About 80 newborn baby girls from a county of Guizhou Province in southwest China have been removed from their families by local officials since 2001, and most have been handed over to foreign adoptive parents as orphans at a price of $3,000 each, the Southern Metropolis News reported on Wednesday.
Among the 80 families are Lu Xiande and Yang Shuiying, a poor farming couple whose fifth daughter was removed by local family planning officials when they didn't pay the appropriate fine, it reported.
Like every other father in Zhenyuan, Lu wanted a boy, who finally arrived after three daughters. His wife then gave birth to another girl, and the couple had to support five children with a yearly income of about 5,000 yuan ($732).
Shi Guangying, a local family planning official, gave them an ultimatum: Give away their little daughter or pay fines of about 20,000 yuan ($2,928).
"This is the policy", Shi said. "You pay, or you let the government take care of the baby," he was quoted by the newspaper on Wednesday.
But instead of being raised as promised, the girl was taken to the Zhenyuan orphanage and later adopted out to a foreign family, at a reported price of $3,000.
At least 78 girls have been handed over to foreign families in the past eight years. Two children with disabilities remain at the orphanage.
It's believed authorities forged documents stating the babies were orphans and adoption fees were split between the orphanage and officials.
The practice of making farmers who break the two-child policy and then fail to pay fines hand over their baby girls is now under investigation by the local public security bureau in Zhenyuan county.
Zhou Ze, a lawyer and professor with China Youth College for Political Sciences, said local family planning officials and the orphanage had committed a crime because nobody had the right to exploit a parent's right of guardianship over their children.
The fact that babies had been removed to make a profit meant it was also abduction, Zhou said.
"It is legal that they can charge fines, as the parents did violate the law by giving birth to more than one child. But that doesn't mean they can take away the child. The fines can be paid later or reduced", he said.
Tang Jian, an official of the Zhenyuan family planning bureau, said: "According to our investigation, it is true that babies who have parents were forced into the orphanage and then abroad".
Under Chinese adoption law, abandoned babies whose parents cannot be found can be registered for adoption.
"The most important thing is that we need so many other government departments, so many, to help us in the investigation," Liang Honghao, director of the Zhenyuan police bureau, was quoted by the Guangdong-based Time Weekly yesterday.