Babies for sale as would-be parents prefer illegal route

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Childless couples in China are dodging official adoption procedures and turning to underground markets and online platforms for babies, according to a media investigation.

Ten orphans, who have all proved academically gifted, receive cash from a representative of a business in Neijiang City in southwest China's Sichuan Province at a ceremony announcing continuing financial support until they complete their undergraduate programs.

Newborn boys and girls are being sold illegally at prices ranging from 24,000 to 100,000 yuan (US$3,914-16,309) across the country. Prices vary depending on gender, appearance and their state of health, China National Radio reported.

China allows residents to adopt from orphanages or child welfare institutes, but the complicated and time-consuming process has diverted childless parents to illegal sources, the radio report said.

Reporters posing as would-be adopters were turned away by several orphanages who said they didn't have a single healthy child available.

Only orphans with physical or mental problems were sent to orphanages while healthy unwanted babies would go to families "via other ways," staff told undercover reporters.

One of these other ways, a middle-aged woman who posted ads on hospital walls in the central Henan Province, told reporters by phone that she was selling babies who were only a month old.

"A boy costs 36,000 yuan and a girl 24,000 yuan," the woman said. "You arrange a place so we can take the baby to see you. If you want to buy it, we can take it to the hospital to make sure it is healthy."

She told the reporter that a favorite could be picked from many others. The woman said many of the babies were born to migrant workers.

"The business is absolutely safe. Their mothers are mostly poor factory workers who cannot afford to raise the children. They give the babies to us and we no longer have contact with them," she said.

Websites and online forums are another avenue for illegal child adoption, according to the Nanfang Daily newspaper.

There, traders publish ads that try to make it look as if the business is legal by saying they are looking for couples to adopt children without a fee being involved. But adopters usually have to give 30,000 yuan to 100,000 yuan to families as "gifts," the newspaper reported.

On one online forum, there are 296 families listed as members waiting for new parents to come forward and give away their babies.

A reporter posing as an adopter said a mother in the southeast city of Xiamen wanted 500,000 yuan as a "compensation fee" for giving her child up for adoption.

An adopter in Shenzhen in southern China told the newspaper she dreamed of having a daughter and had been seeking to adopt for the past year.

More difficult

She said she was trying to buy one because taking the legal route was much more difficult than she had imagined.

An official with the Adoption Office in Shenzhen told the newspaper they had 400 children available but none of them was healthy. More than 1,000 couples on a waiting list for a healthy child may have to wait years before one becomes available, the official said.

At orphanages in Henan's Zhengzhou and Jiaozuo cities, officials said there were no healthy children available.

"The situation at child welfare institutes everywhere in the country is the same.

"An abandoned but healthy child would not be sent to the institutes," an official said.

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