SHANGHAI – Organ traffickers in China could face the death penalty under a draft law being reviewed by the country's top legislature, state media reported Thursday.

Those convicted of "forced organ removal, forced organ donation or organ removal from juveniles" could face the same punishment as for homicide, which ranges from 10 years in prison to execution, Xinhua news agency said.

Previously those convicted of forced organ removal were charged with illegal business operation, since there is no specific offence covering the act in China's criminal law, the report said.

The amendment was submitted Wednesday to the National People's Congress Standing Committee for a third reading at its bimonthly meeting, which lasts until Friday. If passed, it would come into force on May 1, state media said.

Liu Renwen, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of Law, told the China Daily newspaper the black market illegal organ trade was booming "both inside and outside the country".

China's criminal law has to be changed to fight the scourge of organ trafficking, he said.

Demand for organ transplants far exceeds supply in the country of 1.3 billion, opening the door to the illegal sale of organs.

About 10,000 transplants are carried out annually, but an estimated 1.3 million people are waiting for transplants, the China Daily reported.

In the past, the government has investigated hospitals that carry out illegal transplant operations for about 100,000 yuan ($15,200), according to previous state media reports.