HONG KONG (AFP): Hong Kong police on Monday arrested four men for fraudulently cancelling organ donation registrations, weeks after officials lashed out at a spike in withdrawals following a proposal to share organs with mainland China.
Last month the government reported that Hong Kong’s organ donor database saw nearly 5,800 requests to cancel registrations between December and April.
The spike came to light as the city revealed its intentions to explore an organ-sharing scheme with mainland China — the first such programme for Hong Kong as it does not have any mechanism to share with other places.
Four men, aged 19 to 47, were arrested on suspicion of making multiple bogus requests to cancel organ donations by inputting stolen personal information into the government’s system, the police’s cybercrime superintendent said.
“Such childish acts… are not only capable of affecting the chance of a patient receiving a donation but also increasing the burden on the health department,” Wilson Tam said.
The four men were accused of seeking “access to a computer with dishonest intent” — a criminal offence that can lead to five years in jail.
Those affected included government officials, legislators, actors and ordinary citizens, Tam said.
Currently, cross-border organ transplants are scrutinised on a case-by-case basis by an expert committee in Hong Kong.
Authorities have said the proposed scheme arose after a successful cross-border heart transplant surgery for a Hong Kong baby girl last year.
The city’s health authority said the scheme would only be activated when suitable patients cannot be identified locally on either side of the border.
But public concerns about the proposal remain unresolved for some Hong Kongers.
Questions have been raised over whether donors could opt not to share their organs outside Hong Kong and how the system would be supervised.
In a lengthy response to the spike in withdrawals last month, the Hong Kong government condemned the people responsible.
They “wantonly vilify the constructive significance of the proposed establishment… undoubtedly despising the inseparable ties between citizens of Hong Kong and the mainland”, it said.
Hong Kong’s leader John Lee last month called the mass cancellations a “highly suspicious act that can disrupt the whole system”.
Security minister Chris Tang even said the cancellations were by “some people who wanted to endanger our security (who) are deliberately distorting this scheme of good faith”.
Semi-autonomous Hong Kong — which Britain handed back to China in 1997 under a promise the city would maintain key freedoms — is being gradually remoulded by China after Beijing imposed a national security law in 2020 to quell dissent.
The law was enacted after massive, and at times violent, pro-democracy protests rocked Hong Kong, with people from all walks of life taking to the streets to demand political reforms.