The 'Body Show' Battles: Rival Exhibitors Square Off in Court

Technician recants claims made to ABC News to 'protect reputation of China.'

ByABC News
December 8, 2010, 7:10 PM

Dec. 8, 2010 — -- 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.