A Chinese medical technician who once claimed to ABC News he illegally acquired the bodies of executed prisoners to be dissected and injected with plastic by a Chinese company that prepares bodies for public display has now recanted his account in testimony for lawsuits filed in China and the United States involving two rival firms in the controversial "body business."
The technician, Deqiang Sun, testified his employer paid him to lie to ABC News about a competitor and now denies he delivered bodies of executed prisoners to that company.
Sun testified he decided to recant his statements to ABC News to "protect" himself from possible legal consequences and to protect "the reputation of China" from human rights critics. He added that, as a Buddhist, "I had to confess myself, and finally I tell the truth."
Since the late 1990s, a number of companies have been involved in the hugely profitable, although controversial, exhibitions of body shows around the world.
The competition has led to a bitter rivalry and a series of lawsuits involving a German exhibitor, Gunther von Hagens, known as "Dr. Death" because he invented the body preservation process, and a Chinese doctor, Dr. Sui Hongjin, who was trained by Von Hagens and then left to form his own body company.
Dr. Sui's company then provided bodies to von Hagens' main competitor, Premier Exhibitions, an American company, which runs exhibitions of plasticized bodies and body parts in New York City and elsewhere.
In an interview with ABC News in 2008, the technician, Deqiang Sun, who was working for von Hagens at the time, provided a detailed account of what he said was his work as a body collector, identifying Chinese police officials and medical professors who he said were involved in a black-market body business, providing the bodies of executed prisoners and others for money.
Sun also told ABC News he had delivered some bodies to Dr. Sui's company, including those of executed prisoners.
Sun left the employ of von Hagens last year. Von Hagens says he fired him, but Sun says he left voluntarily. Now Sun has become a key witness in two lawsuits against von Hagens filed by Dr. Sui. A Chinese court has already dismissed one case but a second suit is pending in Florida.
In testimony for the Florida lawsuit, Sun said he never delivered any bodies to Dr. Sui's company, only to von Hagens and none of them were executed prisoners.
Sun said he had lied to ABC News because "Gunther von Hagens told me [to do it]. I had no choice, you know. And also I thought it was no big deal if I told a lie to Americans, because it's only, you know, tricks played between the commercial competitions. No big deal." He also said von Hagens gave him a 10,000 Euro bonus for lying about his rival Dr. Sui.
Sui, who declined to be interviewed by ABC News, has steadfastly denied ever using the bodies of executed prisoners in his work.
In his Florida lawsuit, Dr. Sui claims all the bodies he provided to Premier Exhibitions came from "medical universities and the Chinese coroner's office, and all the individuals died of natural causes. None of the bodies used by the Sui Companies are of executed prisoners."
Von Hagens, who introduced Deqiang Sun to ABC News and was present for the 2008 interview, has strongly denied encouraging or paying his technician to lie.
Sun's former employer von Hagens told ABC News the medical technician may have changed his story out of "fear" of prosecution by Chinese authorities.