The two extremes of China’s long standing one child per family policy were evident recently: the horrifying images of a young woman tied to a hospital bed while her seven-month foetus is forcibly aborted, and the equally horrifying reports that a new market has grown up in the sale of unborn children.
Kidnapping has long been a problem, another unwelcome feature of the one-child policy, but the latest trend is for women from poorer areas of the country to get pregnant with the deliberate intention of selling their babies. A trafficking network has made the whole process much easier. At the end of last week the police arrested some eight hundred suspects across fifteen provinces.
According to the Public Security Ministry, the practice of baby trafficking has reached an ‘epic’ scale. Even doctors are prepared to collaborate with the criminal gangs that have formed around the trade; even doctors have been found among the arrested. I suppose in a way that this is hardly surprising, when infertile couples or those wanting a much-prized male child are prepared to pay 80,000 yuan ($12000) for the privelage. The co-operation of the birth mother is an added bonus, making the activity far less risky than outright kidnapping.
Zhang Baoyan, who runs a website which aims to reunite kidnapped children with their parents, said that the baby sales was a grim new development and called for urgent changes to the country’s lax adoption laws;
Women are treating babies as commodities, just another way to make themselves fast money. We have heard of families that have sold for children the moment they were born. Women in the poor provinces are willing to trade a big belly once a year for a household income of 10000 yuan.
In some cases the mothers have little alternative but to dispose of second and subsequent children for fear of state reprisals, the kind of reprisals that saw that legal termination of a late pregnancy, little better than an act of murder. The main motive, though, is profit.
It’s a sellers’ market, with expectant mothers identifying themselves at an early stage to the middle men. There is enterprise here, a kind of Wall Street speculation in foetus futures, with rival buyers bidding against one another. Police action, in curtailing the market, has only sent the price up still further.
Those arrested in the recent crackdown are far from being the usual suspects. They include doctors, nurses, clinic owners, hoteliers and a range of other fixers. The scandal has focused the nation’s attention on the whole one child policy, set to cause a major demographic crisis. It’s all rather ironic when one considers that it was adopted to prevent such a crisis in the first place.
One user on Sina-Weibo, the Chinese micro-blogging site, offered his own comment about the situation “Between killing babies and selling them, we need to ask what this policy has turned us into.” Indeed you do.