N.Y., China Investigating Black Market in Bodies

Self-admitted participant of body black market described "body runs," above.

ByABC News
February 15, 2008, 11:25 AM

Feb. 15, 2008— -- Click here to read an update on this story.

Authorities in China and New York have opened investigations into allegations that a black market in Chinese bodies, which may include executed prisoners, is sending corpses to the United States for public display.

The investigations come in the wake of an ABC News report, that aired this Friday on "20/20", that features a self-admitted participant of a bodies black market who described "body runs" to locations where bodies, including those of executed prisoners, were sold for $200 to $300.

The man, who asked that his identity be concealed because he feared arrest, produced photos he said he took at a facility where he was shown what was available.

He says he began picking bodies on his next trip to the facility but was not able to take photos then.

He said some of the bodies were given to Chinese companies that supply corpses preserved in plastic for display in the United States.

Subpoenas from the New York attorney general were served Thursday on Atlanta-based Premier Exhibitions, which operates body shows in more than a dozen cities.

In a statement, the Office of Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said it investigating "whether representations made to the public about the methods used to obtain the bodies exhibited in the U.S. are in fact false."

Premier Exhibitions said it would cooperate fully in the investigation.

In its public statements, Premier has said all of its bodies are supplied by the plastination laboratories of the Dalian Medical University in Dalian, China.

The president of the Dalian Medical University, Dr. Tang Jianwu, told ABC News his university does not supply bodies to Premier or any company for public display.

The supplier for Premier's "Bodies...the Exhibition" is actually a private, for-profit company called the Dalian Medi-Uni Plastination Labs located 30 miles away from the Dalian Medical University.

The company is run by a professor from the medical university who says the university initially owned 70 per cent of the operation and provided bodies, but has recently pulled out because of bad publicity.

Separately, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said it also was investigating the alleged body black market, including allegations that bodies had been shipped to Premier Exhibitions despite a 2006 law that prohibited the export of corpses for commercial purposes.

"The Ministry of Health has been alerted to the report and is cooperating with relevant government departments to carry out an investigation," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao at a press briefing in Beijing Thursday.