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No babies in trafficking case sent to US: China
Updated: 2006-03-17 09:01

The Chinese government has told Washington that an investigation found no children involved in a recent baby-trafficking case were adopted by American families, a U.S. State Department official said Wednesday.

The U.S. government asked the official China Center for Adoption Affairs to investigate after state media said abducted babies were sold to welfare homes in the southern city of Hengyang and later adopted by foreign couples. The United States is the leading destination for Chinese babies adopted abroad.

"The CCAA informed us that it had concluded its investigation into all of the children from Hengyang adopted by Americans and found that all of these children were legitimately orphaned or abandoned and that there are no biological parents searching for them," the U.S. official said from Washington.

The official said he had no information on whether the Chinese agency found babies were sent to other countries. He declined to be identified further, in line with State Department rules.

Ten people were sentenced last month to up to 15 years in prison on charges of selling at least 78 babies, some of them abducted, to welfare homes in Hengyang.

Supporters of those convicted in Hengyang say they passed on foundlings to orphanages for free and were wrongly prosecuted as part of efforts to crack down on baby-trafficking.

Chinese state media say some babies were adopted by foreigners "who made donations" to the welfare homes. The reports said the homes paid 3,200 yuan to 4,300 yuan (US$400-US$540) per baby.

News of the case alarmed adoptive American parents of Chinese babies who worried that some might have families in China that hoped to be reunited with them.

Americans adopted 7,906 children from China last year, according to the Joint Council on International Children's Services in Alexandria, Virginia, an association of adoption agencies and parents' groups.

Chinese officials have refused to release any details of where the babies in the Hengyang case went, and the court ordered lawyers not to talk about it publicly.

Thousands of babies are abandoned every year in China. Many are girls given up by couples who, bound by rules that limit most urban families to one child, want to try to have a son. Others are left at orphanages or by the roadside by unmarried mothers or poor families.

But the country also has a thriving trade in babies that are stolen or bought from poor families and then sold to couples who want another child, a servant or a future bride for a son.

China's system, which is generally respected and regarded as free of corruption, is meant to ensure that all adoptees are orphaned or abandoned. Foreign parents are matched with children by the CCAA and are barred from dealing directly with orphanages.

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