Child Trafficking Investigator Raises Alarm Over Shandong Baby-Selling Ring

Volunteer investigator Shangguan says police are doing nothing to follow up on a trafficking ring she exposed nearly a year ago.
By Xiaoshan Huang and Chingman
2021.08.26
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Child Trafficking Investigator Raises Alarm Over Shandong Baby-Selling Ring A man and a woman hold babies in an alley in Beijing in a file photo.
AFP

Police in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong have yet to follow up on a tip-off from an anti-trafficking investigator suggesting that hospitals in Weifang city could be involved in a baby-trafficking ring, the group said this week.

"I have been following up on this medical company in Weifang for nearly a year after finding evidence of illegal surrogacy and baby-trafficking and reporting it to the local authorities," the volunteer, Shangguan Zhengyi, said on her Weibo account on Aug. 25.

"The 110 emergency number at the time did nothing, while the local police station said they would deal with it by talking to them, which is a dereliction of their duty," the post said.

"I have repeatedly advised the Weifang mayoral hotline that this dereliction of duty is taking place, and that this isn't something that can be resolved with a good talking-to," the account said. "These efforts have been in vain thus far."

The post came after the Global Times newspaper claimed on Aug. 2 that the reproductive medical technology company was "under police investigation on suspicion of operating an illegal surrogacy business and child trafficking."

A suspect, Zhu Yunli, who heads the company had allegedly been overseeing an illegal surrogacy and infant trafficking business on the quiet, the report said, citing an investigation by the The Paper and Shangguan Zhengyi.

The investigation "exposed the underground trading chain dominated by human trafficking gangs who trade newly born infants who are often abandoned by their biological parents. A newborn baby can be sold from tens of thousands of yuan to hundreds of thousands of yuan," the paper reported.

Zhu was apprehended by the local police on Monday afternoon and the public security bureau of Weifang has set up a special task force to investigate into the case, Shangguan was quoted as saying on Aug. 2.

Shangguan found an infant trafficking gang is made up of about 100 members across several provinces, after posing as an infertile woman wanting a daughter and being contacted by Zhu.

"Shangguan found that the business is pretty attractive to some young women who become pregnant unexpectedly and gave birth with no formal record. These women using this network do not need to pay for an abortion and are able to find a home for their child," the Global Times report said.

Some doctors and nurses from the W.F. Maternal And Child Health Hospital and Weifang Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine were also involved in the business, it quoted Zhu as saying.

The Paper also reported that the traffickers had helped a 22-year-old woman from the northern province of Hebei surnamed Ren to sell her own child for 70,000 yuan.

Shangguan Zhengyi was unavailable for comment, so as to protect her identity.

'No information available'

An employee who answered the phone at the W.F. Maternal And Child Health Hospital appeared to back away from the allegations when contacted by RFA on Thursday.

"We are currently cooperating with the police investigation, and so far there hasn't been a development," the employee said.

"How many infants were trafficked from here? I'm not sure that any were. I think you're asking an incorrect question," the employee said.

An employee who answered the phone at the Weifang Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine hit out at recent media reports about the case, suggesting it hadn't been contacted by the authorities at all.

"It may say that in the articles, but we would have been notified by the relevant departments if there was really any involvement in the case," the employee said. "The provincial government would have notified the National Health Commission and they definitely would have gotten in touch with us."

"We haven't had any information about this from them, however." the employee said. "I think the authenticity of these reports should be verified by the relevant departments, don't you?"

An official who answered the phone at the Weifang city health department said they are currently awaiting the results of the police investigation.

"We know that this case has been filed, and the investigation is currently under way," the official said.

"We will wait for the final conclusion as announced by the police, before we pursue the relevant personnel and organizations involved or impose any kind of administrative punishment," they said.

A former police academy student surnamed Lu said child trafficking is a long-running problem in China.

"A friend of mine couldn't give birth, and so they bought [a baby], which brought a whole lot of problems, and wound up costing them tens of thousands or even 100,000 yuan," Lu said.

"My friend and her family treated the kid very well, but there are a lot of people who don't -- it's pretty crazy," she said.

Targeted by traffickers

Former Weifang resident Liu Jihuai said he knows people who were targeted by traffickers or kidnappers.

"My sister and brother-in-law’s child was almost abducted in the People's Hospital, the biggest hospital in Weifang," Liu said. "He was only five or six years old at the time."

The tearful reunions of a Chinese couple reunited with their abducted son after 24 years of searching for him made international headlines in July.  

Guo Gangtang and his wife, Zhang Wenge, hugged their 26-year-old son at a reunion organized by police in their hometown of Liaocheng, also in Shandong, the Associated Press reported on July 21.

The story of their reunion after Guo crisscrossed China by motorcycle searching for his son and became an activist who helped police return other missing children to their parents prompted an outpouring of public sympathy and condemnation of abductions, the report said.

Guo Xinzhen, then age two-and-a-half, was grabbed by a woman and her boyfriend who took him northwest to Hebei province, which surrounds Beijing, the Chinese capital, where he was sold to a couple in central China, police said.

Police experts found Guo Xinzhen in June by searching databases for images of people who looked like he might as an adult, and his identity was confirmed by a DNA test.

The woman and her boyfriend, identified only by the surnames Tang and Hu, were caught and confessed to trafficking three boys, and have yet to stand trial

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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