BEIJING -- Authorities have indicted five people in central China for alleged involvement in illegal organ trading after a teenager sold one of his kidneys to buy an iPhone and an iPad.
The case has prompted an outpouring of concern that not enough is being done to guard against the negative impact of rising consumerism in Chinese society, particularly among young people who have grown up with more creature comforts than previous generations.
Prosecutors in the city of Chenzhou charged the suspects with intentional injury for organizing the removal and transplant of a kidney from a 17-year-old high school student surnamed Wang, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
The defendants include a surgeon, a hospital contractor and brokers who looked for donors online and leased an operating room to conduct the procedure, Xinhua said.
It said about 1.5 million people in China need organ transplants, but that only about 10,000 transplants are performed each year, fueling the illegal trade in organs.
Xinhua described one of the defendants, He Wei, as being broke because gambling debts. It said he asked another defendant to look for organ donors in online chat rooms and someone else to lease an operating room for the transplant, which took place last April.
He received $35,000 for the transplant, gave the student $3,500 and shared the remaining money with the other defendants and several medical staff involved in the operation, Xinhua said.
When the student returned home, he was asked how he could afford a new iPhone and an iPad and told his mother that he sold one of his kidneys, the report said.
The Southern Daily newspaper reported last month that other individuals have sold, or seriously considered selling, their kidneys to earn money to pay off large debts, make a payment on a smartphone or pay for an abortion for a girlfriend.
"Without facing complete hardship, these young people born after the 1990s made rash decisions. In the choice between their bodies and materialism, they resolutely chose the latter," the official Communist Party newspaper Guangming Daily said in an editorial last month about the Southern Daily report.