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No prisoner corpses in Venetian Macao body show, organiser says

Art chief denies claims that corpses of executed mainland prisoners are used in Macau show

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 November, 2012, 4:13am

The man behind an exhibition of preserved cadavers in Macau that claims to show the "inner beauty" of the human body has denied the corpses of executed mainland prisoners were used.

Tom Zaller, president and chief executive of American company Imagine Exhibitions, brushed off ethical and legal concerns raised about the Human Bodies Exhibition.

He said the show, which opened at the Venetian Macao Hotel on the Cotai Strip on October 25, was an "incredible educational experience".

Doubts have been raised over the sources of the corpses, first displayed in the US.

Macau Legislative Assembly member Ng Kuok-cheong, of the pro-democracy New Macau Association, asked whether the organisers possessed documents proving the preserved bodies were voluntarily donated.

A voluntary group called Macau Conscience, led by Jason Chao Teng-hei, also said organisers had failed to give the public an adequate explanation about the sources of the bodies used.

Chao cited an ABC News 20/20 programme broadcast in February 2008 that speculated executed Chinese prisoners were among the unclaimed bodies.

Zaller denied the allegations, saying his organisation worked with educators, medics and museum content developers to "create a robust educational experience that is accurate, accessible and sensitive".

He added: "It is an incredible educational experience that I believe should be shared with all people in all cities."

The exhibition has had problems elsewhere. In France, it was shown in Lyons and Marseilles, but not in Paris, where a court ruled in 2010 that the display of corpses for commercial purposes was against the law.

Zaller said most complaints were from people who had not seen the exhibition.

The show presents preserved and sectioned cadavers to convey anatomical detail.

To allow the bodies to be displayed, it uses a German technique called plastination, in which water and fatty tissues are replaced by polymers. Imagine Exhibitions and Chinese company Dalian Hoffen Bio-Technique produce the exhibition and preserve the exhibits, which all come from the mainland.

"Every person in the world has a right to see the inner workings of the human body," Zaller said. "Our exhibition is designed and presented with dignity and respect for human life."

Student Flora Wong Ka-ieng, 17, enjoyed the show. She said: "I didn't expect it to be so real. You can see the flesh, tendons, blood vessels and nerves."

And a Taiwanese woman in her 50s said she would take better care of herself after viewing the demonstrations. "For instance, after seeing the examples of a fatty liver and liver cirrhosis, I understand more about them and will be more careful to protect my body," she said.

Lily Chan Lei-lei, 31, a secretary in Macau, said the exhibition helped her understand more about her body and was worth visiting.

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