Chinese Police Rescue Babies From Traffickers, but Parents Don’t Want Them Back

The tragedy of children being bought and sold, and the seeming indifference of their parents, has intensified the debate about the darker impact of China’s one-child policy

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China Photos / Getty Images

Children share a breakfast at the Lijiang Ethnic Orphan School in Lijiang of Yunnan province, China

When police in China’s southeast Jiangsu province arrested seven members of a child-trafficking ring in late August, they also rescued 10 babies who had recently been trafficked by the gang. In a country where thousands of children are thought to be kidnapped each year, it seemed, for once, that there might be a happy ending for some of the affected families.

The only problem? The parents of the rescued infants didn’t want to take their offspring back.

The tragedy of children being bought and sold, and the seeming indifference of their parents, has intensified the debate about the darker impact of China’s one-child policy.

(MORE: China’s One-Child Policy: Curse of the Little Emperors)

All 10 of the children rescued by Jiangsu police came from Liangshan, a hardscrabble region in the mountains of southwest China’s Sichuan province, where the average annual income is less than $400 per year.

The price traffickers will pay for a healthy child is more than 10 times that amount. Male children are particularly sought after by traffickers, who generally take children from rural areas and sell them to couples in wealthier areas who can’t conceive.

In Liangshan, it emerged that all 10 of the infants were not kidnapped but were sold to the traffickers by their parents. Compounding the problem, all of the children were born to couples who already had children.

(MORE: Have Foreigners Unwittingly Adopted Victims of Baby-Selling in China?)

According to authorities, after news of the rescue reached Liangshan, not one of the parents of the 10 children contacted the police to claim their offspring. Police believe the parents feared that they would have to surrender the payments they received from the traffickers — a small fortune for these subsistence farmers — and were also concerned about having to pay the taxes and fines associated with having an extra child under the one-child policy.

The fines, called Social Support Payments, vary from region to region but are substantial. In some areas, parents will be fined two times their annual income, in other regions up to 10 times their annual income. In 2012, the Chinese government took in more than $2 billion in Social Support Payments, with Sichuan province alone accounting for close to $400 million.

In the case of the Liangshan children, police have said there is nothing they can do. With the parents refusing to claim the children, and child-care institutions unwilling to house young babies, for now, at least, the children will stay with the families who bought them.

MORE: A Powerhouse Province Wants to Relax China’s One-Child Policy — but Don’t Bet on a Baby Boom

18 comments
LayneZeiler
LayneZeiler

Alexei: True and not, making babies for sale is actually a major cottage industry in many areas of rural China. 

AlexeiChristopherIanMatt
AlexeiChristopherIanMatt

"Bought" "sold" "trafficked". In America we call this adoption. The bias in this article is glaring. In America, when babies are unwanted, they are either aborted or given away, and still we find some in dumpsters occasionally, while couples who can't conceive adopt or pay large sums for another woman to act as a surrogate mother. There is nothing unusual about these Chinese parents being paid to allow their babies to be adopted by a wealthy couple who could not conceive, but will give their children a better life than they could afford to give. The fact that it is done outside of the authorities does not change the facts. The traffickers should be investigated for kidnapping other children and charged if evidence exists, but in this case they have done nothing unethical by what is stated in this article. There may be more to it, and if so, that's another failure of this propaganda piece.

ccampbell2675
ccampbell2675

How sad and disgusting at the same time.  These poor babies pay the ultimate price for the 1 child law in China.  The Chinese government needs to fix their law! 

DiceGH
DiceGH

@TIME @TIMEWorld the question is: is this darker impact of China's one-child policy or the painful reality of poverty?

TJWnyc
TJWnyc

@TIME when the D.C. police recovered my stolen jacket and LV wallet, I told them I didn't want it back. ti.me/18r9BSL

epfendl2013
epfendl2013

@TIME @TIMEWorld is sad , if the parents didn't care where they go? This countries see their kids like a transactions very very sad

jimandt
jimandt

@DiceGH @TIME @TIMEWorld It does not have anything to do with poverty. It has to do with long-held tradition AND the one-child policy. Many families give up (or sell) a child that is either 1) a girl, or 2) has a defect. Without a social safety net, parents want a boy that will care for them in their older age.

alyssaanne
alyssaanne

@epfendl2013 @TIME @TIMEWorld Or the parents can't afford their children! The policy is the result of extreme over crowding, poverty, and pollution! Did you know Chinese is the most spoken language in the WORLD just because there are so many people in China? They literally can't afford to care. Can you survive on $400 a year and support a family?

Butter333
Butter333

did you even read the article?