May 12, 2014 – Sadness silently surfaces. A frenetic blur of hapless, sombre emotions are stirring inside of me – and I have not the strength or will to muster a simple gesture of acknowledgement or spurious, Cimmerian response. The unimaginable is here. Utter sadness.
When I first read this investigative report, I wanted to throw it away – deny its existence – destroy it – kick it in the teeth – fall to my knees and scream and cry for mercy. I wanted to push it away from the ground it claimed beside my feet but the irrefutable yet inconceivable reality is that thousands upon thousands of babies are for sale – and at a good price.
Another human catastrophe in China has reared its ugly, despondent face with reports of numerous online trafficking rings using the internet to buy and sell babies. 37,841 Chinese babies were adopted from 2007 to 2012 on just one website – a “hush-hush look the other way” industry that has been unregulated for years. ‘Baby brokers’ far removed from any form of dignity or human decency continue to prey on human frailty and desperation.
“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa
Unable to pay the heavy fines demanded by Chinese authorities, mothers who are pregnant with their third child, go to ‘A Home Where Dreams Come True’, China’s biggest online adoption platform, where they can look for adoptive parents rather than abort or abandon their babies. On the other side of this wafer thin, weary coin are hopeful, childless couples who are drawn to the internet seeking what they lack – a child they can call their own.
Parents expecting their third child must pay a family planning fine from 50,000 to 80,000 yuan (about $8,700.00 to $14,000.00 Canadian Dollars) to the government so they can secure a ‘hukou’ (family registration). Failing to pay the fine, which is many times the average, monthly income, the baby would be undocumented and therefore have no basic human rights.
Undocumented children cannot receive medical treatment at hospitals, nor will they be able to attend school, acquire housing, travel or obtain a job when they get older. They become a social pariah living their days and nights as outcasts in a capsized and imprisoned world of constant thirst and hunger – for acceptance - for knowledge - for love.
Reuters, an international news agency, investigated this story and reported that adoption brokers normally give several thousand yuan to the birth parents and charge the adoptive parents more than 10,000 yuan for the baby.
About 70% of the parents who were in the process of giving their babies away asked for 30,000 to 50,000 yuan – the equivalency of $5,000.00 to $8,700.00 Canadian Dollars.
China’s Supreme People’s Court stated that while selling children for profit legally constitutes trafficking, accepting ‘fees for nutrition’ or a ‘gratitude fee’ are not illegal and therefore, it is ambiguous at best, if parents selling their children on the internet will face criminal charges.
Recently the government saved more than 380 babies and arrested 1,094 people from four child trafficking rings that were operating behind the deceptive veil of ‘adoption’ that spanned over 27 provinces across China. The rescued babies were placed in orphanages but authorities have not indicated what steps, if any, are being taken to reunite the babies with their families.
“The error of one moment becomes the sorrow of a whole life”.
Zhou Daifu, the 27-year-old founder of “A Home Where Dreams Come True” was arrested. He denied being involved in baby trafficking but did admit that many traffickers surfed his website. Officials stated that online forums and messaging platforms are also being used to contact potential buyers.
China installed 25 safe havens for parents who want to give up their children. While the facilities are praised for helping save the lives of babies who would otherwise be abandoned in the streets or dumped at train stations, there have been deep concerns that the safe havens provide encouragement for parents to abandon their unwanted children – which is illegal.
About 10,000 children are abandoned in China every year - many of them girls or disabled babies that have a severe illness or disability, such as Down syndrome, Cerebral Palsy or congenital heart disease.
Advocates of children’s health and safety readily agree that the majority of parents would not abandon their babies if China had a unified welfare system that provides medical treatment and special education. As well, if parents could afford to pay the family planning fine so that their child is documented with the government, they would not have to abort their babies or put them up for adoption.
“If” is the operative word. It possesses a world of hopeful possibilities.
There are an estimated 13 million people without hukou in China and the majority of them are children.