Hong Kong police are investigating suspected acts that abuse the organ donor register after the city recorded an unusual rise of invalid withdrawals, the city’s leader revealed as he severely condemned such “shameful” behaviour.
Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu sounded the warning after Health Bureau figures suggested 5,785 residents had applied to withdraw from the Centralised Organ Donation Register from last December till April, but more than half, or 2,905, of the cancellations were invalid.
“Some withdrew their applications without even registering. This is a very suspicious act,” Lee told the press before his weekly meeting with key decision-making body the Executive Council.
The trend started after authorities said they hoped to establish a cross-border donation mechanism with mainland China.
“I severely condemn those who attempt to sabotage the system – which carries a noble cause to save lives through organ donations – for their shameful and disgraceful behaviour,” Lee on Tuesday said, adding he had asked police to look into whether such cases could be illegal.
“Organ donations are very important to help those in need … A lot of lives have been saved under such an important system. We will also continue to push forward with the collaboration of organ donation with mainland China, as past cooperation proved successful in saving the lives of Hong Kong residents,” he said.
The Health Bureau on Monday issued a strong statement saying it could not rule out that a small group of people had intentionally made withdrawal attempts to disrupt the register. It added the government strongly condemned “such utterly irresponsible behaviour”.
According to official figures, 5,785 withdrawal applications have been received since December, the same month a Hong Kong baby girl suffering from heart failure received a donated organ from the mainland, in the first arrangement of its kind.
The city then saw a rising trend of withdrawal for the five months to April, but 2,905 of those applications were found to be invalid. In February alone, the percentage of invalid withdrawal applications was as high as 74 per cent.
From 2018 to 2022, the number of withdrawals annually ranged from 266 to 1,068. As of April, there were 357,668 recorded registrations in the system.
The government said some internet users had recently promoted the idea that organ donors should scrutinise the identity of recipients and urged others to withdraw from the register.
A check by the Post on Monday found that some users had posted a link for cancelling organ donation registrations on LIHKG, a popular local forum.
Under international practice, donors or their family members cannot designate specific recipients or ask for any identity screening. The identity of recipients will also not be made known to family members of donors beforehand.