GLASGOW'S prestigious links to a Chinese port city have been dealt a blow after claims emerged that hospitals there are involved in harvesting organs illegally from people while they are still alive.

Today a major conference in at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre will hear claims that medical staff in Dalian, north-east China, are involved in a black market in organs removed from prisoners and execution victims.

It is thought around 65,000 members of the banned Falun Gong spiritualist group, which opposes China’s rule in Tibet, have been killed for their organs.

The city is understood to be cashing in on a black market in kidneys and livers that brings in wealthy health tourists from around the world. Glasgow has been twinned with Dalian since 1987 and Lord Provost Bob Winter led a delegation to build sporting links between the cities in 2008. Plans are also under way to work on links between the two cities’ schools.

Human rights activists last night described the crime of organ harvesting as rife in Dalian. Yuyu Williamson, a Glasgow-based Chinese human-rights activist, said: “Adverts are regularly placed in Dalian newspapers advertising livers and kidneys for sale. Dalian City Friendship Hospital and Youyi Hospital run blatant advertisements promoting organ transplants and there was a high-profile report of man frozen by the Dalian Police Bureau – in conspiracy with the Third Hospital of Dalian – so they could steal his organs.

“In June this year, 30 Falun Gong practitioners were arrested in the city and there are fears they have been killed.”

A Nobel Peace Prize nominee will speak at the Glasgow event organised by Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting campaign group. David Matas, a Canadian human rights lawyer, was put forward for the honour last year after exposing China’s illegal organ trade in a book.

Trading in human organs is illegal in China but the black market has flourished over the past decade and human rights groups have alleged that hundreds of hospitals in China raise funds by selling kidneys and livers.

Falun Gong combines qigong exercises and meditation with moral philosophy centred on “truth, compassion, and tolerance”, but China’s Communist Party claims the group is a dangerous cult and outlawed it for “illegal activities” in 1999.

Hundreds of thousands of practitioners are thought to have been imprisoned in labour camps in an attempt to “correct” their views.

Mr Matas revealed in the book that in addition to using organs from executed prisoners, China has gone to the point of harvesting organs from living “prisoners of conscience”.

He said between 2000 and 2005 there were 41,500 transplants carried out in China. “China acknowledges organs for transplants come overwhelmingly from prisoners. Their claim is that prisoners consent before execution to allow the use of their organs for transplants.

“We concluded the bulk of these prisoners are Falun Gong practitioners who do not consent, who are killed by the organ harvesting operation and who are not sentenced to death.

“The government of China admits organs are sourced predominantly from prisoners. What then is it trying to hide by not providing numbers? One compelling answer is that it is trying to hide the killing of Falun Gong for their organs.”

A Glasgow City Council spokesman said: “Illegal organ harvesting is clearly a deplorable practice. Human and civil rights are a fundamental part of the council’s outlook and these issues were raised by the Lord Provost when he was in China in 2008.”

The Chinese embassy declined to comment.