiring skin from executed prisoners usually took place around major holidays or during the government's Strike Hard campaigns, when prisoners would be executed in groups. Section Chief Xing would notify us of upcoming executions. We would put an order in for the number of corpses we'd like to dissect, and I would give him 300 RMB per cadaver. The money exchange took place at the Higher People's Court, and no receipts or evidence of the transaction would be exchanged.

Once notified of an execution, our section would prepare all necessary equipment and arrive at the Beicang Crematorium in plain clothes with all official license plates on our vehicles replaced with civilian ones. This was done on orders of the criminal investigation section. Before removing the skin, we would cut off the ropes that bound the criminals' hands and remove their clothing. Each criminal had identification papers in his or her pocket that detailed the executee's name, age, profession, work unit, address, and crime. Nowhere on these papers was there any mention of voluntary organ donation, and clearly the prisoners did not know how their bodies would be used after death.

We had to work quickly in the crematorium, and 10-20 minutes were generally enough to remove all skin from a corpse. Whatever remained was passed over to the crematorium workers. Between five and eight times a year, the hospital would send a number of teams to execution sites to harvest skin. Each team could process up to four corpes, and they would take as much as was demanded by both our hospital and fraternal hospitals. Because this system allowed us to treat so many burn victims, our department became the most reputable and profitable department in Tianjin.

Doesn't sound like the type of people we would want to do business with, as was quickly pointed out by most of his commenters.

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