Wed, Jul 14, 2004 - Page 6 News List

China nabs gang that sold abducted newborn babies

AP , Beijing

Police in northern China have broken up a gang that sold 76 infants abducted from hospitals, some just hours after they were born, newspapers reported yesterday.

The case was unusually large even by the standards of China's thriving black market in stolen babies, which is driven in part by a birth control policy that limits most couples to one child.

In the latest case, 95 people have been arrested in the city of Hohot, capital of the Inner Mongolia region, on charges of taking the babies from 28 clinics and hospitals over the past 18 months, the Beijing News said. It said they were sold in four provinces.

Many of the babies were bought from clinics and were born to migrant women, college students and other unmarried mothers, the Shanghai Youth Daily reported, suggesting that some of the babies were sold by their parents.

Experts say a baby can cost as little as 800 yuan (US$100) and registering one as adopted doesn't trigger heavy fines imposed under China's strict ``one child'' rule. Announcements of arrests often say traffickers are caught with dozens of infants.

Some buyers already have a daughter and want a son in a society that favors boys. Others are looking for future brides for sons.

The leader of the Hohot gang was identified as Ren Suyan, 43, but the Beijing News didn't give the names or any details about the others.

The first arrests took place May 11 in Hohot, the newspaper said. It said the babies were abducted anywhere from two hours to five days after birth, but didn't say whether hospital employees were involved or for what price they were sold.

Police who arrested Ren found a book with information on when each baby was abducted and where it was sold, the newspaper said. It didn't say whether any of the infants had been recovered.

In some cases of child abduction, authorities say they often can't find the parents, leaving recovered children to be raised in orphanages. In other instances, the babies are sold by impoverished parents who don't come forward for fear of punishment.

The scale of China's baby trade isn't clear, but the Justice Ministry says a three-month-long nationwide crackdown in 2000 resulted in the rescue of 10,000 babies.

China's birth control rules prompt some parents to kill baby girls in hopes of trying again for a boy. Experts say this is leading to a lopsided sex ratio among child-ren, which will only increase demand for abducted girls as wives in coming years.

In one highly publicized case last year, 28 baby girls, all under three months old, were found packed in nylon tote bags aboard a long-distance bus in the southern region of Guangxi.

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