Hong Kong’s leader condemns an unusual increase in the withdrawal of registrations from the organ donation system
HONG KONG — HONG KONG (AP) —
Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee condemned an unusual increase in withdrawal requests to the city’s organ donation system and said on Tuesday that police were investigating suspicious cases.
The city’s centralized organ donation registry has received nearly 5,800 withdrawal requests in the five months since December, when the government raised the possibility of establishing an organ transplant mutual aid program with China, the government said. More than half of withdrawal requests were found to be invalid, either as duplicate requests or from people who never signed up.
At a regular press conference, Lee pointed to those who withdrew their applications without registering, calling the actions suspicious.
“I am happy to condemn those who try to harm this noble system that has saved lives through organ donation,” he said. “This is a shameful act.”
Hong Kong, a former British colony that returned to China in 1997, has a separate system for matching donated organs to patients and no permanent mechanism for sharing cadavers with institutions in mainland China. Cross-border organ transplants are permitted on a case-by-case basis if the situation so warrants.
Hong Kong currently has more than 357,000 registrants in the financial hub, home to 7 million people, in an opt-in system. In both Hong Kong and China, organ donation has been resisted because of the entrenched cultural desire to keep corpses intact.
The government issued a strong statement on Monday, in which it stated that it cannot be ruled out that few people tried to withdraw in order to damage the good reputation of the system and increase the administrative burden. Without naming any platforms or individuals, he noted that some people have distorted the virtues of organ donation with the idea that donors must verify the identity of recipients online. Some also called on others to exit the system, he added.
On Hong Kong’s Reddit-like forum LIHKG, where pro-democracy activists discuss strategies for the 2019 anti-government movement, some users were skeptical of the proposed system. Others have posted a link to unregister.
The Hong Kong government put forward the proposal after a little girl underwent the city’s first transplant with a heart donated from mainland China in December. They said the organ donation program in question could be activated immediately after medical staff were unable to match a donated organ with the right patient.
The political debate over the proposed mutual aid program has reflected some Hong Kongers’ mistrust of China’s health care system and their grievances with Beijing, which has cracked down on the city’s pro-democracy movement with a sweeping national security law.
Hong Kong’s medical standards are among the highest in the world. While China’s healthcare system has improved over the past few decades, many Hong Kongers remain skeptical of its healthcare services. Allegations of forced organ harvesting in China, particularly targeting detained minorities, have further heightened concerns about cross-border organ harvesting.
In 2015, Beijing stopped transplanting organs taken from executed prisoners due to human rights concerns, and later provided data to the international community to demonstrate that it was cracking down on illegal organ transplants.