BEIJING – A man whose face was badly disfigured after an attack by a black bear received a partial face transplant Friday, in what a hospital described as a first for China.
The hospital's claims, if verified by independent experts, would make China the second country to conduct the procedure.
The partial face transplant came only half a year after doctors in Amiens, France, performed the world's first such procedure, transplanting lips, a chin and a nose on to a woman who had been attacked by a dog.
In Friday's operation, a statement from Xijing Hospital in the central city of Xi'an said Li Guoxing was given a new cheek, upper lip, nose, and an eyebrow from a single donor. No details were provided about the donor.
"Up to now, the patient is in good condition," the military hospital said. "The operation was successful. It is predicted that the wounds can be healed within one week."
The procedure underscores China's growing scientific prowess while raising questions about its patchy regulation of medical experiments.
"China always has a group of people who like to be on the cutting-edge of scientific development," said William Hsiao, a health economist at Harvard University who researches Chinese public health.
In the past decade, the government has poured money into advanced scientific fields, from aerospace to biotechnology, directing grant money and pooling resources to create research centers to rival the West. China is only the third country with a successful manned space program, and its gene research has won praise from scientists abroad.
In its statement, the Chinese hospital said Li had been badly mauled by an encounter with a black bear in the southern province of Yunnan two years ago.
Photos released by the hospital showed the extent of Li's injuries, his right eye nearly closed and the cheek and lip below badly ripped exposing pink flesh.
Another photo showed Li, after the operation, lying with a tube in his mouth, his face puffy and with surgical scars running from his lower left ear above his nose to his right ear and around his chins.
Li's surgery began Thursday and was completed Friday morning, it said.
Additional details, including how doctors found Li and whether he had consented to the publicity, were not immediately available. A woman who answered the main hospital number did not know about the surgery and referred calls to the Facial Reconstruction Department, where the phone rang unanswered.
Chinese and foreign experts have previously criticized the government for lax oversight of research and said that the push for breakthroughs was creating ethical problems. The government tightened regulations on research and clinical drug trials after Chinese reporters accused a U.S.-funded project of conducting research on asthma medication without the proper consent of farmers in central China in the 1990s.