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Vatican conference confronts ex-Chinese health minister over organ trafficking

(Reuters/Stringer/File Photo)Then Deputy Health Minister Huang Jiefu speaks during a group session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in Beijing March 10, 2011.

The former Chinese health minister was confronted by the participants at the Vatican conference on organ trafficking on Tuesday over China's organ transplant practices.

The attendees of the conference challenged China's former vice health minister, Dr. Huang Jiefu, to allow an independent investigation to ensure that the Chinese government is no longer using organs from executed prisoners, Associated Press reported.

During the afternoon session, Huang tried to assure the international medical community that China was "mending its ways" following its declaration in 2015 that the prisoner harvesting program has been stopped.

"I am fully aware of the speculation about my participation in the summit," said Huang, noting that there are continuing concerns about the country's organ transplant activities.

Some ethicists have warned that China will use Huang's participation at the conference to convince the world that it has reformed its organ procurement system.

In a letter to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in Rome, where the conference was held, the ethicist argued that there was no evidence that China had stopped harvesting organs from executed prisoners.

Huang first admitted to the practice of harvesting organs from inmates in 2005. He later revealed that 90 percent of Chinese transplant surgeries using organs from the deceased came from executed prisoners.

Huang has been considered by correspondents as a controversial figure. Some have credited him with reforming a corrupt system while others accused him of being complicit in allowing the practice to continue.

His colleague, Dr. Haibo Wang, noted the impossibility of trying to control the country's transplant activities given that there are one million medical centers and three million licensed doctors operating in the country. As a result, the China's representatives at the conference suggested that the World Health Organization form a global task force to aid the country in its crackdown against organ trafficking.

In response to the proposal, Dr. Jacob Lavee, president of Israel's transplant society, said that WHO must be allowed to conduct surprise inspections and interview the families of donors in China.

"As long as there is no accountability for what took place ... there can be no guarantee for ethical reform," said Lavee.

Wang countered by saying China should not be singled out for surprise WHO inspections and maintained that he and Huang have spent the past 12 years fighting against critics inside and out of the country in an attempt to reform the sector.

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