The telephones kept ringing with more orders and although Duan Yuelin kept raising his prices, the demand was inexhaustible. Customers were so eager to buy more that they would ply him with expensive gifts and dinners in fancy restaurants.The story recounts how his family got into the business, who his customers were, and includes information from Duan about other families who were also in the business of selling children to Chinese orphanages. The story also quotes an orphanage director who admits to paying "finder's fees" for babies:
His family-run business was racking up sales of as much as $3,000 a month, unimaginable riches for uneducated Chinese rice farmers from southern Hunan province.
What merchandise was he selling? Babies. And the customers were government-run orphanages that paid up to $600 each for newborn girls for adoption in the United States and other Western countries.
"They couldn't get enough babies. The demand kept going up and up, and so did the prices," recalled Duan, who was released from prison last month after serving about four years of a six-year sentence for child trafficking.
The well-publicized court case involving the Duans prompted the China Center of Adoption Affairs to suspend adoptions from Hunan and warn orphanages against paying for babies. Insiders in the orphanage community here say the practice continues, but with more discretion.
Deng Yuping, director of an orphanage in Yichun in Jiangxi province, said he pays up to $75 to cover transportation costs for people who bring in babies, but that many walk away because they can get more from other orphanages.
"It's true, some orphanages are paying bigger 'finder's fees' than we are," Deng said.
Orphanage directors acknowledge that they don't have the resources to make sure that babies brought in had been abandoned.
"We can only take care of the child. It is up to the public security bureau [police] to investigate if that child was really abandoned," said Chen Ming, a former orphanage director who received a suspended sentence in the Duans' case.
The defense the Duan family offered was similar to that offered by the family planning officials who confiscated children and sold them to orphanages, that the kids were better off with their adoptive families (which I blogged about here): "The Duans insist that even if they broke the law, the babies have had a better life as a result."
An interesting quote about babies who are abandoned near an orphanage, for those of you who know this is where your child was found (as much as we can know anything, given that the story confirms that orphanage directors in Hunan fabricated finding locations): "If they [birth family] were leaving baby near an orphanage, they often would light a firecracker as a signal for the staff to find the child. " Seems like further confirmation that oftentimes birth family took special steps to ensure that their child was found quickly.