A woman holds a baby who police say she bought in Sichuan province, after they were stopped by police in Xuzhou, Jiangsu province, in early June. Experts in baby trafficking said parents who sell their babies should not get their children back. [Hou Qiguang / for China Daily]
Network across four provinces sold 10 infant boys since March 2012
Parents who intentionally sell their children should be deprived of custody rights, legal experts said after police arrested seven people on suspicion of trafficking infants, most of whom they say were given up willingly by parents.
Police in Xuzhou, Jiangsu province, broke up a criminal network across four provinces that has trafficked 10 boys under 12 months old since March last year, police told China Daily on Wednesday.
All the babies have been found, they said.
With one exception, all the trafficked babies are still with the parents who paid to adopt them "because the infants were sold by the parents, who don't want to take them back", said Hou Qiguang, a spokesman for the Xuzhou railway police.
One baby is being kept in the city's welfare home because police have been unable to get hold of the adoptive parents, Hou said.
Police said they have visited all 10 babies to ensure they are in good care, and police are still working on deciding the boys' future.
The criminal network came to light when a 30-year-old woman caught the attention of police by arriving at Xuzhou Railway Station on the night of June 3, having traveled alone from Chengdu, Sichuan province, and without luggage but carrying an infant.
"Her way of holding the baby was very weird. Usually, a mother holds her baby by circling the infant, as if providing a cradle, but she only used one arm to hold the infant on his back," said policewoman Liu Tao, who was then patrolling the platform.
Liu and her colleagues thought the woman was possibly a child trafficker after seeing her indifference to the baby's cries. They followed her for half an hour and saw her meet a man at the exit of the railway station.
Police stopped the man and woman and took them in for questioning. They later confessed that the 1-month-old baby had been bought for 30,000 yuan ($4,900) from the Liangshan Yi autonomous prefecture in Sichuan in May, and that they were sending him to an accomplice in Xuzhou.
The woman is a native of Butuo county of Sichuan, and the 32-year-old man is from Ningnan county of the same province.
Police later captured their five accomplices, who were scattered in Jiangsu, Shandong, Sichuan and Guizhou provinces.
They had made more than 500,000 yuan in the past 16 months, according to the police, by purchasing the infants from Sichuan and Guizhou for between 20,000 and 30,000 yuan, then selling them for between 40,000 and 50,000 yuan to customers in Feng-xian and Peixian counties in Xuzhou, and Weishan county in Shandong.
China Daily reported previously that in impoverished areas, such as Yunnan and Sichuan, villagers have sold their children, while in relatively well-off provinces, such as Fujian, Guangdong and Shandong, childless couples have bought baby boys from traffickers in order to continue their family for another generation.
Losing custody rights
Parents who have sold their babies are not suitable as guardians and the infants should be sent elsewhere for better care, said experts in baby trafficking cases and related laws.
"The government should deprive the parents of their custody rights, as they might sell the babies again if they are returned to the families. Children are not likely to be in good condition in such an environment," said Zhang Baoyan, founder of Baby Back Home, a website that posts information about missing children.
"The civil affairs department should transfer the children to welfare homes or designate other guardians or social organizations for foster care," she said.
Yi Shenghua, director of criminal cases at the Yingke Law Firm in Beijing, said: "These dysfunctional parents should at least be deprived of custody temporarily and prevented from regaining custody until they have proved themselves capable of protecting the children as much as possible.
"Meanwhile, they must bear legal liability of abandonment and human trafficking, although we're sympathetic with regard to their living conditions, which prompt them to make money by selling children," he said.
He added that those who purchased the children should be given stiff penalties as a deterrent.
A reporter from Yangtze Evening News, who is based in Xuzhou and declined to be named, said the traffickers take advantage of attitudes in some places where baby boys are considered essential for a family.
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