One Fu Xinrong was shot in the back of the head this day in China’s Jiangxi province. The previous fall, he had raped his girlfriend, murdered their newborn son, and turned himself in to police.
His death, just one no-account criminal among China’s thousands of practically anonymous execution victims, attracted no particular notice.
But quite against all odds, Fu Xinrong posthumously became the subject of a scandal: the hook for a story in the Chinese press piquantly titled, “Where Did My Brother’s Body Go?”
For the answer — that Fu Xinrong’s corpse had been driven to a Nanchang hospital and its kidneys transplanted to unidentified recipients — unveiled the shadowy post-execution operations even more unseemly than China’s industrial-scale death penalty.
According to a Washington Post report of July 31, 2001,
After Fu was shot in the back of the head, four attendants got out of the van and picked up his corpse … A government prosecutor attempted to stop them, but they explained that they were from Nanchang and that they had a deal with the court …
“We found the hospital’s director and confronted him with the evidence,” one reporter said. “In the beginning, he refused to say anything about it, but when he saw what we had, he had to admit it on the condition that we did not release the hospital’s name in our report.”
Further investigation indicated that a senior court official, whose surname is Yang, had sold the body to the hospital, the report said.
Fu’s father committed suicide. The family sued the court in 2001; I have not been able to establish whether or how that suit was resolved. However, according to a 2003 U.S. Congress report (pdf) the editor who green-lighted the story’s publication was sacked.*
Fu’s case, in any event, is far from unusual.
On the contrary, his kidneys entered a veritable souk** of transplanted organs that’s been openly pitched at westerners willing to part with five figures and their decency in exchange for a life-giving replacement part from a shot-to-order prisoner.
* This would have been around the same time that a similar fate befell journalists indiscreet enough to explore the unflattering-to-the-People’s-Republic social environment of an executed gangster.
** Finally officially acknowledged in 2005.