Buying and selling babies is illegal in China. However, some have found ways to evade detection.
According to a September report from The Paper, a Chinese state-owned digital newspaper, a couple in China successfully registered a baby that they bought, through illegal channels, by claiming that the baby had been “abandoned.”
Zhang Xing and Liu Yan (both pseudonyms) are a couple from Hubei Province. They were married in 2017 and were unable to conceive after trying for several years. The couple considered adopting children and went to orphanages for a consultation, but they were disappointed. Zhang said that there was no available child in any of the orphanages, and even if there was, “the waiting list is too long.”
The couple suggested that infertility treatments are too costly, ranging from an average of $16,000 to potentially $100,000 and there’s no guarantee they will work. Whereas buying a healthy child would cost half that amount.
In August 2020, Zhang’s friend called, saying he knew of a baby girl for sale. Zhang immediately said “Yes” without even thinking. His friend explained the baby’s complicated family background. Both of the parents were divorced, the couple currently lives together but are not married, and both have children from their previous marriages, which they cannot afford to raise.
The seller requested $10,000 in the name of a “nutrition allowance.” Zhang and his wife agreed and took possession of the baby girl one week after her birth. The total transaction cost was about $13,000, including other fees.
To prevent the birth parents from changing their minds afterward, they hired a lawyer to draft a long and thorough agreement. Both parties signed and affixed their handprints—despite knowing that buying and selling babies is illegal.
“The baby looks like a doll,” the couple said after completing the transaction. However, just then it occurred to them that they couldn’t legally register the baby.
Zhang then asked a distant relative who has an acquaintance in the local police department for help with the matter. Together, they came up with a story that they found the baby abandoned and decided to adopt it. The officer played along with the story and submitted a false police report.
In China, the primary method of registering a child is to either provide a birth certificate issued by the hospital where the child was born or a paternity test from a medical lab recognized by the judicial system. However, there is a loophole where a couple can potentially “adopt” a baby by claiming that the baby was “abandoned” and usually requires a police report of the incident. Zhang said the idea originated from a director surnamed Peng in the local Civil Affairs Bureau.
Zhang later reported the story to officer Liu, his family acquaintance, that he found the baby in the early hours one day. When Zhang made his statement at the station, officer Liu turned off the recorder, wrote the report himself, and left after stamping it.
Zhang’s “Abandoned Infants Discovery Report” stated that he found the infant in a ditch at the back of his house at 2 a.m. on Aug. 15 last year.
“All we did was sign [the report]; in fact, it was all written by the officer,” Zhang said.
The following procedures, normally conducted on reports of abandoned children, such as a DNA comparison with reported missing persons, went through unimpeded. On June 16 the police station issued a report confirming that Zhang’s abandoned infant discovery claim was found to be “true.”
The report listed Zhang’s neighbor Xu as a witness to the incident. However, when the reporter talked with Xu, he admitted that he had not personally seen a baby abandoned at Zhang’s house at the time of the reported incident. And that he was only told about it the following day when Zhang’s wife brought a baby to his home and asked to borrow baby clothes. Where exactly was the baby abandoned? Xu couldn’t answer the question.
Zhang and his wife went back and forth between the county and townships over the next few days, submitting the remaining paperwork and finally obtaining the adoption permit. On the evening of Sept. 14, Zhang was informed that “the household registration was complete.”
On Sept. 15, a reporter from The Paper found director Peng at the local Civil Affairs Bureau, whom Zhang claimed came up with the whole idea, and interviewed him about the case.
“It’s difficult to adopt an abandoned child, but if you can get it right [with the police department], it’s doable,” Peng answered with hesitation. “The civil affairs department only processes what the police department says to be true.”
China’s “Adoption Law” requires that adopters meet the following conditions: no children; capable of raising and educating the adoptee; not suffering from any diseases or illnesses that are medically considered inappropriate for adopting children; and are at least 30 years of age.
Both Zhang and his wife met the above conditions. No legal action was taken against the couple.