OFFICIALS, DOCTORS, ADOPTION AGENCIES AND THE SALE OF BABIES IN CHINA

CHINESE OFFICIALS SEIZED AND SOLD BABIES

"In some cases, family planning officials sell the children," the Global Times quoted Zhang Shiwei, a campaigner against child trafficking, as saying. "Police are also bribed by people who need to register a hukou, or household registration permit, for their purchased baby." Family planning officials who have previously been convicted of trafficking are often involved in persuading couples who have violated the population control policy to give up their baby for adoption. The children are then sold to trafficking rings and have sometimes even found their way into state adoption centres that supply orphans to foreign parents, state media reports have said. [Source: AFP, December 26, 2012]

The Economist reported: "stealing children is not an official part of Beijing’s one-child policy, but it is a consequence of rules that are a fundamental affront to the human rights of parents and would-be parents. The policy damages families and upsets the balance between generations. [Source: The Economist July 21, 2011]

On the behaviour of family-planning bureaucrats in Longhui County in Hunan, Yuan Chaoren, a villager there, told n Caixin magazine . “Before 1997 they usually punished us by tearing down our houses for breaching the one-child policy. After 2000 they began to confiscate our children,” According to Caixin, local officials would take “illegal children” and pack them off to orphanages where they were put up for adoption. Foreign adoptive parents paid $3,000-5,000 per child. The bureaucrats collected a kickback.

The New York Times reported: “China’s family planning policies, while among the strictest in the world, ban the confiscation of children from parents who exceed birth quotas, and abuses are far less common today than they once were. Even so, critics say the powers handed to local officials under national family planning regulations remain excessive and ripe for exploitation. “The larger issue is that the one-child policy is so extreme that it emboldened local officials to act so inhumanely,” Wang Feng, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who directs the Brookings-Tsinghua Center for Public Policy in Beijing, told the New York Times.

Family Planning Official Among 355 Suspects in a Chinese Trafficking Ring

In December 2012, police detained two officials including one involved in family planning in China's latest crackdown on child trafficking that has ensnared 355 suspects. AFP reported: “Officers from nine regions took part in the joint crackdown beginning December 18 against the nation's trafficking networks and rescued 89 children, the public security ministry said. Among the suspects was a family planning official surnamed Wang, who was arrested in the southeastern province of Fujian and is being charged with trafficking four babies, the Global Times newspaper reported. Police also arrested another official in Fujian after he and his wife purchased a baby boy, the report said. The couple already have a 10-year-old son.[Source: AFP, December 26, 2012]

“Photos showed masked nurses in a hospital in the southwestern province of Sichuan taking care of some of the new-born babies who were rescued. Police also released numerous photos of the suspects, including several young woman as well as a mother who was arrested with her child. Of the 89 children rescued in the ongoing campaign, five have been returned to their parents, while the others are undergoing DNA testing in an effort to locate their families, the Fuzhou Evening News reported. The children are being cared for in local nursing homes and police are searching for their parents, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Officers from nine regions, including Fujian, Yunnan, Sichuan, Anhui and Guangdong, took part in a joint drive beginning December 18 against the networks, said Chen Shiqu, director of the anti-trafficking office in the public security ministry. "We will collect the children's DNA and use it to find their parents within a national DNA database established for anti-trafficking purposes," it quoted Chen as saying.

Officials in Hunan Sell at Least 16 Children

Officials from Longhui, a county in Hunan Province that is administered by Shaoyang, illegally seized at least 16 children between 1999 and 2006 because of allegations that family planning rules were violated. Caixin Century Weekly, a Chinese magazine, reported in May 2011 that some were later adopted by foreigners.

Reporting from Longhui County, Sharon Lafraniere wrote: “Many parents and grandparents in this mountainous region of terraced rice and sweet potato fields have long known to grab their babies and find the nearest hiding place whenever family planning officials show up. Too many infants, they say, have been snatched by officials, never to be seen again. [Source: Sharon Lafraniere, New York Times, August 4, 2011 >>>]

"Yuan Xinquan was caught by surprise one December morning in 2005. Then a new father at the age of 19, Mr. Yuan was holding his 52-day-old daughter at a bus stop when a half-dozen men sprang from a white government van and demanded his marriage certificate. He did not have one. Both he and his daughter’s mother were below the legal age for marriage. Nor did he have 6,000 renminbi, then about $745, to pay the fine he said they demanded if he wanted to keep his child. He was left with a plastic bag holding her baby clothes and some powdered formula. “They are pirates,” he said. >>>

"Mr. Yuan’s daughter was among at least 16 children who were seized by family planning officials between 1999 and late 2006 in Longhui County, an impoverished rural area in Hunan, a southern Chinese province, parents, grandparents and other residents said in interviews last month. Parents in Longhui say that local government officials treated babies as a source of revenue, routinely imposing fines of $1,000 or more “five times as much as an average local family’s yearly income. If parents could not pay the fines, the babies were illegally taken from their families and often put up for adoption by foreigners, another big source of revenue. >>>

"The practice in Longhui came to an end in 2006, parents said, only after an 8-month-old boy fell from the second-floor balcony of a local family planning office as officials tried to pluck him from his mother’s arms. Despite a few news reports outside the Chinese mainland about government-sanctioned kidnappings in Longhui and other regions, China’s state-controlled media ignored or suppressed the news until this May, when Caixin , an intrepid Chinese magazine well known for unusually bold investigations, reported the abductions and prompted an official inquiry."

Government Officials Take Child and Force Mother to be Sterilized

Reports that family planning officials stole children, beat parents, forcibly sterilized mothers and destroyed families’ homes sowed a quiet terror through parts of Longhui County in the first half of the past decade. The casualties of that terror remain suffused with heartbreak and rage years later. [Source: Sharon Lafraniere, New York Times, August 4, 2011]

Hu Shelian, 46, another anguished victim, gave birth to a second daughter in 1998. Even though family planning specialists said couples in her area were allowed a second child if the first was a girl, she said family planning officials broke her windows and took her television as punishment.

After she had a third daughter the following year, they levied a whopping fine of nearly $5,000. When she pleaded poverty, she said, four officials snatched her newborn from her arms, muscled her into a car and drove her to the county hospital for a forced tubal ligation. Her baby disappeared into the bowels of the Shaoyang orphanage. Xiong Chao escaped that fate. Villagers say he was the last baby that officials tried to snatch, and one of the few returned home.

Now, six years later, his 63-year-old grandmother, Dai Yulin, patiently scrawls blue and white chalk numerals on her concrete wall hoping “in vain “that Chao will learn them. “He has been to primary school for a whole year,” she said, “and he still cannot recognize one and two.” Nearby is the tiny, dark room where, she said, she tried and failed in September 2006 to hide Chao from family planning officials. He was 8 months old, her son’s second child. Officials demanded nearly $1,000, then took him away when she could not pay.

His mother, Du Chunhua, rushed to the family planning office to protest. There, as she struggled with two officials on the second-floor balcony, she said, the baby slipped from her grasp and fell more than 10 feet, to the pavement below. Later, she said, as the baby lay in a coma in the hospital, his forehead permanently misshapen, officials offered a deal: they would forget about the fine as long as the family covered the medical bills for Chao. Also, they said, the Xiongs could keep him.

Government Officials Take the Nine-Month-Old Daughter of a Migrant Worker

Yang Libing, one of the two fathers accused of soliciting prostitutes, said he was a migrant worker in the southern city of Shenzhen when his firstborn, Yang Ling, was stolen from his parents’ home in May 2005 when she was 9 months old. Family planning officials apparently spotted Yang Ling’s clothes hung to dry outside the family’s mud-brick home. Her grandmother tried to hide her in a pigsty, but the grandfather, Yang Qinzheng, a Communist Party member and a former soldier, bade her to come out. “I don’t disobey,” he said last month. “I do what the officials say.” [Source: Sharon Lafraniere, New York Times, August 4, 2011]

Yang Ling’s parents had not registered their marriage. To keep the baby, the officials said, the elder Mr. Yang would have to pay nearly $1,000, on the spot. Otherwise, they said, he would have to sign away the girl with a false affidavit stating that he was not her biological grandfather. “I was totally outraged,” he said, but “I did not have the courage to resist. They do not play by the rules.” He signed the document.

Yang Libing discovered the loss of his daughter during his monthly telephone call home from a pay phone on a Shenzhen street. “Is she behaving?” he asked cheerily. The answer, he said, made him physically sick. After racing home, he said, he begged family planning officials to let him pay the fine. They said it was too late. When he protested, he said, a group of more than 10 men beat him. Afterward, the office director offered a compromise: although their daughter was gone forever, the Yangs would be allowed to conceive two more children.

“I can’t even describe my hatred of those family planning officials,” Mr. Yang said. “I hate them to my bones. I wonder if they are parents, too. Why don’t they treat us as humans?” Asked whether he was still searching for his daughter, he replied: “Of course! This is not a chicken. This is not a dog. This is my child.”

Government Cover Up of Chinese Officials who Seized Babies

Zeng Dingbao, who leads the Inspection Bureau in Shaoyang, the city that administers Longhui County, has promised a diligent investigation. But signs point to a whitewash. In June, he told People’s Daily Online, the Web version of the Communist Party’s official newspaper, that the situation “really isn’t the way the media reported it to be, with infants being bought and sold.”

Rather than helping trace and recover seized children, parents say, the authorities are punishing those who speak out. Two of the most vocal fathers were detained for 15 days in Shaoyang on charges of soliciting prostitutes at a brothel. Released last month, the two men, Yang Libing, 47, and Zhou Yinghe, 34, said they had been entrapped. [Source: Sharon Lafraniere, New York Times, August 4, 2011]

Mr. Yang said he was constantly followed by government minders. Mr. Zhou said the village party secretary had warned him to stop talking to reporters about the abduction of his 3-month-old daughter in March 2003 or face more punishment. “They are like organized criminals,” Mr. Zhou said.

Child Abductions and Adoptions in China

The scandal also has renewed questions about whether Americans and other foreigners have adopted Chinese children who were falsely depicted as abandoned or orphaned. At least one American adoption agency organized adoptions from the government-run Shaoyang orphanage. [Source: Sharon Lafraniere, New York Times, August 4, 2011]

Lillian Zhang, the director of China Adoption With Love, based in Boston, said by telephone last month that the agency had found adoptive parents in 2006 for six Shaoyang children “all girls, all renamed Shao, after the city. The Chinese authorities certified in each case that the child was eligible for adoption, she said, and her agency cannot now independently investigate their backgrounds without a specific request backed by evidence. “I’m an adoption agency, not a policeman,” Ms. Zhang said.

The Shaoyang welfare agency’s orphanage is required to post a notice of each newly received child for 60 days in Hunan Daily, a newspaper delivered only to subscribers in Longhui County. Unclaimed children are renamed with the surname Shao and approved for adoption. Foreign parents who adopt must donate about $5,400 to the orphanage.

Twelve Fired after Adoption Inquiry

Sharon Lafraniere wrote in the New York Times, “Twelve government employees have been fired and stripped of their Communist Party membership after an investigation into allegations that family planning officials kidnapped children Longhui, People’s Daily reported.” [Source: Sharon Lafraniere, New York Times, September 29, 2011]

While investigators concluded that the government workers did not engage in “baby trading,” they did find “severe violations” of regulations, according to the newspaper’s Web site, People’s Daily Online. A Hunan-based Web news portal said the officials were guilty of “negligence and handling work in a simplistic way.”

Government investigators examined 14 cases. In one, parents voluntarily surrendered their child because they were unable to provide care. Five other children were deemed abandoned because the facts about their parentage were hidden by “involved persons,” People’s Daily reported. Eight more were taken because they had been illegally adopted by local families. Investigators found no evidence that the city’s orphanage, the Shaoyang Social Welfare Institute, paid kickbacks to officials who delivered babies, according to the newspaper’s report.

Chinese Doctor Involved in Baby Trafficking

In January 2014, a doctor given the death penalty but was likely to serve life term for taking newborns from hospital and selling them Associated Press reported: “Zhang Shuxia, who once worked in Fuping county in the north-western province of Shaanxi, had told parents their newborns had congenital problems and persuaded them to give them up, according to online postings by the Weinan intermediate people's court in Shaanxi. A court convicted the doctor guilty of baby trafficking and sentenced her to death with a two-year reprieve. In China this usually means the sentence will be changed to life imprisonment after two years. [Source: Associated Press, January 14, 2014 /~/]

“The case exposed a baby trafficking ring that operated across several provinces centering on Zhang. According to the postings she sold the babies to human traffickers, who then sold the babies at higher prices. In a July case Zhang was said to have pocketed 21,600 yuan (US$3,600) when she passed a baby boy to a human trafficker, who sold the child for 59,800 yuan to a couple in central China's Henan province. Altogether she sold seven babies to middlemen who resold the babies in central and eastern China between November 2011 and July 2013. Six of the babies were either returned or rescued by police but one that was voluntarily abandoned by its parents and sold for 1,000 yuan in April later died. The case has added to public frustration with China's medical profession over rampant bribery and other abuses. /~/

Zhang, an obstetrician at Fuping County Maternal and Child Healthcare Hospital in Shannxi Province was arrested in July 2013 last month and charged a month later 9 with trafficking newborns as far back as 2006. As many as 55 possible baby thefts from the hospital are under investigation, with Zhang a principal suspect in half of them, according to police statements.

Barbara Demick wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “The doctor was detained after one young couple, whose son was born July 16, contacted police. They said they had been told by Zhang that their baby had hepatitis B and syphilis transmitted through the mother. The husband and wife initially accused each other of infidelity, then went to another doctor, who examined them and found them free of the diseases. Police last week raided a home 300 miles away in adjacent Henan province where a family is believed to have purchased the baby from traffickers for nearly $10,000. Zhang's cut was reported to be $3,500, according to police reports in the official press. The baby was reunited with his parents. Police have also recovered twin girls born at the hospital in May, saying they were sold, separately, at slightly lower prices — girls being the less favored gender in China. [Source: Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, August 17, 2013 ^^^]

“Five people have been arrested on suspicion of being accomplices to Zhang, and families think others may have been involved. Zhang was well-connected in local government: Her husband is a recently retired county official and the couple's son works in the county's legal affairs department. The maternity hospital, which opened in 1996, has a staff of 120 doctors and treats 20,000 patients a year, according to its website. The allegations are particularly embarrassing from a symbolic standpoint because Fuping is best known as the ancestral home of President Xi Jinping, whose father, Xi Zhongxun, an early Communist Party revolutionary, was born here. "It is a disgrace for the hometown of our president that they could not protect us," raged Luo Sanliang, a 57-year-old carpenter, who now believes his granddaughter was sold by Zhang. "This was a government-run hospital, directly under the control of the county…. Zhang was a wolf in sheep's clothing, but I blame authorities too." ^^^

Methods Used by Chinese Baby-Trafficking Doctor

Chinese police say Dr. Zhang Shuxia convinced families that their babies were dead, dying or afflicted with ailments, then sold the infants to child traffickers. Barbara Demick wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “Police say the doctor's victims were often friends and neighbors, forced to make heart-wrenching decisions about whether their babies should live or die, thus becoming complicit in their purported deaths. Zhang, the families say, even charged them a fee of about $10 to dispose of the corpses. [Source: Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, August 17, 2013 ^^^]

“Dong Genlao, a 24-year-old new father, was giddy over the birth of his child, a robust 8-pounder, until the obstetrician beckoned him into the hallway and lowered her voice. The newborn had a serious genital deformity and could never lead a normal life, she explained. "He is not completely male, but not female. It will bring shame on the family," whispered the doctor, Zhang Shuxia, a trusted family friend whom they affectionately called "Auntie." "Don't worry," Dong recalled Zhang telling him. "Auntie can help you." She advised that Dong and his mother give up the baby, euphemistically, to let him be euthanized, a fate common in China for disabled newborns. In fact, Chinese police believe that Zhang tricked Dong into abandoning the baby so she could sell it. ^^^

“Zhang is believed to have frequently preyed on the fears of the grandparents, who in the Chinese countryside are desperate for healthy grandchildren to carry on the family line. The mothers were frequently left out of the loop. A generation ago, unwanted babies in rural China were dumped in a well or smothered. Zhang Wei of the Enable Disability Studies Institute, a Beijing-based advocate for the disabled, said a disabled child still makes life very difficult for rural families. "The whole burden comes down on the family. There is nobody to help them, no money and no education about what they can do, so they abandon the baby," Zhang Wei said.” ^^^

“Zhang was a high school classmate of Luo's wife and used their friendship, he says, to persuade the family in 2006 to give up their granddaughter, born just two weeks premature, saying she would be severely disabled. "After four days, she saw us at the hospital and said, 'Why haven't you given up on that baby yet?'" recalled Luo, who says Zhang told them they should let the baby die. "She brainwashed us. We took the baby out of the incubator and left her on the bed." The decision to let the baby die devastated the family. "I'm a criminal. I looked into that baby's eyes," he said. His daughter-in-law didn't agree with the decision and barely speaks to him now. ^^^

“Fan Ningning, 30, who works in a small grocery store, says the entire maternity hospital was under Zhang's control and that other doctors dared not disagree with her. Fan gave birth to two premature infants that Zhang told her to abandon in 2008 and 2009. Both were about eight weeks premature and weighed about 4 pounds. "I thought she was big enough and I begged Dr. Zhang to put her in the incubator," Fan said of the girl born in 2008. "But she said the baby couldn't survive." After a similar experience the next year with a boy of the same size, she switched hospitals. She gave birth to a son in 2011, about seven weeks early. "He was just about the same size, maybe a little bigger, but nobody at the hospital suggested I abandon him. They put him in the incubator for two weeks and he was fine," Fan said. ^^^

Families Affected by Chinese Baby-Trafficking Doctor

Reporting from Fuping,Barbara Demick wrote in the Los Angeles Times, Zhang's arrest has devastated families in villages near Fuping, a county of 800,000 in northern China's Shaanxi province, famous for its apple orchards. The doctor, who grew up nearby, has delivered many babies in the area, as did her mother, also an obstetrician.” [Source: Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, August 17, 2013 ^^^]

“Dong, a polite man, sounds more incredulous than angry when speaking about Zhang. His family knew the doctor through her younger sister, who lived a block away. Zhang would give free prenatal exams for villagers who didn't want to travel to the county seat 25 miles away. Dong's family liked her so much they would take a gift of steamed bread when they had their checkups."She seemed like a very warm person. Tall, strong, smart, but down to earth," he said. "We absolutely trusted her and she tricked us." ^^^

“Many families say they simply left their babies behind with the doctor. Dong, though, said he carried the baby out of the hospital himself at 8 p.m., after night had fallen, and followed Zhang's instructions to leave him in a box set outside. "I was worried that the baby would get cold and I kept coming back to look. After 30 minutes, I saw the baby was gone," he recalled. "I wanted to find out later where he was buried so I could go to the grave, but they wouldn't tell me." ^^^

“Dong, the young father, said the doctor kept up a drumbeat, recounting terrifying stories of families that were ruined financially looking for a cure for the child's condition. He examined the baby himself but was unsure what to think. Until a few weeks ago, Dong hadn't told his wife, Wang Xiaojuan, what had happened. "She's too weak from childbirth. Just tell her the baby stopped breathing," he says Zhang instructed him. ^^^

“With Zhang's arrest, Dong was forced to tell his wife what he had done. The couple, who now work in coastal China, he in a building management office and she in a garment factory, rushed back to Fuping to give a statement to police. They've also given blood samples in the hope that DNA testing can someday identify their boy. Police have promised to look for him, although they say that babies stolen years ago are harder to track down. "My eyes are swollen crying every day when I think about what happened," Wang said. She said she had forgiven her husband and now wants to move forward. "Now it is too late to be angry. We just have to find our baby," she said softly.” ^^^

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated July 2015


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