2017-11-28 12:11:43

A city in eastern China is granting educational perks to the children of organ donors in a district-level policy that’s the first of its kind in the country.

Hangzhou’s Jianggan District Red Cross Society will work with the local education department to assist families of donors in securing spots for their offspring in neighborhood schools, Sixth Tone’s sister publication, The Paper, reported Monday. From Nov. 19, the Red Cross announced, children of people who register to donate their organs or body after death will be prioritized during the admissions process, as well as when transferring schools.

“The public’s opinion toward organ transplants has gradually changed from resistance to acceptance,” Wang Chen, secretary-general of the Jianggan Red Cross branch, told Sixth Tone on Tuesday, adding that though cultural customs still discourage some people, others are starting to see the value and necessity of donating their bodies to science. But Jianggan District is just a drop in the ocean, and Wang says he expects to see other governments support more comprehensive incentives.

The new policy targets primary school students whose families lack local residency status, Wang said. Between 2014 and 2017, according to the organization, eight of the 32 people who had donated organs in Jianggan were nonresidents, who face barriers to sending their children to local schools.

China’s school admission system is notoriously complex and competitive, with some parents even resorting to bribing officials to get their kids into top schools. Residency rules also create obstacles for migrants: In cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Hangzhou, which attract migrants from all over the country, children whose families do not have local household registration, or hukou, cannot easily access public education. On the flip side, children who are “left behind” in rural areas often have no option but substandard, underresourced schools.

To further encourage organ donation, the Jianggan Red Cross branch said it would also assist in caring for the elderly spouses of those who had donated their organs, and provide humanitarian aid of up to 10,000 yuan ($1,500) to every family.

Organ transplant was once a controversial topic in China, as the country harvested body parts of prisoners, but the practice was abolished in 2015. In recent years, China has seen an uptick in organ donation. In the first half of 2017, there were 2,866 donations — a 33 percent year-on-year increase, according to the country’s organ transplant regulator. In December 2016, mobile payment app Alipay teamed up with the China Organ Transplantation Development Foundation to allow prospective donors to sign up online.

Additional reporting: Fan Liya; contributions: Qian Zhecheng; editor: Qian Jinghua.

(Header image: Volunteers pay their respects to deceased organ donors in Chongqing, April 1, 2017. VCG)