An investigative report conducted by Reuters has provided a more detailed look at China’s mostly unregulated baby trafficking industry, including the story of a young Jiangxi couple Yibing and Mu Lu (note: these are both pseudonyms) who, unable to afford hefty fines related to China’s one-child policy, resorted to putting up their unborn third child up for adoption on an online adoption forum.
The website is called “圆梦之家”, or “A Home Where Dreams Come True”, and it claims to be the largest online adoption forum in China: According to its own statistics, the site assisted with the adoption of nearly forty thousand babies from 2007 to August 2012. However, a recent crackdown led to the shutting down of A Home Where Dreams Come True along with three other similar websites, accusing them of being responsible for illegal baby trafficking, “with their operations disguised as adoptions.” Spanning 27 provincial regions, the crackdown led to the saving of 382 babies and the arrests of 1,094 suspects.
Zhou Daifu, the 27-year-old founder of the website, was also arrested despite his inital denial of any involvement with the buying and selling of babies. In a December interview with Reuters, he said: “Whenever we find suspicious cases of human trafficking, we always tell the police…but it seems to me that they just don’t care.” Yet according to hyper-nationalistic Chinese news source Global Times, whose reports should probably be taken with a pretty sizable grain of salt, Zhou “told the police that he established the website to profit from the illicit trade,” later admitting that his group bought babies from traffickers at 2,000 yuan ($235) per baby and twins at 3,500 yuan (~$575) before selling them “at more than triple the price…[using] a Taobao account disguised as an online jewelry shop to manage the influx of funds.”
Regardless of whether or not Zhou is actually innocent, there is no denying that the rise of online adoption has changed the adoption scene in China from “what was once a hush-hush process between friends to one where details can be shared anonymously with strangers over the Tencent QQ instant messaging service,” observed Reuters.
As for the couple in Jiangxi, having a third child would mean paying family planning fines of 50,000 to 80,000 yuan, or more than ten times Lu’s monthly income. Faced with dwindling options, the couple wrote their first post on “A Home Where Dreams Come True” in late February, saying they could not raise the child and instead were “seeking honest families who would be willing to adopt.” According to Reuters, the couple received 40 responses, yet some potential adopters mentioned their concerns that Lu might have been arrested after reports of the crackdown began to surface.
Exacerbated by the restraints of China’s one-child policy and a general favoring of male babies, baby trafficking has consistently been one of contemporary China’s most pressing social issues. Many traffickers have been known to hang around school gates or hospitals, where they pose as nurses: Earlier this year, a Chinese obstetrician received the death penalty for selling seven babies to a trafficking ring between 2011 and 2013 after convincing parents that their newborn children were sick and should be given up for adoption. Last year, police arrested the head of a village family planning committee in Fujian for purchasing trafficked babies and reselling them to local customers, making thousands of yuan in the process.
By Alex Stevens
[Image Credit: skippyjon]