China Checks Out Charges Babies Taken From Home
By GORDON FAIRCLOUGH
SHANGHAI -- Authorities in southern China are investigating allegations that local officials took babies from their parents between 2003 and 2005 and delivered them to an orphanage that press reports said has offered children for overseas adoption.
The government said "related people" had already been punished for wrongdoing. The probe was announced Thursday, the same day that Time Weekly, a newspaper based in Guangzhou, carried accounts of two families in the county -- Zhenyuan in Guizhou province -- saying officials took their baby girls when they couldn't pay fines levied on them for allegedly violating family-planning laws that limit the number of children a couple can have.
Time Weekly's story, which was prompted by a whistleblower who posted the account of a third family online, said the practice was widespread in the county at the time. Dozens of children from the orphanage where the children were reportedly taken were adopted by parents from the U.S. and other foreign countries. Another Guangzhou paper carried a similar story Wednesday.
The government of the prefecture overseeing Zhenyuan county said in a statement issued Thursday, "We will not cover up" any problems and "will investigate every case."
Tens of thousands of Chinese children have been adopted by U.S. parents over the past two decades. China imposes strict rules on who is eligible to adopt Chinese children and the country's overseas-adoption system is generally considered to be very transparent and to involve little corruption.
An official at the Zhenyuan County Public Security Bureau said it had looked into the publicly identified cases -- the two in the newspaper stories and the one posted online -- and concluded that in two of them, the families had voluntarily abandoned their children. In one case, the official said a child was surrendered after "inducement by family-planning officials."
The official said that officials from the local government, family-planning office and orphanage have been "punished." He declined to be more specific.
According to the Time Weekly story, two couples were told that if they couldn't pay a fine of "tens of thousands" of yuan (10,000 yuan is around $1,500) for having too many children, they would have to give up their babies for adoption. One father said he agreed to send a daughter to the orphanage. The mother of another baby girl said that she initially agreed and then pleaded to get her daughter back, but was refused. She said officials told her not to worry because her baby would be sent to a family abroad, the newspaper report said.
—Ellen Zhu contributed to this article.
Write to Gordon Fairclough at email@example.com