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China's grisly mini-industry in corpses for display

Raw Story | August 8 2006

According to a story to appear in Tuesday's New York Times, China now hosts at least 11 factories in which human corpses are prepared for the international museum exhibition market, RAW STORY has learned.

The Times reports that, "The mastermind behind this operation is Dr. Gunther von Hagens, a 61-year-old German scientist whose show, 'Body Worlds,' has attracted 20 million people worldwide over the past decade and has taken in over $200 million by displaying preserved, skinless human corpses with their well-defined muscles and sinewy tissues."

The popularity of this and similar exhibitions has given rise to what the Times calls "a ghastly new underground mini-industry." China has become a center of this industry due to cheap medical school labor, lax government oversight, and a previously well-established trade in organs and other body parts. The cadavers processed in China are shipped to exhibitors in Japan, South Korea, and the United States.

Chinese police officers, museums, and even universities conveniently "forget" or deny their participation in the questionable trade. The Chinese government recently issued new regulations to outlaw the sale of human bodies and restrict their import and export except when used for research. It is not yet clear how these regulations will affect the factories, but if enforced against them it could cost China tens of millions of dollars.

Exhibitors expect their shows to become increasingly popular attractions and spread around the world. They deny the charges by human rights activists that they use the bodies of executed prisoners and pooh-pooh charges that the displays of skinless corpses in life-like poses are tasteless.


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