Family-planning officials took & sold babies: report

Date: 2011-05-10

By Liu Linlin

Alleged child trafficking involving family-planning officials in Hunan Province stunned the nation on Monday.

Over the last 10 years, family-planning "enforcers" in Shaoyang have seized at least 20 children from Longhui county, who were born outside their parents' birth quota, and dispatched them to a local children welfare center, according to media reports.

The welfare center then named all the seized children "Shao" and listed them as orphans available for $3,000 adoption. Some now live in the US, the Netherlands and Poland and have never met with their Chinese parents since adoption, the Xinhua News Agency reported, citing a report by Caixin Century Magazine.

Village officials usually accompanied the enforcers when taking a child, according to the report.

Their explanation for the action was that either the child had been illegally adopted or the parents had breached the national one-child policy and could not afford a fine.

Some victims were actually a family's first child, the report said.

"They mistook my daughter for being illegal when my wife and I were working in Shenzhen," Yang Libing, a local migrant worker, told the magazine, adding that their 7-year-old child has been found living in the US.

The child-snatching phenomenon climaxed in about 2005, the Beijing-based magazine reported, and some welfare centers even worked with human traffickers to obtain children and reclassify them as orphans for "export."

The magazine said that for every child sent to a welfare center, the family-planning office could receive 1,000 yuan ($154) or more from the welfare center.

"Before 1997, they usually punished us by tearing down our houses for breaching the one-child policy," Yuan Chaoren, a villager, told the magazine.

"But after 2000, they began to confiscate our children."

Longhui is a national poverty-level county with a population of more than 1 million.

Six years ago, the fine for breaching the policy was about 8,000 yuan, preventing many poor parents from saving their children, the report said.
Late on Monday, Shaoyang government announced a joint investigation into the reported scandal alongside officials from the disgraced county of Longhui, without offering details.

An anonymous employee with the Longhui family planning office denied the alleged child trafficking, saying the office had improved from a year ago when accusations of "inappropriate work" had first broken.

"When we found illegal birth children, we fined the parents in accordance with the law," he told the Global Times, refusing to elaborate.

If the scandal is confirmed, the family-planning office and the welfare center have committed serious crimes against humanity, said Feng Yujun, a law professor with the Renmin University of China in Beijing.

"To bring their children back, parents can either impeach the family planning office up to its supervisor or demand state compensation or apply for administrative review at the local court," he told the Global Times.

Filing a lawsuit was also an option, he said, but would be much more time consuming and costly.

Some analysts questioned the apparent lax government supervision over an alleged decade-long series of crimes.

Lu Jiehua, a sociologist with Peking University, told the Global Times that the difficulties of enforcing the one-child policy might have forced the officials to resort to extreme measures.

"They are under extreme pressure as all their job evaluations are related to the effectiveness of reducing the number of children," Lu said. "Their job is difficult, but that is no excuse for trafficking children, which is absolutely illegal."

Other analysts called for more adoption regulations to prevent a profit chain in which family-planning offices snatched babies and welfare centers repackaged them into "products" for export.

Longhui is by no means the first county to snatch babies.

In 2005, a number of children welfare centers in Hengyang, also in Hunan, were exposed for participation in human trafficking.

Some of the welfare centers even required employees to look for children that could be seized, the Caixin Century Magazine said, citing local news reports.

Two years ago, the Southern Metropolis Daily reported similar cases in Zhenyuan county, Guizhou Province, where local welfare centers bought children for 3,000 yuan and sold them to adoptive foreigners for $3,000 each.

As the population increases in China, family planning policy faces increasing challenges.

More than 13 million people in the country have no hukou, or household registration, and most had been born in violation of the national family planning policy, according to Ma Jiantang, head of the National Bureau of Statistics.

Li Qian contributed to this story

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