'Illegal' babies sold

Date: 2009-07-04
Foreign adoption programme in China spawning 'Baby Economy'

BEIJING - MR LU Xiande's youngest daughter had not even been named when she was taken away from her parents in 2004.

Mr Lu and his wife, farmers in a remote county in south-west China, could not pay the steep fines imposed for having too many children. Their fifth child's current whereabouts are unknown, according to a report by the Southern Metropolis News.

The child, who was six months old when she was taken away, is believed to be among 80 newborn girls 'confiscated' from parents who broke family planning laws, and then 'sold' for adoption overseas in the past eight years.

The girls were put in orphanages in Zhenyuan county in Guizhou province and then adopted by couples from the United States and European countries under the foreign adoption programme. Under Chinese law, abandoned babies can be registered for adoption. It is believed that the authorities forged documents stating the babies were orphans, said Chinese reports.

The adoption fee of US$3,000 (S$4,350) per baby was reportedly split between the orphanages and local officials.

The foreign adoption programme has spawned what local reports termed as 'Baby Economy', which earned local orphanages massive profits.

In late 2005, police busted a baby-trafficking ring that had abducted or bought as many as 800 children in Guangdong province since 2002 and sold them to orphanages in Hunan province for 3,200 yuan to 4,300 yuan (S$679 to S$912) each. The children were put on the adoption programme.

China has since tightened adoption rules for foreigners but the latest scandal showed that checks need to be stepped up. The local public security bureau in Zhenyuan county has launched an investigation into the latest scandal, which triggered a backlash among Chinese netizens.

Professor Zhou Ze, a lawyer and professor with China Youth College for Political Sciences, was quoted as saying by China Daily that the fact that babies had been forcibly removed from their parents to make a profit constituted an act of abduction.

China started the one-child policy in the late 1970s although exceptions are made for rural couples and ethnic minorities. Couples in the countryside can have a second child if the first is a girl. But many keep having children until a male heir is born who could continue the family name and later help on the farm.

Mr Lu Xiande and his wife Yang Shuiying console themselves by saying the government is helping them to raise their youngest daughter. -- PHOTO: NDDAILY.COM


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