Local officials have been accused of seizing baby girls from parents who broke birth control limits and helping hand them on to adoptive parents overseas for the equivalent of about £1,800 (US$2,930) each, Chinese media reported.
Six officials have been punished after children were wrongly sent to an orphanage, local authorities in Guizhou Province confirmed. The authorities were still looking into the role of the institution in the affair.
“According to our investigation, it is true that babies who have parents were forced into the orphanage and then abroad,” an official from the Zhenyuan County family planning bureau told a newspaper that uncovered the story.
The Southern Metropolis News said family planning officers removed the children when their parents could not afford to pay the fine for excess births.
The Chinese newspaper Time Weekly reported claims that officials forged documents stating that the babies were orphans, and that they split adoption fees with the orphanage.
The newspaper also said that almost 80 infants from Zhenyuan had been adopted by US and European families since 2001, although many were genuine orphans or given up voluntarily.
While rural couples in China are usually allowed to have two children, in comparison with urban couples who can generally have only one, many have more offspring, often unintentionally or because they keep trying for a son.
Yang Shuiying told Time Weekly that a family planning official warned that he would take away her fifth child unless she paid about 20,000 yuan, a sum roughly four times the household’s annual income.
When she said she wanted to keep her daughter, he replied: “You are so poor, how can you pay? Why didn’t you have an abortion?”
The official has since been punished for “misleading” Yang and her husband.
Another man, Li Zeji, said he and his wife gave their third child to a cousin and went to work in another town to stop officials discovering they had broken the rules.
“The family planning people in our village are very tough. Sometimes they smash houses and take away cows or TVs as a penalty,” he said. “[When they found out] they took away the kid and said I did not need to pay.”
He said each night he would dream his daughter was calling “Daddy” but could never see her face.
Investigators said officials took the baby from Li’s cousin, who claimed she found it abandoned, but did not do proper checks before putting the child into care.
The newspaper said that when pressed about the cases, a Zhenyuan official told them: “If the real parents still exist after investigation, they can get their children back after going through procedures.”