Apple products are popular in China, but prices are prohibitive, with iPhones starting at $633 [GALLO / GETTY]

Five people in southern China have been charged with intentional injury in the case of a Chinese teenager who sold a kidney so he could buy an iPhone and an iPad, the government-run Xinhua News Agency has said.

The five included a surgeon who removed a kidney from a 17-year-old boy in April last year. The boy, identified only by
his surname Wang, now suffers from renal deficiency, Xinhua quoted prosecutors in Chenzhou city, Hunan province, as saying on Friday.

According to the Xinhua account, one of the defendants paid an estimated $35,000 to arrange the transplant. He paid Wang approximately $3,500 and split the rest with the surgeon, the three other defendants and other medical staff.

The report did not say who received and paid for the kidney.

The teen was from Anhui, one of China's poorest provinces, where inhabitants frequently leave to find work and a better
life elsewhere. He bought an iPhone and iPad, and when asked by his mother where he got the money, admitted selling a kidney.

Apple products are hugely popular in China, but are priced beyond the reach of many Chinese. Apple's ubiquitious smartphone -iPhone - starts at $633, while iPads begin at $474.

Illegal trade

Wang was recruited from an online chatroom and is now suffering from kidney failure and is in deteriorating health, the Xinhua news agency said.

Health ministry statistics show that about 1.5 million people in China need transplants, but only around 10,000 transplants are performed annually.

The huge gap has led to a thriving illegal market for organs.

Executed prisoners remain the main source of organs used in transplant operations due to the lack of voluntary donations, Huang Jiefu, China's vice-health minister, was quoted by state media as saying last month.

International human rights groups have long accused China of harvesting organs from executed prisoners for transplant without the consent of the prisoner or their family, charges the government has denied.

China banned the trading of human organs in 2007, Xinhua said. Several other suspects involved in the case are still
being investigated.

Source: Agencies