You’re buying it wrong?
I. “I Want The One With the Bigger GBs!”
“I wanted to buy an iPad 2, but I didn’t have the money,” recalls a 17-year old boy identified only by his surname, “Zheng”.
But without a college degree, Zheng’s prospects weren’t looking great. Average wages in major Chinese cities range from 1,000 to 5,000 RMB (CN¥). Zheng would like fall on the low end, making between 1,000 and 1,500 RMB. At the current going exchange rate of 500 RMB to $77.13 USD, it would take the young man several months to get the slick device.
So he made a shocking decision that brings to mind a legendary webcomic from the comic/satire blog The Oatmeal — he decided to sell an organ for the Apple device. He recalls, “When I surfed the internet I found an advert posted online by agent saying they were able to pay RMB20,000 to buy a kidney.”
Sneaking out of his home, the youth traveled north to the city of Chenzhou in Hunan Province. Visiting a local hospital, he had his kidney removed. He was hospitalized for three days then discharged, with 22,000 RMB (appr. $3,394 USD) in hand. He used the money to reportedly buy his iPad as well as a MacBook and iPhone.
He tried to conceal his new gains from his mother, but she grew suspicious when she saw the Apple gadgets. Experiencing medical complications, the young man confessed what he did. States his mother, identified as “Miss Liu”, “When he came back, he had a laptop and a new Apple handset. I wanted to know how he had got so much money and he finally confessed that he had sold one of his kidneys.”
Shocked Miss Liu took her son to the Chenzhou police to report that he was the victim of a crime. But the agents whom Zheng had brokered the deal with had vanished, their cell phones dead. And the hospital claimed it contracted out its urology department to a private businessman. It denied knowledge of the businessman’s identity or the surgeries he was performing. It appears the case has now been closed, due to lack of evidence.
II. Case Brings to Light Illicit Organ Trade
The irony of the incident is rather great, given that Apple CEO Steven P. Jobs is himself an organ donor recipient, having received a replacement liver after experiencing complications from his battle with pancreatic cancer.
What makes the incident even more sad and ironic is that Zheng’s organ is unlikely to go to one of his many countrymen that need it. It is estimated that a million people in China need a transplant every year, but less than 10,000 receive organs.
While some locals are able to purchase organs on the black market, many black market organs instead go to foreign “transplant tourists”. A report in the Japanese media last year claimed that foreigners were paying in excess of $80,000 USD for black market transplants in China. At that price most Chinese simply cannot afford the potentially life-saving transplant (the yearly income of blue-collar workers in China is around $6,000 USD).
III. Apple Demand: A Double Edged Sword For China
Older citizens in China have seized upon the news story as example of how China has lost its communist ways to the “evils” of unregulated capitalism. Writes one commenter on Hong Kong’s Phoenix TV website, “This is a failure of education, the first purpose of which is to ‘propagate morality’. This teenager’s stupid behaviour is a manifestation of his radically materialistic values.”
Another commenter chimes in, “To sell a kidney in order to buy consumer goods? What vanity! It is undeniable that modern Chinese teenagers’ morality is declining. This is something we must all think about.”
In China Apple devices are often more expensive then they are in the U.S. The gadgets are increasingly coveted by youth as status symbols. The high demand among teens for the devices has led to many other issues, including fights outside Beijing Apple stores during the recent launch of the iPad 2 and white iPhone 4.
The international demand for Apple products has been a double-edged sword for China economically. While it has created a large number of jobs at manufacturing facilities, Apple’s demands of cheaper contracts than its rivals and higher quality have led factories to force tens of thousands of Chinese to slave away long hours in what some say amounts to “sweatshop” conditions. A recent internal audit from Apple revealed numerous abuses of workers at Chinese plants that contribute to the company’s gadgets.