Beijing, Aug 10: China is rocked by reports that a Chinese hospital sold dead infants and placenta to an underground factory to manufacture nutrition pills available in South Korea, prompting officials here to order a probe.
"Expressing great concern" the Chinese Health Ministry ordered a probe following the reports in South Korean media stating that Seoul customs had seized a batch of medicines from China that used the dried-up remains of dead infants as its main ingredient.
"We have ordered the Department of Health of Jilin Province to launch an immediate investigation into the reported case," ministry spokesman Deng Haihua said.
"China has strict regulations on disposing of the remains of infants, foetuses and placentas. We are firmly against trading of human bodies or organs. We demand that health departments at all levels strengthen administration in this regard," he was quoted by state-run Global Times as saying.
This followed revelations by South Korea's SBS TV that a Chinese hospital sold dead infants and placenta to an underground factory that manufactures pills.
In the report, an undercover SBS news team followed their unnamed source to a house in China, where a woman claimed to have stored dead babies in her refrigerator as an ingredient for making the pills.
The team purchased some capsules from the woman and sent one to South Korea's National Forensic Service for tests, which showed that the ingredients of the capsules had a 99.7 per cent match with human DNA.
The report said that there was an underground network that manufactured and sold the capsules to South Korea, but did not specify locations or names.
"The South Korean government is aware of the reports and has started investigating the alleged underground network," an official from the South Korean embassy said.
"South Korean customs are trying to track down any buyers or sellers. The authorities do not have any evidence so far that supports the documentary's allegation, but human ingredients would certainly be considered illegal in South Korea - if it is really happening," the official said.
Jia Qian, head of the National Traditional Chinese Medicine Strategy Research Project, was quoted by state-run Global Times as saying that "placenta and umbilical cords have been used for making traditional Chinese medicines".
"But as far as I know, Chinese medicine has never used dead infants or foetuses as ingredients," Jia said. PTI