If you live in New York, you've seen the ads for Bodies: The Exhibition at the South Street Seaport. You may also have wondered where the bodies on display came from.
I'd heard the rumors, but had been inclined to dismiss them -- they sounded far too sensationalistic and urban legend-y.
Here in China, determining who is in the body business and where the bodies come from is not easy. Museums that hold body exhibitions in China say they have suddenly “forgotten” who supplied their bodies, police officials have regularly changed their stories about what they have done with bodies, and even universities have confirmed and then denied the existence of body preservation operations on their campuses.
Human rights activists have attacked the exhibitions, calling them freak shows that may be using the bodies of mentally ill people and executed prisoners. In June, the police in the city of Dandong, about 190 miles northeast of here, discovered about 10 corpses in a farmer’s yard. The bodies were being used by a firm financed by foreigners, the government said, that was illegally involved in the body preservation business.
Worried about a growing trade in illegal bodies, the Chinese government issued new regulations in July that outlawed the purchase or sale of human bodies and restricted the import and export of human specimens, unless used for research. But it is unclear how the regulations will affect the factories.
Premier Exhibitions, one of the world’s largest exhibition companies and the creator of “Bodies: The Exhibition’’ — now showing at the South Street Seaport in Lower Manhattan — declined to comment, saying it had not yet reviewed the regulations.