China said it would halt harvesting the organs of executed prisoners for transplant beginning next year, following longtime criticism from human-rights groups, though the change could add uncertainty to China’s organ supply.

Chinese officials will stop using the organs of inmates beginning Jan. 1, nearly three years after Beijing first said it intended to stop the program and create a national organ donation system. While China already forbids organ donations without the consent of the donor or the family, critics have said inmates can feel pressured to sign away their organs and that the source of organs isn’t well supervised.

“This is the only way to go,” said Zhao Hongtao, an assistant to Huang Jiefu, director of China’s Human Organ Donation and Transplantation Committee. Mr. Zhao said the directive issued on Wednesday was aimed at hospitals, which harvest the organs and play a key role in the trade.

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