Rising materialism among young Chinese triggers debate

When 17-year-old Chinese high-school student Wang returned home clutching an iPad and an iPhone, his mother knew something was amiss.

But she could never have imagined the lengths her son had gone to fulfil his obsession to get his hands on what has become the ultimate status symbol for China's newly wealthy.

Desperate broker

The 17-year-old student in eastern Anhui had approached on the Internet a desperate broker, who was struggling under the weight of gambling debts, with a simple offer.

For 22,000 Yuan (around Rs. 1.76 lakh), Wang said he would sell him his kidney. The broker agreed readily, finding a surgeon from a provincial hospital in southwest Yunnan to perform the transplant.

On Friday, the Chinese government said it had filed charges against five men, including the surgeon and the broker, for intentional injury for agreeing to perform the transplant last April, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Authorities said Song Zhongyu, the surgeon, had received 220,000 Yuan (Rs. 17.6 lakh) for the transplant, of which he gave Wang the 22,000 Yuan he needed for his iPad while three others involved in the deal shared the rest.

Thriving trade

A year on, even as the 17-year-old suffers from worsening health due to renal insufficiency, his case has sparked debate, both on the values of Chinese youth and the thriving illegal trade in organs sparked by a huge mismatch between 1.5 million people depending on 10,000 transplants performed annually.

Wang, who has later expressed regret for his actions, also triggered heated discussion on rising materialism among young Chinese.

Sperm donation

Soon after Wang's case, the Shanghai Daily reported that many students in southern Guangdong “had decided to donate sperm in order to raise money to buy iPads and iPhone.”

Yu Hai, a sociologist from Fudan University in Shanghai, told the newspaper in an interview, “Young people can be overwhelmed by its use for game playing and can do something stupid if their parents don't buy them an iPad.”