In July, I posted about a scandal reported in the Chinese press about family planning officials forcibly taking babies from families with over-quota children, and sending them to orphanages. Today, The L.A. Times has published a lengthy story on the scandals:
In much of China, villagers live in dread of surprise visits from family planning officials. It was certainly the case for the residents of Tianxi, a mist-shrouded village of 1,800 people tucked high in lush mountains near Zhenyuan.
No matter that the village is a two-hour drive down a rutted dirt road and then a 30-minute hike uphill, family planning officials make inspections as often as twice a week. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, when families were too poor to pay, the officials would punish them by ransacking their homes or confiscating cows and pigs, residents say.
Then, in 2003, things changed. The year after the Social Welfare Institute in Zhenyuan was approved to participate in the burgeoning foreign adoption program, family planning officials stopped confiscating farm animals. They started taking babies instead.
"If people couldn't pay their fines, they'd take away their babies," said a retired municipal employee from Zhenyuan who used to work as a foster parent for the orphanage.
"We were always terrified of them,"said Yang Shuiying, the 34-year-old mother whose daughter was taken away.
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The villagers resent the suggestion by some that they don't love their daughters and readily abandon them.
"People around here don't dump their kids. They don't sell their kids. Boy or girl, they're our flesh and blood," said Li Zeji, 32, a farmer who says his third daughter was taken in 2004.
* * *
Zhenyuan officials angrily defended their conduct.
"It's a lie that they took babies away without their parents' permission. That's impossible," said Peng Qiuping, a party official and propaganda chief for Zhenyuan. "These parents agreed that the children should be put up for adoption. They understood that they were greedy and had more children than they could afford."
"They're better off with their adoptive parents than their birth parents," argued Wu Benhua, director of Zhenyuan's civil affairs bureau.
* * *
Adoption experts say that China's system is badly in need of repair.
Deng Fei, an investigative journalist based in Beijing who has written frequently about the issue, believes there should be more scrutiny of the cash paid by foreign parents.
"That money is a windfall for the orphanages and local officials," Deng said. "It seduced them into going to look for babies to send abroad."
In Philadelphia, [adoptive parent Wendy] Mailman wonders what she would do if she discovered that her daughter was one of the stolen babies. She knows she could never return the Americanized 6-year-old, who is obsessed with "SpongeBob" and hates the Chinese culture classes her mother enrolled her in. But she said, "I would certainly want to tell the birth family that your daughter is alive and happy and maybe send a picture."
"It would be up to my daughter later if she wanted to build a relationship," she said.
For many birth families, that would be enough.
"We'd never make her come back, because a girl raised in the West wouldn't want to live in a poor village like this," said Yang Shuiying's mother-in-law, Yang Jinxiu.
"But we'd like to know where she is. We'd like to see a picture. And we'd like her to know that we miss her and that we didn't throw her away."
Also in the L.A. Times on this topic: A Young Chinese Girl Pines For Her Twin.