Baby traffickers shift focus to girls

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 August, 2005, 12:00am

Low prices and strong demand have created a boom in the trafficking of baby girls in the mainland's hinterland provinces, according to police.

In the past, most babies rescued from traffickers had been boys, but in some areas this year more than 80 per cent have been girls.

Zheng Jinchao, a railway police spokesman in Zhengzhou, Henan province, said 43 of the 54 babies rescued in Xinxiang and Luoyang in the first half of the year were girls.

'It is the first time we have saved so many baby girls within such a short period,' he said.

'All the girls were between eight days and eight months old, and some even still had umbilical cord stumps.'

In Xinxiang, police rescued 33 babies, 29 of them girls. Public notices have been circulated, urging the children's parents to take them back.

But while the community response has been overwhelming, no relatives of the girls have come forward.

'I have never been so busy answering telephone inquiries, but not one has been from a natural parent,' said Huang Ying, director of the Xinxiang Children Welfare Centre, the city's only orphanage. She said she had received more than 800 calls on one day.

'They were all keen to adopt the baby girls,' Miss Huang said. 'Girls have never been so popular.

'Some villagers, who live nearby, visited the centre and told me that they already had a boy and now hoped to adopt a girl to create an ideal family. But we cannot allow adoption yet.'

She said her first priority was to find the children's real parents.

The Civil Affairs Department had collected DNA samples from all the babies, but no parents had volunteered to be tested, Miss Huang said.

While none of the new arrivals are handicapped, the orphanage is now facing the pressure of shortages of manpower and funds to look after more than 100 retarded and disabled children in its care.

'Our centre is overcrowded. Frankly, this is not the ideal place for the girls. The ideal solution for them is to either find their real parents or for them to be adopted,' Miss Huang said.

Mr Zheng said it was difficult for them to find the girls' natural parents, most of whom came from poor rural families in Sichuan , Guangdong, Guangxi , Yunnan and Guizhou .

'Actually, the parents are deliberately abandoning or selling their girls because of the traditional discrimination against daughters,' he said.

'It is very easy to deal in baby girls as they are cheaper than the boys. A girl costs only 5,000 to 8,000 yuan, while a boy can cost between 15,000 and 20,000 yuan.'

Mr Zheng said that to save tens of thousands of yuan on a betrothal gift for their son's wedding, some rural families were prepared to pay several thousand yuan to buy a girl as a 'child bride'.

The Civil Affairs Department says adoptions are only allowed if the real parents do not claim their children within two years, but Mr Zheng said the situation was more flexible in Zhengzhou.

'We will allow adoption when we close the file on the case,' he said, adding that it might take just a few months because there were so many other cases that had to be handled.

The programme director at child welfare charity Children's Hope International's Beijing office, Wu Jianying , said child abductions would never be wiped out on the mainland unless the government amended domestic adoption rules.

'Compared with foreigners, Chinese families have a harder time adopting children,' she said.

'The red tape has encouraged some deserving families to risk buying children on the black market.'

She said the Civil Affairs Department was planning to rewrite the adoption regulations, but this would take time because the central government and mainland society as a whole did not attach high priority to the issue.