Install this web app on your phone: tap + and then Add to Home Screen.

China to phase out organ donations from executed prisoners

China says it will stop harvesting organs from executed prisoners, and instead develop a nationwide system for organ donation.

china prisoners organ donation 2012 03 23Enlarge
Inmates work in a sewing workshop at a prison in Chongqing Municipality, China. There are nearly 5,000 inmates in the prison. (China Photos/Getty Images)

China will end the practice of harvesting organs from executed prisoners within three to five years, according to a state media report.

Instead, a national system for organ donation will be developed, with trial programs launched in 16 provinces, the official Xinhua news agency said.

This new system will reduce China's reliance on organ donations from executed inmates, and encourage members of the public to donate organs, the Xinhua report said.

"The pledge to abolish organ donations from condemned prisoners represents the resolve of the government," Huang Jiefu, vice minister of health, was quoted as saying.

More from GlobalPost: Beijing’s pay-for-media-play

China executes more prisoners than all other countries combined, according to Amnesty International. While the exact number is unknown, thousands of people are thought to be executed in China every year.

Chinese state media said in 2009 that two-thirds of organ donors in China are executed prisoners.

Beijing has claimed that fewer prisoners are being executed, and this means fewer organ donations.

"Such changes have posed challenges for the traditional Chinese way of transplanting organs," Huang said.

China last year undertook a national campaign to crack down on illegal organ transplants by hospitals, following a slew of reports of such cases.

More from GlobalPost: Chinese newspaper publishes rare account of death penalty