Chinese babies sold for adoption to US and Europe, report claims
Authorities in China are investigating reports that dozens of babies who were taken from their parents for breaching the country's strict one-child policy were sold for adoption to families in Europe and America.
By Peter Foster in Beijing
An investigation has alleged that up to 78 babies taken into care in Guizhou province, in southern China, were sold for £1,800 each, mostly to childless couples in the US but also to families from European countries, including Sweden and Spain.
Many of the girls were genuine orphans or had been abandoned by their parents as unwanted, however, in at least three cases it is alleged the children were removed in lieu of £2,000 fines levied for breach of China's draconian one-child policy.
The cases relate to a three-year period between 2004-2006, when the policy was being strictly enforced by the local government of Zhenyuan county in Guizhou.
The local government issued a statement saying that two senior local officials had been warned and had received "executive demerits" following a local disciplinary inquiry. The statement said the government would continue to investigate the allegations. "There will be no cover up," the statement added.
China is a popular destination for overseas couples, particularly from the US, who want to adopt children and is generally perceived to have a well-regulated and transparent system, imposing strict requirements on applicants.
Yang Jibin, the reporter who researched the story for the Southern Weekly newspaper in Guangzhou, said he was shown a list of 80 female babies while on a visit to the Zhenyuan state orphanage, of which 78 had been adopted abroad.
He told the story of one couple, Lu and Yang, who gave up their fourth baby girl in 2003 after a visit from a birth control officer who insisted on taking the baby away, describing the girl as "abandoned baby, found and turned in by Lu" in the orphanage register.
"That was my job. I just followed the policy," the officer was reported as saying, "They were willing to give up their baby to offset the fine" After relinquishing their child without signing any formal contracts, Lu and Yang never returned to the orphanage to visit. They added that, even if the child was now found, they would not take her back for fear of having to pay the outstanding fine.
Tang Jian, leader of Birth Control Administrative Bureau Inspection Team of Zhenyuan county apparently admitted the practice was prevalent at the time.
"It is true that some baby girls were forced be brought into the charity house and then sent abroad," he was quoted as saying.
Other parents were less compliant when asked to give up their children. A former worker at the orphanage quoted in the report recalled one local father who tried several times to take back his daughter in 2004, even offering bribes to staff to let her go.
When this failed, he came to visit his daughter more and more often until, one day, he grabbed her, stood up and ran. "Four or five nannies surrounded him immediately and took back the baby," the worker recalled.