Hongkongers may now use the government’s “iAM Smart” app to check their status on the opt-in organ donor register, the Department of Health announced on Sunday.

The new initiative was rolled out with immediate effect, and came amid a controversy triggered by the cross-border organ transplant mutual support mechanism. The proposal will unite the organ donor systems for mainland China and Hong Kong, though the government said that an uptick in “unusual” withdrawals from the register has been seen since last December.

Hong Kong people Hongkongers small phones
Hongkongers now can check whether they are organ donors with their smart phones. Photo: Kyle Lam/ HKFP.

5,758 people applied to cancel their registration between last December and this April, though 50 per cent were deemed “invalid” since the applicants never joined the donation register in the first place, the Department of Health said. A small group of people were “disrupting the representativeness of the system,” the government claimed in a statement last Monday, adding that it “strongly condemns such utterly irresponsible behaviour.” Police are now investigating the trend, the chief executive has said.

The previous procedure for enquiring whether one is an organ donor is time consuming, InMedia reported, and did not include an opportunity to verify whether there was an existing registration.

Previously, the public could only make enquires through a Department of Health hotline, by mail, or by hand delivering a hard copy form. HKFP had dialled the hotline many times since last Tuesday, but was unable to get through.

Organ Donation Centralised Organ Donation Register
Centralised Organ Donation Register. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

The government also introduced new procedures for those who wish to withdraw from the register, HK01 reported. As of last Thursday, those who applied to cancel their registration will need to reply to emails from the Department of Health and provide a copy of their identity cards. Applications will not be processed unless a response is made within 14 days.

‘Hong Kong organs for Hong Kong use’

Government officials and experts from the Hospital Authority have been explaining the proposed cross-border organ transplant mechanism following a visit to Guangdong province to exchange views on transplants ten days ago.

Secretary for Health Lo Chung-mau told the media on Sunday that the proposed cross-border mechanism will only serve as ” a second-tier mechanism.”

“We will prioritise ‘Hong Kong organs for Hong Kong use,’ only when we cannot allocate donated organs to suitable patients in Hong Kong, the second-tier mechanism will be utilised to make better use of such scarce resources…”

The online system of China Organ Donation Administrative Centre .
The online system of China Organ Donation Administrative Centre . Photo: screenshot.

When asked whether the government would consider providing donors an option of selecting “only for local use,” Lo said organ donations should carry no conflict or prejudice, and China is now able to maintain a fair and transparent donation and allocation system.

“We will not cower in the face of rumours. We will continue to do our jobs, to help the public understand that organ transplantation in our country has greatly improved and reached international standards,” Lo said, as he urged the public to continue to be philanthropic and support organ donation.

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Hong Kong Free Press is a new, non-profit, English-language news source seeking to unite critical voices on local and national affairs. Free of charge and completely independent, HKFP arrives amid rising concerns over declining press freedom in Hong Kong and during an important time in the city’s constitutional development.