Police warn against risks of selling kidneys abroad

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People who illegally enter China to sell their kidneys may lose other internal organs without knowing it, a police official has warned.

Senior Lieutenant-Colonel Nguyen Phu Thuong of Can Tho City Police Department, who led an investigation into a Chinese-led human kidney trading ring that illegally sent Vietnamese people to China for kidney removal between 2008 and 2011, said kidney sellers sometimes steal other organs without telling donors.

"Chinese doctors can remove Vietnamese patients' livers or pancreases when they are unconscious during kidney surgeries.

"It is also risky to illegally enter China to have their kidneys removed at hospitals that sneakily operate organ transplant and removal surgeries."

On August 9, Can Tho police asked the municipal People's Procuracy to charge four Vietnamese brokers for "illegally sending people abroad". The brokers allegedly worked for a kidney harvesting ring led by three Chinese men named Vuong, Nghia and A Trang.

Among the four brokers, three men Quang Dai Vang, Vo Dinh Van and Le Son Truyen had sold their own kidneys in China through the ring, which later persuaded them to join.

The trio took charge of seeking young men willing to sell their own kidneys in China and bringing the men to the border town of Mong Cai in Quang Ninh Province, where the fourth broker, a woman named La Thi Thinh, organized illegal entry to China for them.

In China, Chinese ring members brought the Vietnamese kidney sellers to a hospital for kidney removal.

Between 2008 and February 2011, the group successfully sent 19 men aged between 18 and 35, hailing mostly from Ho Chi Minh City and other southern provinces, to China.

Senior Lieutenant-Colonel Thuong said the police are still searching for other members of the ring.

Long line of kidney sellers

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On August 11, Thanh Nien reporters met with Vo Van Cong, 18, and Tran Van Dai, 21, from the Mekong Delta province of Hau Giang, who had sold their kidneys in China through the ring.

The two were born in a rural area in poor families. Last December, a group of people visited their homes, asking them to go to China to sell their kidneys for VND40 million (US$1,920) each.

"They told us one person has two kidneys, therefore losing one will not affect our health," Cong said.

Cong and Dai agreed and asked Cong's cousin, Hai, to go with them. They secretly left without the acknowledgement of their families.

In China, the trio was sent to a small room, where around eight Vietnamese men, hailing from HCMC, were also waiting for kidney removal.

"We were allowed to rest for one day. The following day, they (Chinese ring members) took us to a large hospital where we underwent medical checks and tests," Cong recalled.

"We were brought back to the apartment and were told not to go out.

"They left food in the fridge, and we cooked ourselves."

A week later, the trio was brought back to the hospital, where they were anesthetized and had their kidneys removed.

As soon as they were able to walk, they were discharged from hospital.

Dai said doctors usually gave pain killers to kidney sellers and sent them home 3-4 days after surgeries; weaker patients had to stay in hospital for 7-8 days. The patients are fed porridge in the hospital.

Doctors gave a pack of drugs to each patient for pain, he added.

As for the trio, they left the hospital rather early, therefore they had to visit a Vietnamese hospital to have their stitches taken out after returning home.

Dai said the apartment he stayed at in China was always full of Vietnamese people waiting their turn to sell their kidneys.

Familial burden

After returning to Vietnam, the trio was picked up by Thinh, the woman who organized their entry to China before. Thinh gave each VND36 million ($1,730) only, saying they must pay VND4 million as travel and accommodation fees.

After they came home and told their families about their trip, their parents were shocked.

"Cong's mother passed out after hearing the news," Dai recalled.

Dai and Cong gave their parents all the money afterwards.

"Our health condition is deteriorating," Dai said.

"We cannot do things that require strength because our waists do hurt a lot.

"I wish I could have my kidney back. I don't want to be a burden for my family."

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