04/07/2006, 00.00
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New evidence on the "cooked child" story as police investigates the discovery of 123 skulls

Public Security Bureau says human remains were used in a traditional medicine lab for scientific purposes. Skulls with sawn off crown were used in Tibetan Buddhist practices.

Lanzhou (AsiaNews/SCMP) – The cooked body parts of children found last Monday in Lanzhou are not the leftovers of some grisly murder, but are human remains from specimen used in laboratory experiments.

The Lanzhou Public Security Bureau said the upper arms and other body tissue discovered at the landfill were leftovers from the construction of a human teaching specimen by a laboratory connected to the Gansu College of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Police said the body parts were put into a white plastic bag in front of the laboratory door on March 31 and were supposed to be taken to a medical waste facility the next day. But a cleaner mistook the bag for general waste and put it in a rubbish cart. The bag was dumped at the landfill in Chengguan district, where it was discovered by scrap collectors. Police said a 30 cm rusty steel saw blade and two pieces of paper with the college's logo were also found in the bag.

The ghastly discovery caused quite a stir in China and around the world.

"The blade was used to cut the parts from the specimen," said the Lanzhou Public Security Bureau's propaganda director, Peng Hailin. But "we did not find any cooking ingredients as the media reported."

Under the headline, "Cooked child's limbs found at a Gansu landfill", the Lanzhou Morning Post had earlier reported that two arms had been found in the bag along with other meat, bones, ginger and chilli. It even quoted a police officer at the scene as estimating the victim's age to have been between five and eight years. The College of Traditional Chinese Medicine has not yet released its own version of events.

On a related issue, Gansu police ruled out foul play in the case of 123 abandoned human skulls with their crowns sawn off found last Monday. One of the skulls had a moustache and another had false teeth attached, but none is thought to be from a recently deceased person.

The skulls were found on a riverbank in Tianzhu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture on the border of Gansu and Qinghai.

Buddhism researcher Zhao Min said that some practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism use craniums to "destroy desire and remind us that life is unpredictable" but the practice is rare.

Cups and beads made from human skulls can be found on the online shop www.taobao.com for more than 1,000 yuan (about 100 euros or 120 US dollars). 

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