09/13/2005, 00.00
GREAT BRITAIN – CHINA
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A British newspaper charges: "The skin of executed convicts is used in Chinese cosmetics"

An undercover investigation undertaken by journalists of the Guardian alleges that a Chinese cosmetics company uses the skin of people condemned to death to develop collagen. Research is also under way on the tissue of aborted fetuses.

London (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A Chinese cosmetics firm is using skin taken from the corpses of inmates on China's death row to develop beauty products to sell on the European market. The charge is leveled by the UK Guardian daily.

Agents for the firm, which could not be named for legal reasons, have told would-be customers (undercover Guardian journalists) that skin taken from prisoners after they have been shot is being used to develop collagen for lip and wrinkle treatment. Collagen is the fibrous protein constituent of skin, cartilage, bone, and other connective tissue.

"The agents say some of the company's products have been exported to the UK, and that the use of skin from condemned convicts is 'traditional' and nothing to 'make such a big fuss about'," the daily alleged. "Apart from the ethical concerns, there is also the potential risk of infection."

It is not clear whether the cosmetics are already for sale on the English market or if they are available only on Internet, nor is it known if the collagen taken from the corpses' skin is in research phase or already in production. In any case, the Guardian said the firm in question has in the past exported products linked to collagen: "Exports were sent to the US and European countries, and that the company has also tried to develop cosmetics using tissue from aborted foetuses."

When questioned officially, a company representative denied using skin taken off corpses. But the undercover journalist said: "A lot of the research is still carried out in the traditional manner using skin from the executed prisoner and aborted foetus." The representative said materials were bought from bio tech" companies based in the northern province of Heilongjiang, and were being developed "elsewhere" in China.

China executes more prisoners than the rest of the world combined, although the precise number put to death is not known.

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