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Adoptions suspended for smuggle investigation
Updated: 2005-12-22 09:32

Chinese authorities have temporarily halted adoptions in some regions of Hunan province because of a continuing investigation of a baby-trafficking scandal, a senior Hunan official said.

The official denied, however, that the scandal has prompted China to suspend all adoptions from Hunan, one of the main sources of Chinese children adopted by Canadians.

A report last week by Children's Bridge, an international adoption service based in Ottawa, said that Hunan had dealt with the scandal "swiftly and ruthlessly" by suspending all foreign adoptions from Hunan until Chinese authorities have finished their investigation.

But in interviews this week, Chinese authorities said Hunan remains open to foreign adoptions, with the exception of some counties that are directly involved in the baby-smuggling allegations.

"We have suspended the adoption work in some counties that are possibly involved in the case," the director of Hunan's foreign-adoption centre said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

He refused to give any details of which counties are subject to the suspension. Deborah Maw, who runs a Toronto adoption agency called Open Arms to International Adoption, said yesterday she had heard only rumours of a freeze on adoptions from parts of Hunan. She said she had no clients whose adoptions would be affected.

In Chilliwack, B.C., Bernice Whalley moderates an e-mail network of Canadians adopting children from China. She said she had not heard of any potential adoptions in jeopardy.

"I'm pretty in touch with what's going on," said Ms. Whalley, who is also vice-chairman of the B.C. branch of an organization called Families with Children from China.

Hunan is one of the major sources of Chinese children adopted by foreigners, and China remains the biggest source of foreign children adopted by Canadians. Last year, Canadians adopted 1,001 children from China, more than half of all international adoptions by Canadians last year.

The baby-trafficking scandal has sparked questions about corruption in the adoption system in China, which had previously been considered relatively clean.

The scandal began when Chinese police detained more than 50 suspects for alleged involvement in the buying and selling of at least 100 children. Most of the suspects were child-welfare officials and orphanage employees in Hunan, although other provinces, including Guangdong and Guangxi, were also allegedly involved.

One of the implicated orphanages, in the city of Zhuzhou in Hunan province, has placed children with adoptive parents in Canada in the past. Some parents have said they are worried that their children might not have been legitimately obtained.

The suspects reportedly sold the children to orphanages and child-welfare institutions for about $110 to $165 (Canadian) each. They were then resold to other orphanages or adoptive families for as much as $4,200 each. Some of the babies had been abducted from their parents, according to Chinese media.

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